In a recent survey of the top companies that millennials want to work for in 2015, tech once again dominated the list. Employers like Google, Apple and Microsoft make the top 10. Media brands (like Walt Disney Company and DreamWorks Animation) and food and beverage (including Starbucks) also rank well in the top 25.
What’s missing from the list is a market research company. Indeed, the survey is just another reminder that for the most part, market research is not a popular career choice for many millennials. It could be that young professionals see market research as an unsexy or low-paying career path. Despite its high growth potential, market research tends to be one of the most underrated career options.
Part of the problem is that university students are not aware of the opportunities in market research. Katie Aylward, a young market research professional, shares the following in RW Connect:
I feel there is a general lack of awareness surrounding the industry especially in universities, which themselves present one of the most predominant, largely untapped platforms to potentially recruit the next generation of industry influencers. I myself, along with the majority of my contemporaries, was completely unaware of what market research even was until a graduate recruiter introduced me to the industry, by matching it with the specific skills that I had learned at university. Many university courses provide students with essentially a ready-made skillset for market research—we just aren’t made aware of it.
Attracting young professionals is integral in the long-term success of the market research profession. The industry needs new graduates to fill the talent gap as boomers start to retire. Millennials also bring fresh perspective to the practice. As the rise of many tech companies show, harnessing the knowledge and skills of young graduates can help drive innovation in the industry.
So what can market research do to better attract young professionals? The following are critical steps to building the reputation of market research as an attractive career path.
- Adopt new technologies more quickly.
To attract millennials (and pretty soon, Gen Z), the market research industry needs to be more tech-savvy. The new grads of today grew up with the internet. Just like the empowered customer, they are used to using technology to accomplish everyday tasks. Using mobile, cloud and social media technologies is part of their day-to-day lives.
In my experience, many decision makers in the industry are holding on to what they know and to what they have done in the past. In fact, many market research agencies still have business models that rely on clients spending money on traditional methodologies like brand tracking, ad testing, concept testing and face-to-face qualitative research. Many market researchers still rely on ad hoc approaches and long surveys.
The latest Greenbook Research Industry Trends Report shows continued adoption of mobile surveys and online communities in market research, but I think the industry could adopt new technologies faster. Becoming more tech-savvy will help build the reputation of market research as a forward-looking and exciting career option.
- Elevate the role of customer intelligence in the enterprise.
In the age of the empowered customer, the role of market research has never been more important. Companies need the insight of their customers in order to produce innovative products, improve marketing and build customer loyalty. But for the most part, market research still lacks real influence in the enterprise.
Smart market researchers are realizing that they need to provide strategic insight to the organization. Beyond providing long reports that very few people read, the research department is capable of delivering actionable insight that can benefit the business. Establishing a more strategic role in the enterprise, market research could become a central, indispensable department in the company.
Elevating market research’s role could help attract young professionals in several ways. First, it offers a more promising career path for new grads. When market research is seen as a strategic role, professionals have more opportunities to move up the ladder more quickly. Traditional research has kept people sitting at their desks and learning the “craft” for years before they get in front of stakeholders and clients. The use of technology and smart research can allow young professionals to be leaders in their profession much more quickly. More importantly, a strategic role challenges young professionals. Solving business problems is a lot more interesting than simply providing data.
- Lead the company towards customer-centricity.
Customer-centricity makes a lot of business sense. Companies focused on the customer are 60 percent more profitable than those that aren’t. However, most companies lack the culture to foster customer-centricity.
Because market research engages with customers on a regular basis, it’s in a good position to lead customer-centricity efforts. By ensuring that the voice of the customer informs everyday decisions, market researchers can help change the culture of the organization. Market research can provide the necessary information companies need to become truly customer-obsessed.
Millennials are attracted to work that has a purpose, and leading customer-centricity provides a worthy purpose. It provides them with work that matters. It helps them not only to provide value to the enterprise but also to help change the world by helping the company produce products and services that customers are looking for.
The survival of the market research profession relies on our ability to attract young talent. But if we are not a profession in growth and using tech to its limits, why would business graduates join or get involved? To make market research an attractive career path, the industry needs to keep up with the realities of doing business in 2015 and beyond. Adopting insight communities, mobile and other new technologies, and focusing on helping the company become truly customer-centric, is a promising starting point.