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February 13, 2017   Columns Articles | Research News | Study: Generation gap could advance PR industry

Study: Generation gap could advance PR industry

February 13, 2017
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Millennials are often criticized for the different values, qualities and skills they bring to work, according to a new study of millennial communication professionals, or MCPs, by UGA, The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and the Institute for Public Relations.

Although the new study confirms the generational differences between millennials and older professionals, it concludes that some differences like millennials' strong values for diversity, transparency and social responsibility will help advance and enrich the profession.

Juan Meng, an associate professor of public relations at the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and a Plank scholar, was the co-principal investigator, along with Bruce K. Berger, research director of The Plank Center.

The study also reveals a talent management ecosystem organizations can use to attract, engage, develop, retain and gain from top millennial talent.

A survey of 420 MCPs and 420 professionals, or MGRs, who manage them revealed sharp differences in perceptions about millennials' workplace values and attributes, engagement, leadership capabilities, and recruiting and retention drivers.

Among the biggest differences of opinions are the following:
• More than 80 percent of MCPs said they're ambitious and passionate about work, but only half of their managers agreed. MCPs rated themselves much higher than MGRs did in work centrality (ambition, passion for work and professionalism), rewards and recognition, risk-taking and work-life-social values.
• Almost three-quarters (70.9 percent) of MCPs said they are ready to lead. They rated their capabilities much higher than MGRs did for their communication knowledge, vision, team leadership skills, ethical orientation, strategic decision-making and relationship-building skills, and readiness to lead.

Particularly, MCPs said meaningful career planning, more mentoring and equal pay for men and women would increase retention rates.

According to the study, the generational differences are real, but so are some bright hopes and qualities within them. "MCPs see the world differently—from context to connectivity to crisis—but they are digital natives with great passion for leadership and strong values for transparency, social responsibility, diversity and community—all touchstones for our profession today. We can draw from these skills and values to enhance practice and build a brighter future," Berger said.

To fulfill the goal of the talent management ecosystem, "the key is to contextualize and personalize actions in each process," said Meng. "Organizations lean heavily on context, but the combination of the two is far more powerful."

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