How to Train and Retain Your Millennial Workforce in 2017

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?

Millennial marketerAs 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:

  • Baby-Boomers (1945-64)
  • Gen X (1965-80)
  • Millennials (1981-95)
  • 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 two to three 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 p.m., “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

2. Structured

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.

3. Flexible

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.

4. Personalized

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.

5. Interactive

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 approximately five practice tries before sending best effort)
  • Manager/Coach reviews video response and decides whether to: Prompt for new response and Grade conversation
  • Manager/Coach grades response and posts to Personalized Learning Portal
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP.

6. Stimulating

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.

7. Social

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 (i.e., “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 No. 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:

  1. Those who complain about it
  2. 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.

Click here to read PI Blogger Bill Farquharson’s recent blog post on Millennial Sales Speak

Will Millennials Fully Experience the Analog Revival?

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Analog is making a comeback
Analog is making a comeback

Analog is back. It’s hip, it’s retro and it’s hot in film photography, print books and paper notebooks. But will the embrace of tactile, non-digital media among Millennials extend to music? That remains to be seen.

Instagram shows over 3 million posts each for the hashtags #filmphotography, #filmisnotdead and #polaroid. Photo booths are popular at weddings. Young people are increasingly enamored with pictures taken on devices other than their phones, even though Instagram remains the go-to place to view and share them.

My students who have done class research projects on ebook readers have consistently found that college students prefer print books over electronic ones for classes. I’ve observed an increasing number of students using paper notebooks rather than tablet computers and laptops to take notes. Hardcover diary-type notebooks are gaining a hipster cache, and recently, I had a student enter an appointment in a paper calendar, as I remarked, “How quaint!”

A New York Times review says the new David Sax book, “The Revenge of Analog,” is “a powerful counter-narrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world.” The review adds that the author contends that the analog revival “is not just a case of nostalgia or hipster street cred, but something more complex.”

But while most things we can have and hold are easily accessible to Millennials, music is different. Fortune magazine reported vinyl record sales hit $416 million last year, the highest since 1988, according to the RIAA. But there are several barriers to the mass adoption of analog music, most significant of which is the need for a turntable and vinyl platters. Millennials own digital music and listen to it on portable devices through headphones, occasionally through a Bluetooth speaker. I’ve written before about the Millennial music experience being more individual than social, more like filling your ears with sound than filling a room with sound.

It’s easier for Baby Boomers to embrace analog music, because many still have their vinyl collections stored away. Marketing consultant Lonny Strum recently wrote in his blog Strumings about re-experiencing the joy of a turntable needle drop, saying “What the process of using a turntable has reminded me of is the joy of interaction/engagement with music that vinyl provided. The ‘needle drop’ (and alas the subsequent vinyl scratches) were all part of the process of listening to music. The selection of the song, the cut of the album took time and consideration, not a millisecond fast-forward that digital allows. I rediscovered the snap, crackle and pop from excessive play in past years. In fact, I instantly recall the places in songs of my 45s and LPs where the crackle, or pop existed, as if it were a key part of the song.”

EmotionsThese are the types of experiences that the Times notes in reviewing “The Revenge of Analog,”

“ … the hectic scratch of a fountain pen on the smooth, lined pages of a notebook; the slow magic of a Polaroid photo developing before our eyes; the snap of a newspaper page being turned and folded back … ”

A recent study published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society concluded that “MP3 compression strengthened neutral and negative emotional characteristics such as Mysterious, Shy, Scary and Sad, and weakened positive emotional characteristics such as Happy, Heroic, Romantic, Comic and Calm” making the case that analog music might actually be a more positive and pleasant experience.

Will Millennials and the generations who follow get to experience it?

Millennial Microaggression: Aren’t All Seniors Digital Dimwits?

In both my consulting business and my teaching I frequently hear Millennials talk about seniors not being tech savvy. While the term “seniors” has different age boundaries, some as low as 50-plus and others as high as 70-plus, the message comes through that most Baby Boomers and those older than them don’t have the digital chops to receive messages online and through their smartphones.

gen yIn both my consulting business and my teaching I frequently hear Millennials talk about seniors not being tech savvy. While the term “seniors” has different age boundaries, some as low as 50-plus and others as high as 70-plus, the message comes through that most Baby Boomers and those older than them don’t have the digital chops to receive messages online and through their smartphones.

So when an agency’s digital media specialist says, “We’ll need to do some offline stuff for the senior market” or a student working on a marketing project says, “You can’t reach the older demographic on social media,” I have to say, “You know, you’re talking about people my age.”

It makes them pause because they may be friends with me on Facebook, or they may be one of my 1,000-plus LinkedIn connections. They may have collaborated with me on digital campaigns for their clients or been coached by me in the Collegiate ECHO Challenge. Some have even been lucky enough to take an Uber with me to a lunch that I booked on OpenTable (I usually have to buy). So they know my capabilities, but don’t seem to connect the dots that there are others my age and older who know their way around the digital space.

Some of the older digital natives have a vague recollection of accessing AOL on dial-up, and some may remember texting using the telephone keypad of a flip-phone (press the number two three times for the letter C). But that’s about as far back as their technology journey goes. They’re amazed when they hear stories of a workplace before email or even fax machines and primitive home electronics. “How did you get anything done?”and “OMG, black and white TV?”

Pew Internet data does show that fewer people aged 65-plus have smartphones and broadband access than younger age groups. But my personal experience has been that, more than age, the factor driving the digital divide is workplace experience. If someone in their 60s worked in an environment where they used a personal computer most of the day, they are more likely to be tech-savvy than someone half their age who works as a skilled tradesman and uses a different set of tools.

So while the recent focus on microaggression is centered mostly on racism and sexism, let me add ageism to that mix. Recently over dinner with a student, I was discussing a marketing project aimed at Boomers and he said, “So you have to figure out what all these old people want.” Really!?!

Millennial Mashup

Millennials to the left of me, marketers to my right — here I am. You’re stuck in the middle with me, discussing the posts of mine that made the biggest impression on you. Not surprisingly, the posts are about Millennials.

MillennialsMillennials to the left of me, marketers to my right — here I am. You’re stuck in the middle with me, discussing the posts of mine that made the biggest impression on you. Not surprisingly, the posts are about Millennials.

Marketers want and need to know about this influential group because, for one, Millennials are marketers now and are already making their marks on the profession. They’re an influential customer group, too, able to spend $1.4 trillion in a few years, according to Accenture.

Marketers who are trying to figure out if Millennials will spend the money with them read and reacted to these posts the most:

  • Why Don’t Millennials Use Cash? How to get that ROI: “As I paid a dinner check, my Millennial daughter affectionately quipped, ‘You old people and your cash!’ ”
  • Why Won’t Millennials Call Me? How marketers can convert Millennial consumers: “Maybe it all started with AOL Instant Messenger when they were teens. They created acronyms like PIR (parent in room), 9 or PAW (for parents are watching), and other secret shortcuts to secure their privacy.”
  • Why Millennials Don’t Consume Mass Media … And Why That’s OK. So where is the top of the funnel? “Every semester, I ask the students in my undergraduate classes: ‘Does anyone read the newspaper?’ No hands raised. ‘Does anyone watch the network news on TV?’ No hands raised. ‘Does anyone listen to the radio?’ Some who commute by car raised their hands.”
  • Your Best Marketing Investment: Recent Grads. Business strategy should involve Millennials, because: “Throughout my career as a marketer, mentor and teacher, I have learned that recent college grads are capable of creating remarkable work, if given the chance.”

Get Outta My Tweets (Don’t Get Into My Car, Though)

Is it annoying for a brand account to search/respond to indirect Tweets? Or is it in the name of good customer service, even a PR necessity?

Twitter ChatFor all intents and purposes, I’m pretty sure what I’m about to talk about is just the newest model of the age-old aggressive salesperson debate. You know the drill: You walk into a shop at the mall, or a handmade/organic soap store which shall remain nameless but is notorious for its overly enthusiastic salespeople. Maybe you know what you’re looking for, maybe you’re just browsing.

A greeter at the front of the store asks, “Can I help you find anything today?” “No thanks,” you answer, “Just looking.” Cut to 10 minutes later, you’re trying to decide which scent of bath bomb you like best, when another rep wanders over, “Have you tried this one before? Let me show you how it works! Also, have you thought about using it with this product over here?” Etc. Rinse, repeat.

If you’re anything like me, it’s more uncomfortable than it is helpful, and knowing it will happen makes me hesitant to go into a store. After all, if I wanted help, I’d ask for it. “Well, that’s your own socially awkward problem,” some might say. “They’re there to sell products, they’re doing their job.” And clearly, as this practice continues to thrive and stores continue to employ it, they have a point.

All of which brings me to the topic at hand: brands’ interaction with consumers on Twitter. First, a tiny bit of clarification: When a person tweets at a specific Twitter account with the intention of the tweet appearing in that account’s notifications, it’s known as a “direct” Tweet. (“Hey, @Starbucks, love the new flavor!”)

On the other hand, when someone tweets just the name of a person/service/company without directing it at the account via an @, the kids these days call it an “indirect” [tweet]. (“omg went to Starbucks this morning and the line was so long help.”) Indirects don’t show up in a person’s notifications, one would have to do a keyword search on Starbucks to find these. So, my question: Is it annoying, even intrusive, for a brand account to search for and respond to indirects? Or is it in the name of good customer service, even a PR necessity?

In my humble (Millennial) opinion, it’s totally the former. I know how Twitter works, I know how to get an account’s attention if I need to. If I make a passing comment, yes even a complaint, about a product, I didn’t deem it important enough to take further action and, in my mind, there’s no customer service necessary. And if it’s not a negative comment that seems necessary to address for reputation purposes, what’s the aim?

I once tweeted something like “Oh hey, there’s a School of Rock musical now, who knew?” And the School of Rock account responded minutes later: “Hey, glad to see you’re enjoying it, which song are you rocking out to??” Like … chill. You wouldn’t butt into a stranger’s conversation like that IRL.

Uber is somewhat notorious for this, usually on the basis of correcting some wrongdoing or keeping an eye on their drivers. Actually, this whole post was somewhat inspired by this guy who wouldn’t snitch. Now, again, I get it. Like the guy said, he knows Uber has a business to run and rules for their drivers to follow. But in this case, it totally backfired. And why wouldn’t it? The customer wasn’t even upset, he said right there, he was laughing so hard he had to apologize.

So now you have two things happening: The customer didn’t @ you, so clearly they didn’t feel the need to get your attention, AND the customer was perfectly content, even amused, with the situation. So … what was the point of playing customer service cop again?

Millennials, Music and Marketing

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events with a complex web of social sharing opportunities.

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M, to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events, with a complex Web of social sharing opportunities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpsVax8h7gw

This relationship between big brands and celebrity musicians is symbiotic: For the brands, music can be the relevant tie that binds them to an audience that’s skeptical of traditional advertising. For celebrity musicians, brand endorsements are not only a lucrative revenue stream, but also an important platform for extending their reach.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, most boomers would have called a rock star who endorsed products a sell-out. You would never see anything like The Grateful Dead endorsing Fritos back then, but now we even have Bob Dylan on TV for IBM’s Watson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwh1INne97Q

The evolution of music into a marketing vehicle has been a long, strange trip. Music has always been a shared experience, but there’s a huge difference in the way young people share between Millennials, the current largest generation, and boomers, the previous largest generation.

From my teens through my 30s, it was cool to have a high-fidelity stereo system (tuner/amp, three-way speakers and turntable) to play vinyl records at high volume and fill a room full of friends with music. Music listening was a social thing, something to be shared live and in-person. The listening unit was an album side, usually start to finish, but occasionally someone would take the trouble to play an individual cut, carefully using the turntable lever to drop the needle in the space between the grooves of the spinning vinyl platter. These precious vinyl disks were handled very carefully to ensure that they didn’t collect oily fingerprints, or God forbid, noise-producing scratches.

Back then, creating a playlist was not a drag-and-drop task. It was a longer-than-real-time event. Using a reel-to-reel or cassette tape recorder plugged into the same amplifier as the turntable, the playlist maker would push the record button, drop the needle for each track, play it through, pause the tape, carefully change out the vinyl record, and then record the next track. The advent of the compact disc made this a bit easier, but it was still a real-time event.

For Millennials, music is still a shared experience, but it’s shared on social media rather than in-person. Rather than being an onerous task, the easily generated playlist is now a common unit of listening. People share playlists through Spotify and Pandora, and can instantly share snippets of music they’re listening to on Spotify or Apple Music using Facebook Music Stories. And music consumption is high. A study by Vevo found that Millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week streaming music.

But rather than filling a room with music, much of music listening today is a solitary activity, using earbuds and mobile devices. High-fidelity systems are a thing of the past – people 18 to 34 are about half as likely to own a receiver/amplifier as those 55 to 64 according to MRI+ data. And while 11 percent of 55 to 64 year olds still have a turntable, only 2 to 3 percent of Millennials own one. Meanwhile, Millennials are about 50 percent more likely to own an mp3 player docking station (with tiny little speakers) and 40 percent more likely to own earbuds than their older counterparts.

The biggest change, however, has come in the area of music festivals. Last year, 14.7 million Millennials attended music festivals. Face-value for Coachella tickets was $349. The festival grossed over $84 million. And brands like Coca Cola, Red Bull and TMobile pony up about $1.4 billion annually in festival sponsorship money. Why? A study by live promoter group AEG and branding company Momentum Worldwide found that 93 percent of those surveyed stated that they liked the brands that sponsor live events. Eighty percent said that they will purchase a product following a music festival experience, as opposed to 55 percent of those who were not in attendance, and those who attended a music festival with brand sponsorship walked away with a 37 percent better perception of the company.

By contrast, Woodstock, the watershed music festival of 1969, was attended by about 500,000 people. Not all of them had the three-day festival ticket that sold for $18. Corporate sponsors? Really?

Marketing to Millennial Business Buyers

The Millennial generation has been out in the workforce for a while now, and this cohort is now entering the stage of their careers where they are part of the business buying process. Much has been written about Millennial preferences as consumers. But how about them as business buyers? Let’s take a look.

The Millennial generation has been out in the workforce for a while now, and this cohort is now entering the stage of their careers where they are part of the business buying process. They may not all be decision-makers quite yet, but they are certainly important influencers. So we B-to-B marketers must consider how to appeal to Millennial business buyers effectively. Much has been written about Millennial preferences as consumers. But how about them as business buyers? Let’s take a look.

Millennials were born in the range of 1977 to 1995, more or less — some researchers put it at 1980s to 2000s. So they range in age today from around 20 to late 30s. As consumers, they are tech dependent, they value authenticity, and they are attracted to brands that think and act like them. Here’s what this means to B-to-B marketers.

Broaden your communications media channels. Millennials prefer mobile text, and IM networks like WhatsApp for direct messages. For advertising, use social media like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Streamline your lead gen. Make it effortless. Use auto-populate techniques for forms, where possible. Ask for minimal data elements (but fill in the company profile using an outside provider like ReachForce).

Mobile-enable all communications. This means mobile-friendly website and email formats.

Ask for referrals. Millennials are very loyal, once they establish a trusted connection with a brand. So they are likely to refer, especially if you ask.

Avoid marketing speak. Be real, authentic and truthful (they fact check). Get to the point, fast (but make plenty of information available if they want it). Don’t be too serious — make them laugh.

Don’t sell too hard. Not only do they fact check, they’ll also look at reviews, comments and other online validation.

Be active on social media. The B-to-B value of social has been proven again and again. But if you’re still not convinced, the behavior of Millennials should be enough to put you over the top. This generation expects you to be tweeting, blogging, posting on Facebook, and participating in LinkedIn groups.

Tell stories. These buyers respond to emotion. Use case studies, testimonials.

Treat them uniquely, not as a member of a group. This translates into taking full advantage of personalization techniques, like dynamic web page serving and data-driven customized messaging.

Talk about efficiency, and results. These are the themes that interest Millennials. They want to operate faster, cheaper, better. And they want their efforts to change the world. If you can help with those missions, say so. These are the product positioning angles that are meaningful to the new business buyer.

Any other ideas to add to the list?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Why Don’t Millennials Use Cash?

When’s the last time you saw a Millennial pay with cash? Even convenience store purchases of less than $5 are paid with a debit card. Coffee in Starbucks is paid via cell phone. Money is exchanged between friends using PayPal and Venmo.

As I paid a dinner check, my Millennial daughter affectionately quipped, “You old people and your cash!”

My response was, “Everybody likes cash!” I was wrong of course, (and perhaps prejudiced by my South Philly roots, where some businesses are still “cash only” for one reason or another).

When’s the last time you saw a Millennial pay with cash? Even convenience store purchases of less than $5 are paid with a debit card. Coffee in Starbucks is paid via cell phone. Money is exchanged between friends using PayPal and Venmo.

Many of the Millennials I give birthday gifts to prefer gift cards to specific retailers, like Home Depot or Banana Republic, rather than cash that they can spend anywhere.

A survey by TD Bank of 1,300 Americans, reported in ABA Bank Marketing last month, found that 25 percent of Americans either currently use or have used a reloadable prepaid card in the past two to three years. But among Millennials (ages 18 to 34), this proportion jumps to 33 percent. According to FICO, more than one-third of Millennials are expected to use a mobile wallet in 2015. (Opens as a PDF)

Professor Bernardo Batiz-Lazo of Bangor University, Wales, speculates that Millennials’ predisposition for non-cash transactions could eventually result in the demise of ATMs. His blog post reprinted by Newstex last month states:

“Perhaps the biggest issue shaping ATMs in the near future will concern the choices of Millennials, those for whom the Internet, mobile phones and plastic cards are a fact of life, checks are unknown and cash is quaint. They challenge financial institutions and their business models to do more, faster because they have easier and faster access to better technology than offered by the banks’ legacy systems through the multitude of apps on their smartphones, wearables, tablets and elsewhere. Left to their own devices, Millennials could spell the end of the ATM by 2035 or thereafter.”

Now of course the use of electronic payment methods is not limited to just Millennials. Boomers and Silents are also moving away from cash transactions, but Millennials are certainly leading the charge. If your business requires a minimum purchase to use a card, you’re probably losing customers among the largest demographic group. Millennials represent 24.6 percent of the population vs. 23.3 percent for the Baby Boomers.

I’m waiting to see the first panhandler with a card reader. Let me know if you spot one.