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

To Build or to Partner, That Is the Question

Marketers need a complex and diverse set of skills to meet business goals. When should you partner for marketing and technology support and when should you bring those skills and talents in-house?

Hammer, screwdriver, wrench, tape measure, paint brush construction tools on wooden backgroundMarketers need a complex and diverse set of skills to meet business goals. When should you partner for marketing and technology support and when should you bring those skills and talents in-house?

This critical question touches many issues including the organization’s historical leaning, how that function will benefit (or not) from brand access and proximity, how able are you to recruit the right talent, how effectively can you manage those resources to their optimal capabilities, how integrated are they with other key functions in partners, how sensitive these skills are to constant update and access to other subject matter inputs, how committed are you to this effort long term. Whew.

It’s not just more headcount for all the kingdom builders out there. It’s additional functional responsibility for everything from hiring, training and development, to vetting and maintaining the best tools and resources, all the way to organizational integration and reporting and analytics. Most importantly, it is an extension of the core mission of your team. Is it the right one?

To answer this complex question, work through these three steps:

Review Your Core Mission First

Even if it is a high profile project or sounds like a blast, you might be better served by outsourcing to a consultant, agency or other expert partners if this fills a need far different from your group’s current role. There may also be a competency gap if this is requires a set of a complex, specialized or rapidly evolving skill sets that aren’t currently in residence in your team. Using outside help allows you to keep your focus in your areas of key contribution instead of getting ramped up in unfamiliar territory and distracting your team from their critical initiatives. It also takes advantage of the specialists who have put in their 10,000 hours and who by virtue of their specialty stay current on trends, tools and best practices that will ultimately support your success.

However, if this function or effort is an extension of your core activities and is skills compatible with your current team, then adding new competencies with training is great for morale and for team development. Make sure you are not overloading your teammates and allow them realistic training time and access to materials and education to help you collectively to succeed. If you do bring in new talent to expand your overall capabilities take the time to onboard them with the existing team so they can function as a cohesive unit working against that core mission together.

Examine Your Motivation

Do you believe this would be a boon to business goals if this were an in-house function? If it is boredom or competition or resume building that is the motivating factor behind your recommendation to bring something in-house then don’t do it. Build your team only if you are convinced that the critical brand insights that come from working inside are key to success or that the efficiencies, time or budget savings more than offset the risk, overhead and labor costs that building new teams and capabilities entails.

Look at Your Time Horizon

If you’re just testing a channel or approach, now is not the time to make a long term investment. It makes good sense to rely on and learn from your expert partners at least until you have a good enough understanding to be able to assess your ability to manage this successfully in-house. Is this a regular and critical part of your company and departmental mission or is it an intermittent activity? Will you have a long term commitment from your organization to keep this team in place? It may be disruptive and ultimately unfair to both the existing and new teams if the decision is reversed. Don’t underestimate the time to ramp up to reach your goals.

Sometimes a mixed approach is in order. You may need a high powered thought leader to help guide your direction but can execute internally. Or, you may need help in some highly specialized areas or infrequently to help your group complete their tasks.

In some cases results suffer when you split the locus of certain functions. Be hyper aware of creating gaps or obstructions for information sharing and collaboration. For instance, don’t create a barrier between functions that share a budget and need to optimize together or, when feedback loops inform decisions in other teams like social listening or management and social content planning and development. They may be different skill sets and teams but they need to work closely together for the best impact. If you disconnect the feedback loop you lose something precious. It is still possible to create that feedback between an internal team and an external partner but it’s hard to keep it as close or as seamless.

When external partners begin to seem expensive or divorced from the brand goals make sure you have the right partner and that you are sharing the resources, insights, info, access and time that allows them to truly deliver before you consider building internally. If you still determine that a new hire or new team are the way to go, make sure you factor in all the things you take on when you bring a new function or team in house and that you have a solid and defensible rationale behind the decision.

The ‘Sustainability’ of Giving Back: How Marketers Look After Their Own

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social. This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social.

This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need.

First, we had the Marketing EDGE Annual Awards Dinner. Nearly 250 marketing leaders gathered to honor two recipients for Marketing EDGE’s two most prestigious education leadership awards: Michael Becker, co-founder and managing partner North America, mCordis, as the 2014 Edward N. Mayer, Jr. Education Leadership Award honoree; and Google as the 2014 Corporate Leadership Award designate.

Many of the emcees of the evening, uniquely, were alumni of Marketing EDGE programs (Marketing EDGE engages thousands of students and professors every year). Altogether, the evening generated not only hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship monies, but also mini-testimonials from students and young professionals including one individual who confessed he almost became a Eurobond trader until he was engaged in a Marketing EDGE program. He described himself as an “accidental marketer.”

