Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

16 heads of agencies and corporations advise on the age of Millennials

'Drop the sense of entitlement. Never stop learning. Respect your privileges,' says one.
Updated 24 Jul, 2017 11:53am

Aurora polled Pakistan's leading agency, media and corporate heads on their thoughts about Millennials.

They were asked the following three questions:

1) In your opinion, should companies take concrete steps to adapt to these changing expectations in order to attract and retain talented Millennials? If Yes - what should these concrete steps be? If No - why not?

2) In your experience, what are the challenges your company has faced in trying to create a work environment more suited to the expectations of the Millennials?

3) In the context of Pakistan, what advice would you give Millennials applying for a job at your company?

Here's what they had to say

Sabene Saigol

CEO, Red Communication Arts

1 Although your question is about Millennials in particular, to me it sounds like the majority of the advertising industry resource pool. If ad agencies haven’t figured out that the dull and mundane doesn’t inspire anyone by now, I doubt they will be able to change gears now! You retain talent by both guiding it while giving a certain amount of space; by inspiring them, not suffocating them.

2 The challenge is always about creating the right balance, creating that chemistry between the people that drive them, challenge them, excite them and most importantly, make them deliver over and over again!

3 Expect the unexpected!

Shahnoor Ahmed

CEO, Spectrum Y&R

1 The ad industry has one of the highest turnovers and this has not changed with Millennials entering the workforce. However, we have one of the highest employee retention rates in the business. We manage this by empowering all employees, working as a family and keeping it exciting through rigorous knowledge and training sessions.

2 We are in the ideas business and to stay relevant we need new thinking. However, young graduates do not take advertising seriously. They are not passionate about it. Most see it as a springboard to the next big thing. Here the advertising industry itself is partly responsible – most agencies do not have an HR department and there is no concept of investing in talent.

3 Be passionate and dedicated. Get involved and commit to it.You don’t join advertising, you marry into it.

Shakeel Khokar

CEO, Bates & Interflow

1 Initiatives like fast tracking, active participation in management roles and the concept of reverse mentoring will help young talent realise their true value.

2 Blending! To blend the valuable and required experience with the young is the challenge. We are in a continuous process of blending. Most of our stars are very young. Youth is not ‘always’ wasted on the young.

3 Be honest, humble, hard-working and passionate. If you can’t feel ideas, don’t get into advertising.

Seema Jaffer

CEO, Bond Advertising

1 They are young, creative, tech and social media savvy. All the ingredients that an ad agency looks for to compete and stay relevant. Agencies need to be flexible and adaptive. Foster trust and a sense of community. Give them a voice. Inspire them. Be more compassionate.  

2 Millennials want a laid-back environment and it is a constant challenge doing a balancing act between being laid-back and playing by the rulebook. Millennials want more work-life balance and the ad world here is not geared towards this. Insane deadlines and constant pressure put immense strain on the team with many pulling in long hours on a regular basis. Pushing clients to more realistic timelines is a challenge.

3 Drop the sense of entitlement. Never stop learning. Respect your privileges. Be true to yourself.

Imran Syed

CEO, Adcom Leo Burnett

1 Organisations must be comfortable being in a perpetual state of flux. It’s the new norm. Pre-plan and pre-empt to remain connected. How do you channelise them, what are their limits? Build a sense of ownership. Replace career paths with motivation paths. Have greater acceptance of people coming from multiple job streams. Welcome a spirit of entrepreneurship.

2 Organisational culture and ethos is a stronger reason for a Millennial to stay rather than traditional aspects such as title, salary, etc. Developing a physical workspace that encourages integrated thinking and cross-functional interaction. Our new office premises across KLI have been designed as a ‘living office’, a physical network of personal work spaces and collaborative work areas. Evolving traditional avenues of performance recognition. Accelerating employee growth, while ensuring the organisational growth can keep pace.

3 Be open. Be ready to constantly evolve. Be ready to experiment. Be brave. Enjoy and embrace failing. Patience is a virtue that will give great benefit. Think, think and think before you act.

Ahsen Idris

CE, Blitz Advertising

1 By 2025, 75% of Millennials will occupy the global workforce, so companies need to adapt. We need to kill hierarchy and bureaucracy. Encourage open communication. Reward generously; vacations are better than financial incentives. Trust them to lead you into the future.

2 Blitz was established with the aim that the founding members or their relatives would in no way run the agency by default if they are not professionally capable. This culture has been conducive to open communications, seeing leaders in action and moving forward; some of the key prerequisites Millennials want.

3 Be yourself. You are either cut out for the agency business or you are not. There are no shortcuts to experience, so be patient in learning. There is a thin line between flexibility and indiscipline, so respect the organisational culture.

Masood Hashmi

President, Orientm McCann

1 The key word here is ‘talented’ not ‘Millennial’. A company with vision understands that it is about a strong team that brings value. McCann has done extensive research on Millennials globally and it is interesting to note that while most companies focus on their characteristics as something that needs to be ‘managed’, companies that absorb those characteristics and structure themselves accordingly thrive.

2 We made a calculated decision to empower Millennials and place them in senior positions within their respective departments. Thus, it was easier for them to hear the needs of their colleagues.

3 Have true passion for what you choose to do. 

Imran Irshad

CEO, Pirana Group

1 Companies should give Millennials more opportunities to grow through an entrepreneurial approach, based on results. Senior managers need to better integrate them into the company vision, rather than just give orders.

2 The biggest challenge is dealing with young peoples’ idea of a flexible work environment without compromising productivity. Many young people expect too much, too soon, without going through the rigour and hard work.

