Training Millennials in the Workplace Given their Unique Characteristics

8 min read

People are living and working longer than ever before, which is fantastic. But this also means that workforces have a wider age range, with offices housing employees of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and even Generation Z. But while a dynamic office provides many opportunities, it also presents new challenges. A one-size-fits-all strategy won’t engage and motivate people who are at very different stages of their lives; Millennials will naturally be motivated by different things at work than their generation X counterpart. Xactly recently hosted a dinner in London to discuss this issue with a selection of industry influencers. Joining us were BBC Business Correspondent, Jonty Bloom, and Action for Happiness Chair, Vanessa King, as well as a selection of analysts, journalists, and Xactly business partners. During the informal evening, guests exchanged experiences and generated insights about the realities of the multi-generational workforce, and debated how businesses should respond. This is the first in a blog series on our insights from the evening—beginning with the question of how to train millennials in the workplace, given the difference in working styles across generations.

Unique Style and Characteristics of Millennials

At Xactly EMEA, we have a workforce spanning 24 years, and we’ve already seen some key differences between Millennials and the older members of the team. Notably, Millennials:

  • Are heavily driven by achievement and reward
  • Tend to be more comfortable using new technologies than older generations
  • Gravitate towards apps for training and skill development
  • Are interested in social responsibility and making an impact at work
  • Readily share information about their salaries

How are you accounting for this growing group of employees at your organization? There are 5 actionable sales training techniques that you can implement today:

Training Tips

Dangle Opportunities for Achievement & Rewards Primarily, Millennials are heavily driven by achievement and reward, with our younger team members wanting to accomplish things quickly, be rewarded accordingly, and then start again, with even quicker iterations. This is something that should be reflected in your training of millennials, with smaller, bite-sized information, ongoing training programs, and your compensation schemes (in contrast to the more traditional bonus model of annual review and reward, which many older workers might be used to). The group also reflected on the work approach of older employees. Recent research published in Australia suggested that people over 40 may perform at their best with a three-day working week. There was a consensus that to get the best out of their workers, employers should explore how to recognize and accommodate such differences, both with flexible working and output-based reward. Rather than measuring success based on time spent in the office, businesses should judge employees’ performance based on agreed output-based objectives. This is something that could maximize the productivity of every worker – not just Generation X and above. Utilize Technology, Naturally It’s a given that there are also generational differences in terms of relationships with technology. Most Millennials have grown up with digital technologies, and have seen many changes in the platforms used. As a result, they tend to be more comfortable using new technologies than older generations (with the emerging Generation Z likely to be even more in their element with the increasingly quick pace of technological change as it impacts the workplace). Think about how that translates to your training materials and methods, as you can quickly lose Millennials with outdated platforms and approaches. Opt for Apps, Specifically Millennials tend to be more at ease using apps for learning and skills development. Examples provided where younger sales employees benefited from training with pitches practiced using a video-based app—whereas older generations preferred a more traditional rehearsal style. Going forward, businesses will need strategies to share digital skills across generations, and may need to consider upwards mentoring schemes with younger employers training older ones, and vice versa. Highlight Social Responsibility Our colleagues from the industry noted that among Generation Y, there’s a noticeable interest in social responsibility and working for businesses that make a difference within the community. Many of our fellow tech company representatives have been asked about their corporate responsibility programs while interviewing prospective Millennial candidates. The view at our recent dinner was that this could be linked to the recent imposition of university fees in the UK; with graduates entering the workforce with high levels of debt from university, there’s increasing pressure for jobs to be meaningful and make a positive impact. This is a positive trend that businesses should consider when positioning themselves to prospective candidates, and keeping them motivated once they’re brought aboard. Prepare for Salary Transparency A final key difference that I’ve seen myself is the readiness of Millennials to share information about their salaries. I would never have dreamt of telling co-workers how much I earned—amongst previous generations, there has been a tradition of maintaining a delicate silence. But in our offices, I’ve seen younger workers sharing information about their compensation very openly, sometimes soon after starting—and that attitude was echoed by the group at the dinner. This might reflect the recent rise of social media and the sharing culture. There are positives to this, as it will be harder for businesses to skirt competitive compensation based on gender or other factors. But during training, organizations must be very clear about how they connect pay with performance—and here, a performance-based bonus scheme can be very effective.

Multi-Generational Workforce Conclusions

There are some clear changes in working styles emerging amongst Millennials, and managers should reflect this in how they approach workers of different ages, using tools like variable compensation. Younger and older workers often differ in working styles and should be trained appropriately, but businesses should also take advantage of the opportunities this offers for two-way mentoring schemes. Ultimately, ‘generational differences’ should not be an excuse for bad management—businesses who succeed will be the ones who engage their workers as individuals. Look out for the next blog in our series on the multi-generational workforce