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Developing Millennial Sellers

By now, most of us are familiar with the stereotypes of the millennial generation – at least we think we are. I’ve heard numerous generalizations, such as:

  • They’re not into owning cars, houses or getting married.
  • They are overburdened by massive student loans.
  • They’re totally into “old” sitcoms, like Friends and Seinfeld.

Let’s cast aside stereotypes for a moment and focus on fact. Data reveals millennials are less trusting than prior generations, and rank job security second only to work they enjoy. This would suggest that while millennials are serial job hoppers (out-hopping other generations in the past year by a factor of 3:1), it will take more than a fancy comp plan and flexible schedule to retain millennial sellers.

Enter Millennial Development. According to Aon Hewitt, millennials are more likely to expect career and/or development opportunities from their employers. Since opportunity for development is often a criterion millennials leverage before accepting a role, they are also more likely to perceive the career and/or development opportunities at their employer as better than that of other employers.

But what is “development?” Can mentorship reduce the risk of attrition among millennials in sales roles? If mentoring is an appropriate response, should Millennials be mentored by people within the same functional area or is there benefit from having a mentor in a different area?

Sales Rain Maker and global influencer Bruce Tulgan offers his thoughts:

Bruce Tulgan: To increase retention of millennials, we recommend focusing on four types of developmental relationships, including mentoring:

Teaching-Style (or Coaching-Style) Managers: Millennials want managers who know and care enough to teach them the tricks and the shortcuts, warn them of pitfalls, and help them solve problems. They want managers who are strong enough to support them through bad days and counsel them through difficult judgment calls. And even more than average millennials, the superstars want to know that someone is keeping track of their great work and looking for ways to provide them with special rewards.

Mentors: We use the concept of mentoring to reference a deeply personal relationship that requires a natural connection between mentor and protégé that often takes a long time to develop. In this view, you usually wouldn’t know who your real mentors are except in retrospect. Who has shared with you the rich lessons of their own lives over the course of many years? Which of those relationships have been profound and formative for you? This type of relationship shouldn’t be forced. But you can certainly do things to promote mentoring.

Career Advisers: The adviser meets with the millennial on a regular basis to talk strategically about how the millennial should navigate his or her career within the organization. They might discuss what assignments should be sought next. They might discuss what the millennial could do within the organization to request new training opportunities, transfer to new work groups, or moves to new locations. The career adviser might recommend strategies for pursuing raises, promotions or desired work conditions. The idea is to offer the millennial regular career advice from an insider’s perspective so they don’t have to get it from outsiders (like headhunters).

Organizational Supporters: They try to ensure the most valuable millennials are getting the lion’s share of resources to support and accelerate their career success. They steer their millennial superstars to the best training opportunities, the choice projects and assignments and the most powerful decision makers. They help fast-track their millennial superstars to help them win bonuses, raises, promotions and desired work conditions. The idea is to make certain the millennial never slips through the cracks and finds a better deal elsewhere.

Conclusion:

You’ve heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In its most effective form, “development” is neither one-dimensional nor the responsibility of a single individual. Empower all levels within your organization to take an interest in developing millennial talent. Encourage collaboration between cross-functional teams; and recognize leaders who seek to develop others not in their direct job line. A development strategy grounded in generational diversity can be yours!

About Bruce Tulgan:

Bruce Tulgan is the founder of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management consulting firm.  He is a sought-after keynote speaker, management trainer and an adviser to business leaders all over the world. He is the author of numerous books, including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy; How to Manage the Millennials.