Millennials – if you read too many articles about them online you will probably never want to hire one for your sales team.
Often described as ‘entitled’, ‘lazy’, ‘distracted’, there are plenty of negative things being said about millennials.
The challenge with this, however, is that millennials now account for more than 25% of decision makers and more than 35% of new hires as the baby boomers retire and the baton is passed on.
So what should we do to ensure we are not just hiring and firing millennials, getting frustrated and angry in the process, rather than attracting, motivating and retaining them as integral parts of our sales teams?
By the way, paying them more is absolutely not on the list of options! While remuneration is important, it is not near the top of my to-do list to attract and retain millennials. The reason I say this is because I know hundreds of millennials who work as digital nomads, baristas and bar staff, not because of the money but because of the love of what they do.
- Make the workplace fun
You might not have the budget for a Google style office setup, with video games and table tennis, but make the workplace a WORK HARD / PLAY HARD ZONE. When people love coming to work it makes a massive difference!
- Outlay multiple career paths
We all like flexibility and the ability to change our minds. The younger generation are no different; in fact, they crave it more.
- Give flexibility in hours and work location
Gone are the days of people not working until they turned up at the office. The creation of the smart phone means, for most of us, that our office is wherever we are. It’s easy to confuse hours in the cubicle for hours working. Rather, judge performance based on performance and be flexible with the rest.
- Think about perks
Having lunch provided, gym memberships, work trips, conferences and freebies are great ways to appeal beyond the money and things millennials love. A friend of mine has continued working for an alcohol distributor, even though he hates the job, based purely on the freebies and Christmas parties!
- Get them involved and listen to their ideas
The great asset many millennials have is they are entrepreneurial in their thinking. Additionally, they have experience with technologies and social media tools about which we, as older generations, really have no idea. Listen to them and get them involved. Everyone wants to be valued.
- Outline the vision
There is an ancient proverb that says “without vision the people perish”, and I believe this to be very true when communicating to millennials. We must stop micro-managing them and forcing them to do their job correctly. Rather, be continually outlining the vision of your business or project and inspiring them to buy into it.
- Throw away the stick
If you manage with threatening, negative and beat-up techniques, expect every millennial in your company to RUN! This technique might have worked 30 years ago, when you could start a sales meeting with all the things your team was doing wrong and tell them they better improve or they won’t have a job, but that stuff doesn’t work with millennials! For millennials, you need to encourage, empower and motivate them to lift when the results aren’t there. As tempting as it is to reach for the stick, you must leave it alone.
- Flatten the organisational structure
Titles, reporting structures, levels of authority, closed door managers’ offices are all things that will distance you from your millennial team. Having open plan, open communication management styles, where there is respect for authority without fear, develops relationships and comfort.
- Build relationships
As discussed in the previous point, relationships are key to retaining star millennials. When you take an interest, a real interest, in others, they reciprocate in turn. This is true for all generations. Take an interest in your team’s hobbies, interests, families and activities outside of the office.
- Create teams
As discussed in point 1 above, having fun is integral to millennial success. One great way to achieve this is by creating teams within your sales team. Use these for team building exercises, incentives, games, coaching and training. You should encourage the creation of team names, logos, and adding personalisation of and ownership to these teams.
- Be realistic
When I was growing up my father worked in sales for NCR computers for 35 years. He only ever worked for them and one other company. Today that sort of tenure is not only less likely but less desirable. We often talk about staff turnover as being an issue and on the surface it is; however I do believe there is such thing as healthy staff turnover. Be realistic, understanding that most millennials like change; they like to explore the grass on the other side. This is not a bad thing when you are ready for it.
Just like a sporting team front office, you always need to be planning your next recruits and investing in development.
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