A Millennial’s view

Marco Nijenmanting, Partner Financial Services and project lead for CEOx1Day The Netherlands 2018/2019, sat with a number of its participating students. The goal of the discussion: To learn about their (Millennial) views on a number of topics that are at the heart of the challenges CEOs are facing on a daily basis. How do they feel about these issues, and more importantly, can and will they challenge this year’s participating CEOs on these topics?

Partaking in the discussion were the following students from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and UVA in Amsterdam:

- Anna Vogelaar (AV) - International Business Administration;
- Laura Ghitoi (LG) - Media and Information;
- Anne van den Heuvel (AvdH) - Business Administration;
- Charlotte Wulff (CW) - Strategic Entrepreneurship;
- Jacomijn Belle (JB) - Strategic Management;
- Marc Gijsbers (MG) - International Management


How should larger organisations deal with the boom of fast-moving startups with lots of technological know-how?

(AV) Start-ups now are predominantly created by millennials. Millennials are not afraid to take risks, they pivot and constantly change. They want to make an impact with their ideas, not primarily a ton of money. If a big company can manage to include them, they will gladly offer their help and add their technological know-how. This could be done through a buy-in, a merger or a partnership.

(LG) Organisations should enter into constructive competition with direct challengers, in order to drive in-house learning and to maintain their leading position in the industry.

(AvdH) The challenge is to learn from the disruptive risk-taking of technologically advanced ventures and develop that themselves, without compromising core competencies.


In what way could/should an organization’s management acquire knowledge from millennials?

(CW) What makes today’s young adults unique is, arguably, their non-linear way of thinking. This is clearly reflected in the way they plan their careers; rather than staying at one organisation for 20+ years and gradually climbing the corporate ladder as their parents and grandparents would have done, they hop around and find a path that works best for them. I believe that this non-linear approach to life can be valuable for organisations when applied to strategy and product development.

(JB) For millennials enough is not always enough. We have learned that more is better, and stagnation is decline. Because of this, millennials are continuously looking to improve themselves, acquire new insights, innovate and develop fresh ideas. Millennials know what makes their generation tick; which could be a valuable insight for management teams, on average a generation older. On the other hand, balance is key. Leadership knows their organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, and how to carefully reflect on these. Bringing millennials on board, through master classes, student panels and internships, will provide leadership with the perfect mix of acceleration and contemplation.

(AvdH) An organisation’s leadership should be as curious and trusting of millennials’ relevant analytical perspectives as millennials are of their capabilities and professional wisdom. Embracing age-diversity within an organisation and the free flow of information that this two-way communication offers can result in an increase of knowledge transfer.


What role does a CEO play in the pursuit of a healthy society, with healthy customers and people – ethically, mentally, financially?

(MG) This day, the value a business generates does not limit itself to merely good shareholder value and happy customers. Companies are urged to take responsibility with regards to people and the planet as well. It requires new approaches to leadership where collaboration is fundamental to move the world forward.

(AV) Our world has become one big ecosystem. The borders between society, business and politics are dissolving. Politicians are asking CEOs to partake in public debate. Organisations need to take on a more social role, not focussed solely on turning a profit, but asking themselves; ‘why and how are we operating in this society’. This is in line with Millennials’ need to make an impact and organisations need to set good examples. Modelling behaviour is key here. Nike markets its brand in a smart way: They use public figures, like football players that are not afraid to speak out on public matters. Organisations need to continually engage external and internal stakeholders to get a bigger picture of what they can do to make society ethically, mentally and financially healthier. If needed, they need to adapt their mission statement accordingly.

(AvdH) Contributing to a healthy society can be done through creating and presenting healthy alternatives for customers (e.g. food industry’s drive to reduce fats and sugar in food), ensuring that suppliers keep a fair share of profits (e.g. coffee and cacao farmers), evaluating working conditions in developing countries (e.g. textile industry) and by being accountable for the well-being of employees (e.g. maintaining a healthy work-life balance). The tone is set at the top, i.e. a CEO can and should use his/her leadership position to direct the company’s resources towards a common goal that positively contributes to society.

CEOx1Day is a program exclusive to Odgers Berndtson. The program matches thriving full-time masters students from across the Netherlands with some of the nation’s finest CEOs from both private and public sectors.

Take a look at this year’s participating CEOs here

Marco Nijenmanting is Partner at Odgers Berndtson's Amsterdam office and Co-Leads the Financial Services Practice. He specialises both in Corporate & Investment banking and Asset & Wealth management.