Lindsay Pattison of Maxus: how to forge a better understanding between ad employers and employees

Any debate on the relative virtues and vices of Generation X versus Generation Y employees tends to bring up similar ideas. Ask your parents about working life and you’ll hear of values like loyalty, commitment and hard work. Generation Y, meanwhile, are digital natives, possessing an ease and innate understanding around technology.

Millennials-HappyOn the flip side, access to instant results may have bred impatience among the generation branded “Y Bother”. Flightiness can translate in career terms as a tendency to get trained up and move on, with people unlikely to commit to one company for more than two years.

Since 70 per cent of our workforce at Maxus is aged under 30, I try to steer away from ‘yoof’ stereotypes and celebrate the best of our bright young talent. We have incredibly motivated and enthusiastic rising stars, and I’m genuinely excited about their blossoming into the leaders of tomorrow.

What concerns me in terms of our industry’s future – and I do see this – is those who start out with an immediate attitude of “what can you do for me?”

For young people today, the jobs market is not just shaky, it’s downright perilous. We have 100 applicants applying for each entry level post, we interview around ten per cent of these but only one candidate gets the job. It’s a very different climate to that which I started out in more than 20 years ago.

In this context, competition for jobs is truly fierce. Only those demonstrating exemplary talent, passion and, perhaps more importantly, genuine hunger for the job get through the rigorous hiring process. And having attracted, spotted and invited stellar talent through the door, we then need to work to keep that passion stirred for not just weeks and months, but what should be the years ahead. How disheartening to invest in training people only to wave them off within the year!

Fostering a spirit of healthy competitiveness and a hard working ethic is a major part of our values: it means we work hard; we work quickly; in fact to quote the old Avis line, “we try harder.” We strive to spot and reward those who go that extra mile. Training programmes are designed to nurture innate talent but also to encourage and reward effort and hard work; essentially to ‘give back’ corresponding to what is ‘put in.’

As one of four children and a former professional swimmer, a sense of competitiveness was instilled in me early on. Success, whether in the pool or in career terms, has always meant being prepared to put in that extra hour after everyone else has left. For me, competitiveness means doing one’s best through seriously hard work, driven by a relentless desire to win – but never to the detriment of others. It’s about loving what you do.

I tend to recognise and spot this trait among certain new joiners, and also among the rising talent coming through the Exec committee of WACL. Perhaps – hubris complex alert! – it’s because I see in them something of myself when I started out, I get a real thrill about supporting their journey towards becoming tomorrow’s leaders.

I do recognise that along with encouraging hard work comes a responsibility to spot and tackle stress, which can be a very real pressure in our working days. NABS is doing a fantastic job of raising awareness of the issue and offering supporting through its Resilience programme.

There’s no doubt ours is an intense industry – it is simply so fast paced. To balance a high octane, performance driven environment, it’s important to cultivate a supportive family atmosphere; your work mates become genuine mates and our culture has a camaraderie that enables people to have a laugh and form friendships for life.

So we work hard…we play hard…we don’t shy away from encouraging that sense of good old fashioned hard work that would make our parents proud.

People often tell me I’m lucky, to which my response is always: the harder I work, the luckier I get.

unnamed-2Lindsay Pattison is CEO of Maxus UK.

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