We hear it all the time: Millennials have an undeserved sense of entitlement, a lack of hunger and passion for winning, and skin that’s about as thick as paper. We hire them expecting they will assimilate into the sales environment of yesteryear, and we blame everyone but ourselves when things don’t go the way that we planned. In a business landscape that is flooded by a new batch of millennials each graduation season, business leaders need to understand the value system of the millennial worker, and create an environment that is conducive to their ideology.
My name is Bruce Wirt, and I’ve made a living in my 15-year leadership career by utilizing the overwhelming positives that millennial workers bring to the table. Let’s briefly look at two general stigmas that are attached to the millennial work force, and how to maximize their contributions to your organization. Your feedback relating to your personal experience is always welcome; you can email me anytime at [email protected]. Here we go:
Millennial Stigma Number 1 – Millennials Don’t Have the Same Fire to Win as Baby Boomers: Let’s all turn our memory banks back to the 90s. Kids started to have sharing lessons in school, youth sports leagues stopped keeping score in the games, trophies that were once reserved for winners went by the wayside, and the era of participation trophies came into being. This world that baby boomers call “soft” is the only world that millennials know. And what’s so bad about being a team player and wanting everyone to be happy?
In sales, winning is everything. The only thing that matters is closing the deal; there is no commission check for second place. Millennials come into the business world with a great sense of teamwork, and a tremendous sense of pride for completing tasks. I’ve heard over and over again from millennial workers: “Man, I’m super busy. I did 60 proposals this week, I answered all of my emails, and I handled 10 problem accounts; what a great week!”
“So how much business did you close,” is my usual follow up to all of that.
“Well, none, but I was so busy that I didn’t have any time to follow up on the quotes that I did last week,” says the millennial.
This is a very typical challenge in managing millennials, and if it’s not coached properly, it will lead to a wasted investment in the employee, and a millennial worker that is off to the next job. The very first thing that I explain to a new salesperson out of college is that activity is great, but working “smart hours” is much more important than working “many hours”. Millennials grew up with a smartphone, so they are more than willing to work from their devices well past closing time. However, working many hours without success means nothing to the organization in the end.
There is no such thing as an activity check. Companies pay commissions for closed revenue, they don’t pay money for completed activities. This is the single most important fundamental in millennial management, and many leaders are so focused on tactical management that they forget that they are managing a person and not a robot. The millennial worker needs to understand the importance of revenue-producing activities, and should be taught the signs that a prospect or partner is wasting their time with exercises in futility.
Millennial Stigma Number 2 – The Millennial Sense of Entitlement: This can be incredibly problematic if not managed correctly. Millennials tend to come right out of school expecting to make wages equivalent to seasoned professionals, and they have a two-year plan that involves a C-level position. That’s a slight exaggeration, but we’ve all been in those situations. To make things worse, placing that millennial under the care of a baby boomer leader that worked through the ranks of the organization over 25 years to get to her position can be a toxic mix, unless that baby boomer understands the basics of millennial leadership.
Millennials need to see a path to each career milestone, and must be provided with a clear path of things that they can do that will get them to the next stop. They must see a clear way to achieve their multiyear plan, and must have their expectations set up front (during the hiring process) on the time necessary to achieve those goals. If conversations about advancement are more sizzle than steak when selling a millennial candidate on the position, the millennial worker will get bored in their position after a year or two in the job and leave for the next opportunity. Without a transparent conversation up front, the future will hold nothing but frustration from both parties when it doesn’t work out.
The bottom line: Millennial workers are a powerful force in today’s economy, and can add tremendous value to an organization that educates all parties accordingly. Instead of looking at the millennial as whiney and entitled with a losing mentality, try looking at the positives: They are extremely driven, self-motivated, tireless workers that just need a crash course in business 101 to become our next superstars.
Bruce Wirt is the Vice President of Channel Sales for Telesystem, a national solutions provider with an extensive network east of the Rocky Mountains. Telesystem offers voice, data, and cloud services over a state of the art DDoS protected network core. Telesystem’s national agent program targets master agents, VARs, and traditional telecommunication consultants. Prior to joining Telesystem in April 2016, Wirt served as the Vice President of Channel Sales at NetCarrier, a Pennsylvania-based telecommunications provider.
Edited by Alicia Young