As we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders:
Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your millennial sales force?
As of 2015, the millennials are the largest segment of the workforce. They learn differently, work differently and think differently than previous generations. And as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, many sales organizations will have four generations working side by side:
Gen X (1965-80)
Gen Z (1996-2010)
So, is your company well positioned to handle the needs of your Millennial sales representatives?
Consider how your company stacks up against the following statement:
To inspire the millennial learners of today, sales training must be accessible anytime, anywhere and in ways that are structured, yet flexible, personalized, interactive, stimulating and social.
To compete in the war for talent, effectively on-board, develop and retain millennials, we believe that the above statement outlines the absolute minimum for leading companies over the next 2-3 years.
Let’s break it down:
1. Accessible anytime, anywhere
Millennials want answers now! Millennial learners have grown up as digital natives; millennials turn to Google for instantaneous response to any burning question they may have. Whether during the workday, or at 9:30 PM, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
Millennials crave structure. Many started in structured soccer at the age of three and grew up with parent-arranged “play dates.” No other generation has grown up with this much structure. As a result, millennials continue to yearn for structure within their careers. Contrary to popular belief, they are not looking for “participation trophies,” but rather, want to compare how their results stack up to the developed competencies for their position. They expect structured sales processes from which they can learn, master, and be measured against.
Millennials prefer to learn from a variety of channels and formats: e-learning, mobile video, virtual classrooms, and podcasts should be used alongside direct coaching and instructor-led, in-person training. A comprehensive curriculum that leverages a variety of these formats engages millennials more effectively, resulting in greater retention of training concepts.
Millennials have been told they are special. Perhaps by their parents, but definitely by the data-driven, hyper-personalized business world around them. As the most digital savvy generation to enter the workforce, they have an unconscious expectation that onboarding programs will be personalized as well. Companies can meet that expectation by beginning the onboarding process with an objective assessment, creating a Personal Learning Portal (PRP) and converting to a customized curriculum as outlined above.
Millennials have grown up with control and continuous feedback… so it’s no wonder that interactive learning appeals to this generation. They crave a learning environment where they can interact with their coaches as well as collaborate with their peers. To start, we recommend push/pull learning. A simple example would be to “push” a series of objections to the millennial learner and ask them to effectively handle the objection by video recording their response through their smartphone (see process graphics below). Statistics show that the millennial will practice their response 5.6 times before sending. The manager then either prompts the learner to do it again or grades the response and enters the results into their Personalized Learning Portal.
Manager/Coach pushes a video objection to the salesperson/learner
Learner receives the “push” learning exercise and begins recording their response on their laptop or smartphone
Learner records their response, reviews it and decides whether it is good enough to send “average learner discards ~5 practice tries before sending best effort)
Manager/Coach reviews video response and decides whether to:
Prompt for new response
Manager/Coach grades response and posts to Personalized Learning Portal
Content is everything and millennials want to understand the “why” and connect training exercises to real-world application. Therefore, you must stress the real-world benefits of each learning experience. Let them know what they can expect to take away from their time investment, such as the skills they will develop, and how it applies to real-world challenges.
Given the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc., it’s safe to say that millennial learners thrive in social environments. They are comfortable collaborating with one another and have no problem sharing personal experiences with their peers. They place a high value on social currency (IE: “Likes”), which is a different kind of motivational force than money. As such, leaders who make a point to single out someone’s practice video (see #5) and share it on a company “Knowledge Web” will not only help other employees learn from their peers, but also motivate the employee who created the practice video to continue their good work.
While embracing the needs of the Millennial generation may seem complex, we believe that the maxim “progressive improvement is better than postponed perfection” applies. There are two types of companies we see competing in the war for talent:
Those who complain about it
Those who are doing something about it
At Butler Street, we specialize in developing comprehensive learning curriculum for your sales, recruiting and customer service organizations leveraging a wide variety of formats and incorporating into a best-in-class Learning Management System (LMS). It starts with our Comprehensive Learning Assessment. Click CONTACT to learn more.