How Millennials will redefine the C-suite in tomorrow’s businesses

by | Dec 5, 2017 | Public Relations

Lots of recent studies demonstrate how Millennials are fed up with the old-school business mission of maximizing profits at any expense. And now, new research from American Express reveals the actions this group is taking to shake things up in the C-suite.

The new study, Redefining the C-Suite: Business the Millennial Way, finds that Millennials plan to reorder the priorities in the workplace to focus on building businesses based on both purpose and profit, and give more attention to employee well-being.

The survey of more than 2,300 leaders and future leaders of business in the U.S. and Europe sought to better understand how getting business done will change as Millennials rise to senior management roles. Seven in ten U.S. Millennials (70 percent, vs 63 percent of U.S. Gen Xers) said that a C-suite role is attractive to them—the highest among the four countries surveyed. But more than one-third (35 percent) believe in less than ten years, the CEO role will no longer be relevant in its current format.

Q: When you think about your personal definition of success in business, which of the following is important to you?

How Millennials will redefine the C-suite in tomorrow’s businesses

“Millennials have high expectations for the businesses they work for—and will eventually lead,” said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express Global Commercial Payments, in a news release. “The successful U.S. business of the future will need to have an authentic purpose and foster employee well-being with passionate, committed leadership at the helm. Millennials are seeking work with meaning beyond just making money, and they’re willing to make tradeoffs to achieve their own definition of success.”

Millennials are holding the business of the future to their same high standards

Not only were Millennials from the U.S. most likely to say they want to be known for making a positive difference in the world (68 percent), but more than eight-in-ten (81 percent) say a successful business will have a genuine purpose that resonates with people. Nearly as many (78 percent) believe that the values of their employer should match their own values. Yet the research also found that 62 percent of Millennials recognize the importance of maximizing shareholder value and profits—something often perceived as being at odds with running a purposeful business.

Q: When you think about your personal definition of success in business, which of the following is important to you?

How Millennials will redefine the C-suite in tomorrow’s businesses

Managing the business of the future

As part of their C-suite shake-up, U.S. Millennial leaders will put employee well-being at the top of their agenda. This may be a result of personal experience, because more than half of Millennials (54 percent) said they feel pressure to always be available to work. Three-quarters of Millennials (75 percent) said that a successful business should be flexible and fluid in the face of volatile working environments and not enforce a rigid structure on employees, and nearly three-quarters (74 percent) indicated a successful business will need to support employees outside of work.

When asked about the key challenges to businesses of the future, Millennials identified the top five as paying employees fairly (39 percent), retaining talented employees (37 percent), improving performance (33 percent), keeping pace with innovation and technological change (32 percent) and providing flexible working arrangements (29 percent).

If they were or currently are running their company, Millennials are more likely to invest time and money in staff and strategy than sales. An overwhelming majority said they would invest in employee development (94 percent) and company strategy (92 percent), while slightly fewer would invest in hitting sales targets (86 percent). They are also more likely than Gen X respondents to invest in executive education (87 percent vs. 77 percent).

To overcome future challenges over the next five to ten years, Millennials said the key qualities of a boss will be their integrity (43 percent), fairness (40 percent) and problem-solving skills (37 percent).

Q: Which of the following qualities do you value most in a leader?

How Millennials will redefine the C-suite in tomorrow’s businesses

Millennials prepared to make tradeoffs for personal success

On a personal level, U.S. Millennials are seeking validation from their peers and looking to make a positive impact. Six-in-ten (60 percent) said they care about what friends and family think about their career and more than one-third define success as doing work that has a positive impact on society (37 percent). When considering their personal definition of success, Millennials rated enjoying the work they do as very important to them (62 percent), followed closely by having a good work/life balance (58 percent).

In order to achieve their vision of success, Millennials are willing to make trade-offs. Over one-third said they would lower their expectations around having responsibility at work (35 percent) and lower their career advancement expectations (35 percent) to achieve their vision of success, while three-in-ten said they were happy to lower their salary expectations (30 percent vs 19 percent of U.S. Gen Xers).

Q: If you are/were running your business today, which of the following would you invest time or money in?

How Millennials will redefine the C-suite in tomorrow’s businesses

This research was conducted by Kantar Futures on behalf of American Express in June 2017 across France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. and surveyed 1,363 Millennials who self-identified as business managers and 1,062 self-identified business managers from Generation X. Margin of error is 4% at cohort level in each country, and 2% for the cohorts across all four countries. A literature review and trends analysis was also conducted. In the U.S. 343 Millennials who self-identified as business managers and 262 self-identified business managers from Generation X were surveyed.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter