Are you trying to redesign your sales training to prepare for a growing millennial workforce? Be careful what assumptions you make … because there’s more to this generation than meets the eye.
One of the tricky challenges about talking about any generation is deciding when to make the cut-off. Depending on what research study or news article you read, the millennial generation began with people born from 1977 – 1982 and ended with birthdays from 1992 – 2004. That is a pretty wide range of variation!
In Here is When Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts, The Atlantic’s Philip Bump interviewed Tom DiPrete, a sociology professor at Columbia University about this challenge. According to Diprete, “…the boundaries end up getting drawn to some extent by the media.” And while it made sense to define the Baby Boomers as a specific timeframe because of the powerful societal changes happening after World War II, he points out that “…history is not always so punctuated.”
Reframing the Conversation
If we accept the fact that 1) the divide between generations is fuzzy at best and 2) the characteristics we pin to millennials are not exclusive to millennials because of the year they were born, we are prepared to have a more productive conversation about how to better position our organizations for multi-generational success.
Here are some thoughts to consider:
1. Mobile Impacts All Generations
The common rhetoric is that because millennials are “digital natives” who grew up with technology, that they are intrinsically different from other generations. Yet individuals from all generations start their day with a smartphone in their hand and rely on technology all day long to do their jobs and unwind at the end of the day. It’s not just millennials who are dependent on technology.
This is why a mobile learning strategy should be designed based on the needs of your entire sales force and not just cater to younger sales reps. For example, outside sales reps who are rarely at a desktop computer will benefit from a mobile learning solution regardless of what generation they happen to be. It’s about what type of job they have, not how old they are.
2. Social Media Comes Down to Personal Preference
It’s true: social media came to the forefront when many millennials were in high school or college. But while millennials may have been the first users of social networking sites, the people who choose to share their lives on social media come from all generations. Some millennials share very little of their personal lives on social media … while their parents and older relatives are frequent Facebook users.
Your learners’ usage of social media is defined less by their generation and more by their personality and, when it comes to Twitter and LinkedIn, their professional goals. It would be a mistake to launch a “social learning initiative” targeted at millennials just because they are supposed to like social media. It is important to observe the habits and preferences of your target learners rather than trying to follow generational trends.
3. Of Course Young People Need Skill Development
Articles often say that millennials lack the necessary skills they need to succeed in the workplace. They are said to need lots of professional development and that they seek feedback from managers to help them improve.
What this perspective misses is that any generation entering the workforce and starting in a new field is going to need plenty of skill development! Likewise, professionals who are farther into their careers may also need development to keep their skill sets current. Sales training and development should focus on the needs of reps based on designations such as years of professional experience or tenure at the company rather than trying to focus on a generational divide.
Steven Boller is marketing director for Bottom-Line Performance, Inc. Email Steven at Steve@bottomlineperformance.com.