Over the years I’ve had 7 Millennials – ranging from fresh-out of school interns, to associates, and managers – who have reported to me. Now, I’m certainly not someone to take anybody’s credit, but all of these people have either done very well within the business, or have taken advantage of their position and moved on to some very cool companies. With the development of this cohort still a mystery to some, I’d like to share some knowledge on what has worked best for me to hire, motivate and manage this ever-intriguing age group to success.
While a big (almost obvious) part of working with any millennial is to let them guide their own development, there are a few things that you can do to help them along the way. Note that managing millennials is not management in the historical sense, as you are there to provide guidance, structure and a definition of success, while leaving the exact way to how they achieve this success up to them. The idea is not to have them do the work that you don’t want to do, but rather listen to their interests, goals and strengths, and apply them to your business in the best way possible. Being a younger demo, they should still be very hungry, so take advantage by sending them to exciting environments, (conferences, pitch trips, global events, etc.), initially by your side (everybody wants to be in suits), and eventually in your place, and see what happens.
Now, the whole cycle does start with finding the right millennial, and although they may not be as easy to identify as the typical employee (X years of relevant experience + degree from Y school = hire), it can be much more rewarding in the long-term. In the space that I work within (technology sales and marketing), business students have always been targeted as the easy hire, but I find that employees with backgrounds in Arts, English and Psychology can do much better in certain roles (as their strengths in content, design, consumer behavior and creative writing can be extremely useful). I’m also easily impressed by millennials who have a proven background in leadership roles (such as competitive sports or small businesses), as they come with collaborative qualities which are hard to train in at a later date.
Ensure that in your search for your candidate you are widening the view across recruitment firms, job posting sites, and even social media – as the best potential applicants are going to be visible, if you look in the right area. It’s not uncommon to hire an employee off twitter these days, even though it is not traditional. The key is to have an open mind when looking, expand your horizons to be exposed to more talent, and listen to your business intuition more than usual.
This approach can be quick, and it works well to widen your scope…
Once you have the right people on board, it’s time to get everyone rowing in the same direction – which starts with the culture you adopt. While I would argue that you cannot manufacture a natural culture, I do think you can build a motivating environment (digitally and physically), to inspire the right culture over time. This starts with flexibility (in regards to start times, working from home, company events, daily tasks, etc.), as nobody wants to be chained to a cubical from 9-5. I’ve seen Millennials that would be happy to operate digitally at all hours of the day, rather than for 8 strict hours in the office, which clearly works out better for everyone.
With Millennials being tech-savvy, you want to encourage this as an advantage and land some top tier hardware that they can use as a personal device, while also building tech into the office space where possible (we have airplay monitors and speakers, and take turns playing DJ – although admittedly I usually just play Beats1 all the time). In terms of enterprise software, it is important to be on the leading edge of this (Millennials love working “smart”), adopting and closely managing a technology stack for the entire team. Having this established for each employee is important, as it sets the stage for what they can expect from the efficiency of the business and their role within it. An example of the stack I manage is below – and note all of this technology is not active at once – most of it is just passively helping us in the areas of focus for my team in business growth.
All employees learn how to apply technology to the key parts of their roles, and the efficiency gained leads to increased success (and fun)…
Once you have the right Millennials hired into an inspiring environment, what really is important is generating results, which should be built into a process (this is where structure comes in). The process should be strategic, repeatable, flexible and intelligent. It should show your team how to achieve success and how to get to the next level. Ultimately it should be human and enjoyable.
Although this structure is going to be different at every company and for every type of position, as an example see below for the Millennial inspired process that I will bring my team through. For our business the result is an enterprise relationship with a new client, from scratch, which can take anywhere from 3 months to a year+ depending on the complexity of the situation.
Stage One: Prospecting for the best opportunities
When looking for the best businesses to partner with, it probably doesn’t surprise you that we don’t operate like Glen Garry Ross. Buying lists, cold calling and door knocking has already become a thing of the past – as we have social networks where we can easily look up where everyone is, who is the best to partner with, and what the best way is for us to approach them. My team can use these social mediums (where they are already comfortable) to define a market, build a network and develop a content marketing strategy to scale their strategies. Past this, these mediums can be used to store the content they have worked hard on and provide more color to their digital personalities. When people know that you are a genuine human being, and you can use your writing skills to show the value that a partnership could bring, it is much easier to get a meeting to talk about it over a beer/coffee than otherwise. Typically we will have someone own this stage, so they can focus on becoming an expert in the market and match us with the best opportunities – passing those off when we enter stage two (proven to lead to more successful outcomes when done correctly).
Stage Two: Conceptualizing the Partnership
Once we have identified the best companies to meet with, I like to do all of my meetings in person, because even though there is a plethora of digital conferencing platforms I’ve never been able to pay attention (or make a real relationship) through a demo, so why would my prospects be able to. In Melbourne – coffee has been said to hold the city together – so it’s rather easy, but this human to human connection still survives globally in many cities. Once you get to the meeting, if the first thing you do is pull out your laptop in the café, my team knows we will automatically lose, as we are effectively turning this into a pitch rather than a chat. Your millennial team will be watching for these intricacies, relating it to their own social interactions. After chatting through the concept, I will use a tablet to discuss concepts that need imagery to support the discussion (I use this tablet notepad setup, storing all of our presentations on the cloud for easy access). Don’t forget to train about the napkin sketch though – as this is one of the most underused and undervalued ways of leaving behind an idea with a client. The napkin is the original whiteboard – and a crucial business skill for your Millennials to learn – as isn’t that where all the best ideas come from?
Stage Three: Enter the Boardroom
If you are proposing a sizable change or investment, the boardroom is unavoidable, and eventually you will have to present to a department or executive committee to relay the solution and answer questions. Now just getting into the boardroom and choosing a seat is key – and this will be one of those things that worry your Millennials, feeling like a question that’s too stupid to ask – but there are effectively two places you want to sit – at a point of power or collaboration. Set the stage with this and you will increase their comfort zone immediately. Just like in the café, there are behavioral rules to follow in the boardroom as well – such as not immediately starting your presentation and disrupting the conversation at the beginning of the meeting. Most of the time, if you miss this discussion, you might as well miss the meeting. Once everyone is across the problem, concept and solution. It is time to fire up the old pitch presentation and show how you will actually do this – which will be an easy topic to present with confidence, as everyone already understands it. Once your millennials see this process a few times and how simple it can be, they will be eager to jump in and do this themselves, which is the perfect result. You shouldn’t have to be worried about the content at this stage either, as you will be relying on the marketing folks at home here to ensure that everyone is telling the same story (with obvious customization based on what has been learned already to show we’re listening).
Stage Four: Transmedia Storytelling
Now that we have conceptualized the story and have the potential client onboard with the change, a good follow up is key. Stats show that say that people remember stories, not data points – so have the team always continue your story shortly after with a nicely crafted message that will have the client teaching others in their organization how the change could help the business. Ohio State Professor Edgar Dale was famously quoted for saying “we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we discuss with others, 80% of what we personally experience, 95% of what we teach others.” – so although you may be the most charismatic speaker or writer, it may all be forgotten if it can’t be adopted into a larger story that they can tell to their colleagues internally.
This is where you want to start to leave marketing behind as well, and continue the story, introducing real life people – references, product engineers, services teams – to build out a case with your champion. These additional resources are there to support, and increasingly can take the pressure off your millennials. Business acumen comes in handy here too, but you can coach your team to learn the metrics needed to align your ROI to the executive board’s objectives, review their models, and assure effectiveness over time. The team must not be afraid to challenge clients, as although your millennials are likely younger and less experienced than the prospect, they need to remember they are the experts on implementation, not the client.
Stage Five: In Closing
Once you have a strong business case built and received from the economic buyer (terminology put in place to ensure the team is speaking the same language when mapping accounts), it should be a relatively clear process to finish the deal. The decision process should be laid out and the client will know exactly what is to come, at which date, so there are no surprises on either end. This should be committed to well in advance by both parties, to help with business planning and forecasting vs. compelling events.
While it is relatively easy to cut your Millennials off at an early stage in the process, or keep them at home for the exciting closing meetings, I feel there is a lot of value in showing the entire process very transparently. One of the key things that Millennials want from a job is the identity that they are doing something that impacts the world, and when they are only completing only part of the partnership, this feeling can be lost quickly. Staying involved with this stage, as well as what is to come through implementation, to launch, to ROI, are also important to learn – as these are the results that will compel future prospects to begin the next process with your millennials naturally.
All that is left to do now should be to get your contract signed and move to the kick off… where you can’t forget to have a closing dinner with your team and the client. These are not just for investment bankers anymore and the client (and your millennials) will love this ending to the story.
While this example is just a loose framework I provide to give Millennials exposure and experience – by no means is this meant to be a rigid structure. Through being flexible with even this process, we allow for creativity, room for growth and personal achievement, which are the things that will truly drive happiness in the new corporate world.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative – Oscar Wilde
Being a millennial myself, I find that I have an advantage in relating to, providing a solid experience, and motivating these individuals, but everyone can and should adopt a new model into their practices to encourage this age group. We can always adjust processes or environments to accommodate a more traditional situation, but you really won’t have to do this for long, as in 5 years Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. Realistically these sorts of changes are inevitable. Just look at what the most famous millennials have been able to achieve with the right environment, processes and team members, the most famous being Zuckerberg’s open Facebook culture, or LinkedIn’s unlimited vacation. This is certainly one trend not to be avoided and one that I look forward to encouraging even further.
This article was originally shared here.
Dan Fergusson has been in the research technology industry for almost 4 years, driving client development for Insight Communities, VC Surveys & Discussions and most recently leading efforts for Sports Fan Councils. With a solid background in the media and entertainment space, Dan has experience consulting publishing giants, broadcasters, sports leagues and venues on how to monetize their advertising research and connect with the audience to improve marketing strategies. In Australia he has opened a new office in Melbourne and is responsible for the aforementioned industries in addition to consulting Public Affairs, Consumer Goods and Health organisations with their stakeholders. Dan has an Honors Bachelor of Commerce specialized in Strategic Marketing from McMaster University, a Professional Certificate in Strategic Marketing Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University and is currently pursuing his Certified Market Research Professional Designation from the University of Georgia and MRIA. Connect with him on Twitter: @ and on LinkedIn.