3 Project your passion and core strengths, rather than telling senior managers what you think they want to hear.

Faraz Maqsood Hamidi

Partner & CCO, The D'Hamidi Partnership

1 ‘Adapt’ is the wrong word. ‘Evolve’ is more like it. To recruit, retain and groom talent, companies should not only offer competitive salaries, flexible timings and growth opportunities, but also purposefully maintain transparency, ditch hierarchies, encourage mentorship and brand ownership, all the time strengthening the company’s digital presence.

2 The moment we realised that we should be ‘casting’ individuals at what they are best at and not designating roles for them, we were in a position to develop a culture that seamlessly dovetails with their natural acumen and expectations. Young people don’t leave jobs, they leave their bosses. As long as they have a voice that counts, a responsibility that rewards, and an environment that values their contribution, you can be sure of where the future is headed.

3 Please, please, don’t be arrogant. Arrogance means no research or homework about the place you are applying to; it means sending mediocre resumes that don’t help you stand out; it means not proofreading and not bothering to design your pitch; it means not following through with interview courtesies, nor sending back a note of thanks. You can google the rest.

Ruby Haider

CEO, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi

1 Adapting to the changing demands of the times is essential for growth and survival. My suggestion would be to consciously develop the art of listening. When you listen, you hear. Subsequently, you become aware of the direction in which the conversation is going. You are clearer about the expectations of a new generation and able to adapt to changing times.

2 In any work environment the challenges are multiple. We attempt to foster open mindedness and the give and take of ideas. Participation keeps alive a sense of belonging at least for a period of time, although attrition is the norm today. Working with dynamic brands keeps people motivated and able to enjoy the excitement of a challenge.

3 Come to belong and to perform. Seek a career path, not just a job. Here, as everywhere, the going may be tough but an interactive team spirit rises to meet the toughest challenge. IAL is there for you.

Jamal Mir

MD, Prestige/Grey

1 It is essential to create a positive work environment. However, there should be emphasis on evaluation and performance.

2 Millennials sometimes fail to recognise that a flexible environment can only be fostered if balanced with the ability to produce results. Unfortunately, the local work ethic does not always subscribe to this balance and therefore a flexible mindset sometimes undermines the responsibility angle.

3 Understand the vision and values of the company. Learn to blend cultural compatibility with a passion to embrace and inspire change.

Imran Afzal

CEO, JWT Pakistan

1 Bureaucratic structures have to be demolished. The work environment should give them the room to make mistakes and learn from them.

2 The dilemma is having a mix of pre and post Millennium generations. The biggest challenge is to create an environment where both not only learn from each other but work in harmony.

3 The exposure to systems, processes and tools they will receive in a 100% multinational agency is far superior to that of any local agency. The knowledge and learning curve is faster and up-to-the-minute by virtue of being an active part of a global network. Have fun in your job. The day you start feeling that you are not enjoying your job, move on.

Shoaib Qureshy


1 Every company has a unique culture and set of values that do not change around people. This culture and value set becomes known and attracts their own kind of people, be they Millennials or not. Workplace rules always evolve and are flexible in order to support all kinds of people and their genuine needs.

2 Creative and younger organisations have less of a problem as they are more in sync with Millennials. Everyone in our organisation understands that our business is to help our clients create the future they want. We have an outward focus and do not worry about internal rules to drive and control people. Trust people and be flexible and you will be able to attract and retain Millennials.

3 Know yourself. If you believe you are creative and want a different kind of a job, apply to Bulls Eye; but if you looking for just another job, please apply elsewhere. If you believe in following the dictates of your heart, apply to us; if you believe in following the dictates of your mind, please apply elsewhere.

Musharaf Hai

CEO, L’Oreal, Pakistan

1 Companies must adapt to changing trends. Winning Millennial talent will be the deciding factor between excellence and mediocrity. Millennials are strategically looking at opportunities to invest their time and effort and where they can contribute and make a difference. Their key motivators are open two-way communication and feedback, an accelerated learning, space for creativity, the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and being able to balance work with social interests. To quote McKinsey, “Put communication on steroids.”   

2 We recruit young (average age 29 year olds), energetic, innovative, daring, highly entrepreneurial talent. Innovation, feedback and coaching are essential values in how we lead teams and grow our business. We need to be agile, flexible and open to out-of-box thinking. The test is to keep this spirit alive and keep changing to learn and grow. Continuous communication and feedback can be an opportunity as well as a challenge – but certainly a must do for us.

3 Know yourself and choose an organisation that complements your vision and personal value set. Be curious, absorb, show hunger to learn, seek opportunities, prioritise, make mistakes, but be decisive and do not hesitate to reinvent the curve when it’s not working for you. At L’Oreal we say, be a farmer and a poet.

Naveed Asghar


1 Companies must introduce training and development modules; provide secured co-working spaces and practice responsive policies that cater to a diversified resource pool, all of which amalgamate to create a healthy, progressive and equitable work environment.

2 There will always be challenges that need to be handled prudently. We are aware that Millennials are ambitiously seeking quick solutions in today’s fast-paced, technologically-bound life. Thus, we do witness frequent job switches for rapid growth and higher remuneration.

3 Millennials are encouraged to apply at HBL. We offer customised hiring programmes which provide a strong learning platform for a fast track career path.

Ruhail Mohammed

CEO, Engro Fertilizers

1 Organisations must find a balance between maintaining their legacy/culture/values and managing the expectations of the new generation. We aim to attract and retain the best talent available through multiple platforms. Our policies on flexibility (agile working) as well as our focus on training and development of employees including educational assistance, challenging assignments, and cross-functional rotations all appeal to younger employees.

2 We are a dynamic company continuously evolving to benefit our multi-generational workforce through an engaging culture, inclusive policies and intensive training and development programmes.

3 Passion to excel, creativity, and agility are essential qualities. Work with ethics and integrity keeping in view HSE (Health, Safety and Environment); treat people well, care for the community, and innovate!