KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am particularly delighted to speak to Brian Fetherstonhaugh who is the CEO and Chairman of OgilvyOne in New York City.
Brain, you get to spend a lot of time with the younger generation around the world. Have you noticed if there is any difference between them and the generation just before?
BRIAN FETHERSTONHAUGH – Absolutely. A couple of observations: The average age in our company is in it’s late twenties and in Asia and other parts of the world it is even younger. So, we have a very young population and a couple of things are different certainly from the world I grew up in. One is the convergence between work and play – this separation where you go home and your friends are outside of work, it is [now] a different environment and I think these are quite converged. In our business, we brought back things that we haven’t had in quite a long time – Thirsty Thursdays and Wet Wednesdays where actually work-based social environments, where people can connect with others and their colleagues and sort of bring back some play into the workplace, have been really successful for us and [we have had a] tremendous response from our young employee population.
I think another massive difference is the need for transparency among the millennial employee population. It is not ok for the big bosses to have little quiet meetings and to keep things from the employee base. There used to be an acknowledged separation that those are big management conversations – that separation is no longer accepted. So the expectation from a millennial employee is almost full transparency, authentic communications, “if the company is going through hard times then tell me about them,” or “if the company is going through good times tell me about them and why that is happening.” So I think the expectation of transparency is much higher. Those are two key ones.
KARL MOORE– How can you be authentic at work without being either a jerk or giving away too many things? How can you be authentic?
BRIAN FETHERSTONHAUGH – I think that people deserve grown-up conversations on almost any topic. I think that people sometimes to either extreme: they hold back the information because the employees aren’t ready or mature enough to hear it. I think that is a mistake. On the other side I think people share but fail to manage the expectations side so I think the best leaders find a way by giving authentic information but also letting people know some of the reasons why and the consequences.
So when you have a revenue slowdown you are going to have to let people go, in most organizations. You can hide behind that and say, “New revenues are coming and that’s all magical,” but I don’t think that is fair to people. Certainly the best leaders I have seen will take on, “Here is what is happening with our business, here are the consequences, we will have to make adjustments in our employee talent base,” and then have individual counselling with people to make sure you get to the people you want to get to and want to be a part of the future new reshaped company – you need to get to them one-on-one right away and let them know they are safe and let them know they are valued. But you owe them the big message, you have to tell people what is going on and one of the realizations in the social media world is even if you don’t want to talk about it, the company is talking about it. You don’t control all the information, it is out there, whether you decide to show it or not.