Sales Coaching Blog

Understand the Millennial Generation So You Can Manage Better

Posted by Kristi Shoemaker

October 19, 2011

Millennials. They are a huge generation of impatient, experiential learners, digital natives, multitaskers, and gamers who love the flat, networked world and expect nomadic connectivity, 24x7.  More importantly they are demanding people who expect more selectivity, personalization andMillennials  Millennial Generation Characteristics customization in their products and services.  They are the Millennials (a.k.a. NextGen, GenY, C Generation, M Generation, and Echo Boomers), the generation born 1979 though 1994.  Richard Sweeney of New Jersey Institute of Technology, conducted more than 35 Millennial college student focus groups in front of live audiences in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.   These focus groups have confirmed that this is a unique generation which today's Sales Managers need to recognize and take the time to understand.

There are a number of Millennial behaviors that are different in statistically significant ways and will impact how a Sales Manager coaches and leads. 

More Choices; More Selectivity:  Millennials expect a much greater array of product and service selectivity.  They have grown up with a huge array of choices and they believe that such abundance is their birthright.   Millennials also feel less need to conform to everyone else in their generation or to other generations. 

Experiential and Exploratory Learners:  Millennials strongly prefer learning by doing.  They almost never read the directions; love to learn by doing, by interacting.  Multiplayer gaming, computer simulations, and social networks are some of their favorite environments and provide little penalty for trial and error learning. 

Flexibility / Convenience:  Millennials prefer to keep their time and commitments flexible longer in order to take advantage of better options; they also expect other people and institutions to give them more flexibility.  They want to “time and place shift” their services, to have them where and when they are ready.   They want more granularity in the services so they can be interrupted and finish when they are ready without any loss or productivity. 

Personalization and Customization:   Once Millennials do make their choices in products and services, they expect them to have as much personalization and customization features as possible to meet their changing needs, interests and tastes.  

Impatience:  Millennials, by their own admission, have no tolerance for delays.   They expect their services instantly when they are ready.  They require almost constant feedback to know how they are progressing.  Their worst nightmare is when they are delayed, required to wait in line, or have to deal with some other unproductive process.  Their desire for speed and efficiency can not be over estimated.   The need for speedy satisfaction, or as some believe instant gratification, permeates virtually all of their service expectations.  

Practical, Results Oriented:    Millennials are interested in processes and services that work and speed their interactions.  They prefer merit systems to others (e.g. seniority). Millennials are furious when they feel they are wasting their time; they want to learn what they have to learn quickly and move on.  Millennials have no tolerance for services that do not continuously and reliably work. 

Multitaskers:   Millennials excel at juggling several tasks at once since this an efficient, practical use of their time and, as already noted, they are very impatient.  Multitasking can enable them to accelerate their learning by permitting them to accomplish more than one task at the same time.  They do want to use their time most efficiently and multitasking offers them more options.  

Digital Natives:  Millennials clearly adapt faster to computer and internet services because they have always had them.   While they still clearly want and expect expert teachers in a face-to-face environment, they expect the speed, convenience, flexibility and power provided by digitally provided services and resources.  

Gamers:  Millennials have spent thousands of hours playing electronic, computer and video games.  They love the constant interactivity, full motion multimedia, colorful graphics, the ability to learn and progress to higher levels, and the ability to collaborate with friends in their learning and competitions.  Gaming is already beginning to have a very significant impact upon their expectations for learning.

Nomadic Communication Style:  Millennials have more friends and communicate with them more frequently using IM (instant messaging), text messaging, cell phones as well as more traditional communication channels.  They are prolific communicators.   They love and expect communication mobility; to remain in constant touch wherever and whenever, un-tethered.  This is their firm desire to do whatever they need to do, obtain any services independent of their geography or distance. 

Media/ Format Agnostic:  Millennials most enjoy interactive full motion multimedia, color images, and audio although they can use any media, even text.   Current examples include Vodcasting and iPodcasting.   Example:  colleges and universities have to provide appropriate learning multimedia learning both in the classrooms as well as outside of the classrooms if they are to compete for this generation. 

Collaboration & Intelligence:   After many years of collaborating at schools, day care, soccer teams, orchestras, peer-to peer networks, games, and other programmed activities, Millennials  know how and when to work with other people more effectively.   Even those who do not prefer collaboration typically do so, if they think it gives them a practical advantage. 

Balanced Lives:  They don’t want to work 80 hours a week and sacrifice their health and their leisure time, even for considerably higher salaries.  Yet they expect to earn incomes exceeding their parents. 

Less Reading:  Millennials, disturbingly, are not reading literature or newspapers as much as  previous generations of the same age.   In fact, reading is down for most age groups but the decline has been greatest among the youngest adult population. 

Other Characteristics:  There are many other behaviors that characterize Millennials, but they have far less impact upon academe.  For instance, they are direct, often to the point of appearing rude.  They believe that they are all “above average”; to be average is really to be mediocre.  They are very confident, perhaps because their Boomer parents constantly told them that they would succeed at whatever they did.   They typically led more structured lives, imbued with Boomer parents values who expected them all to excel and go to the very best schools.   

Different Personalities:   Millennials were found to be more warm and outgoing,(Warmth)  more abstract than concrete (Reasoning), more adaptive and mature (Emotional Stability), more dutiful (Rule Consciousness), more socially bold and adventuresome (Social Boldness), more sensitive and sentimental (Sensitivity), more self-doubting and worried (Apprehension), more open to change and experimenting (Openness to Change),and more organized and self disciplined (Perfectionism).  But they were also found to be less solitary and individualistic (Self Reliance)  

Millennials are very different from previous generations at the same age and that many, of these behaviors are likely to remain part of their lifelong culture since they seem to be embedded in their personalities. The better you understand them, the easier they will be to coach.

 

Related article: "Managing the Generations"

 


 

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