Why Your Next C-Suite Hire Should Be a Millennial

If you are in a role of leadership and are not of the millennial generation, guess what?  You have a huge responsibility to be a steward of our future leaders, those who will lead your grandchildren and great grandchildren.  It is imperative to understand the millennial leaders, coach them on the context of their future responsibility, and support and mentor them into increasing roles of responsibility and accountability.  Millennial leaders will be in the C suite and now is the time to hire them into careers to set them up for success for the sake of the hundreds of people who will be led by them in the future.

New research on millennial leaders is provocative.  Jennifer Deal and Alec Levenson, who are the co-authors of What Millennials Want from Work, provide new insight into the career cycle of millennial leaders.  Many millennial leaders are one, two, or three jobs away from being in the C Suite.  The percentage of millennial leaders expected to stay with their current employer over ten years is 48%.  Millennials prefer to select jobs with interesting work, interesting people, pay fairly, and leave time for a personal life.  Their access to technology is unprecedented by any other generation.  Flexibility in their roles is key to job satisfaction so not every hour needs to be in the office.  They want to be measured on the success of their teams, rather than face time in the office, connect with a strong network to advance their learning and contribution, and will often be okay with contacts outside of the typical work day to add value and be a game changer.

Insights validated and new insights open up new mindset possibilities for millennial leaders who entered the job market during the recession in 2007.  Jumping into a problematic work force created a foundation of hard work, continual learning, fast pace, and focus.

The job market has shifted big time in the past three years with a huge focus on strategic mindset, top tier execution, and people development acumen and expertise.  I share some thoughts on some C Suite roles - not all - yet the trend is the same.  Think fast, wide, and deep; ask tougher questions; learn how to frame issues, opportunities, and problems; and continually develop self and others.

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) now comes from a strategic and execution background with skills much more than merely functional technology.  The overlap between business and technology is necessary in that the CIO needs to be knowledgeable of the customer’s needs, product and service marketing, brand, and effective resource deployment backed by financial acumen.  Incredible business savvy with a finely tuned focus on competitive advantage from an organizational design, infrastructure, and products and services must jump from the resume.

A relevant and impactful Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has moved beyond creating advertising initiatives and brochures to blending or merging with the sales function in response to market demands in a pure, seamless fashion.  Sales and marketing need to go hand-in-hand in understanding the market needs, leveraging the core competency of the organization, and creating a competitive advantage through multiple delivery channels.  Agility is key.  The CMO needs to run at a faster pace than ever before conducting market needs, analysis, and the changes necessary to remain relevant.

It is imperative that the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of today embody and role model a strategic mindset, looking for opportunities, and managing financial risks in changing products, services, regulatory restraints, capital, liquidity, and much more.  In addition to financial, portfolio, and ERM expertise, the CFO needs to understand the operation and significantly contribute to strategic planning.  Proactive assessment and recommendations of organic and strategic growth have a lead role in M&A due diligence in expanding the organization footprint while managing opportunistic risk.  The CFO has a key role in supporting the board of directors financial acumen to aid in effective decision making.  The millennial leader is working on the development of extraordinary people skills with exemplary communication skills backed by collaboration and coordination.

The Chief Lending Officer (CLO) is a unique blend of strategic and conceptual thinking, marketing analytics, product development, and relationship building from a multidimensional perspective.  The successful CLO is an exemplary people developer, coach, and mentor and moves with consistency with a foot on the gas pedal continually adjusting the speed and momentum.  One of my favorite CLOs has a master of business administration; Juris Doctorate, worked in banks, a large finance company, and credit unions; and is a product innovator.  He lives and breathes lending and is known as a futuristic thinker with practical application.

The human resources role is being turned upside down because it is, unfortunately, the last one to have a seat at the C Suite table.  The Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) can come from operations, finance, marketing, or corporate law.  The main ingredient is a strategic outlook on talent recruitment and retention and having the right people today to fulfill the organizational promises of tomorrow.  I look for learning organization experience, organizational development, strategic thinking, and the capacity and ability to change the mindset of the culture.  For the most part, credit unions are going out of the industry to find qualified CHRO executives which means the credit union industry has some work to do to expect a higher-level value from the CHRO.

As manager of a millennial leader, figure out how to capitalize on their passion, leverage their expertise, and support their personal and professional growth.  Use certified leadership coaches, work the succession plan, fund their learning events, and do frequent check ins.