Think about the term, “accidental marketer.” Today’s generation of students and “market-ready” career entrants are increasingly marketing educated, and even direct and interactive marketing educated, armed with internships and professional experiences the moment they reach the marketplace. Marketing EDGE programs alone touched more than 5,000 students last year—and 6,000 are anticipated for 2015. Many are marketing majors, while others are in STEM fields, creative and other disciplines, but with exposure to marketing curricula and some marketing experience.

Compare that to 20—even 10—years ago. This business was built largely by “accidental marketers” who found a home in measurable, accountable direct, interactive and data-driven marketing, and found entrepreneurial opportunities in our field. We did OK, even spectacularly, but our successes have only made the appetite for top talent grow more ravenous. Thus, the more we “give” to marketing education today—in donated time and money, in adjunct teaching, in internships, and in involvement with colleges, universities and “bridges” such as Marketing EDGE—the better chance we have to attract the best and brightest to our field, and to our companies. Giving back pays immediate dividends. (Don’t forget #GivingTuesday is December 2!)

During the Direct Marketing Association 2014 Strategic Summit, we heard from a panel on what it takes to bring along “The Next Generation of Marketing Talent.” Representatives from IBM, Javelin Marketing Group, Marketing EDGE and University of Georgia talked about the need for flexibility, mentoring, culture and social responsibility as motivators to today’s students and career entrants. Young professionals crave guidance, and likewise to understand their role in the big picture of community (in marketing, the business overall, the end-user, the industry, the world). One might say these attributes motivate everyone, but they are particularly important to digital natives and Millennials who want to start their careers as contributors and difference makers. How much better to have these new and young professionals matched with mentors, by default or design, to bring clarity to such contributions.

Which brings me to a third event, the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 30th Annual Silver Apples Gala, honoring seven individuals (Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman & chief executive officer, OgilvyOne Worldwide; Timothy Kennon, president & owner, McVicker & Higginbotham, Inc.; Pamela Maphis Larrick, CEO, Omnicom’s Javelin Marketing Group; Thomas “Tim” Litle, founder & chairman, Litle & Co.; Lon Mandel, president, SMS Marketing Services; Debbie Roth, vice president of sales, Japs-Olson Company; and Dawn Zier, president & chief executive officer, Nutrisystem; and one corporate honoree (Fosina Marketing Group) who have contributed a quarter century (or more) to the direct marketing discipline, through demonstrable professional success, and a giving of time and effort to promote the goals of DMCNY which incorporates education and to foster growth of the field.

All during the evening, honorees recalled having mentors, being mentors to others, and having the clarity of marketing goals and measurement to achieve marketing success. They also spoke of community—where ideas are freely explored and exchanged, the good, the bad and the not-so-pretty (testing and lifelong learning)—as being part of the key to not only professional success, but also a deep sense of personal and professional fulfillment.

We are a community—and one I’m thankful for everyday in my own accidental career. It’s always time to give back and mentor.

8 Recommendations Before Hiring New Digital Direct Marketing Talent

If you’re an employer that recognizes you need new digital direct marketing approaches, you may be apprehensive about hiring new talent. Here is an eight-step plan to install the right digital marketing groundwork before hiring that new employee to make sure you are both successful.

If you’re an employer that recognizes you need new digital direct marketing approaches, you may be apprehensive about hiring new talent. When you hire new people, you risk a cultural misfit between the style and approach of a traditional direct marketer and a digital direct marketer. If it doesn’t work out between the employer and employee after a few months, there is a lot of lose-lose for all parties concerned.

The employer has made a costly mistake with the hire. The employee has possibly given up a good position and relocated. The employer gives up on digital direct marketing, declaring that it’s conceptually not a fit with traditional direct marketing, when it may actually have only been company cultural barriers, skills of the employee, or a lack of commitment to fund digital initiatives by the employer.

Consider, too, that there is the high demand these days for digital talent. Target Marketing’s recent article, 5 Trends in Direct Marketing Job-Hunting and Hiring, by Executive Recruiter Jerry Bernhart, raised excellent points about the state of human resource recruitment for direct marketing companies.

It’s clear, based on Bernhart’s experience, that candidates are getting multiple offers, suggesting that those individuals who are trained in digital marketing, or those who have reinvented themselves, are the folks getting not only offers, but competitive offers with higher pay.

But what if you’re among those “… tens of thousands of companies out there that have little more than a rudimentary Web presence,” referenced in the article? How do you, if you’re faced with the need to reinvent your marketing approaches, recognize the right talent for a new digital direct marketing position and process that’s unproven inside your organization?

Here are eight recommendations, with complete acknowledgement this is a biased perspective coming from my personal experience of having started new departments to lay the groundwork before hiring a new employee.

  1. Retain a Consultant First
    Bring on an independent consultant to work with your organization a few hours or days a week to create your new department, or your new digital direct marketing infrastructure. This individual should be expected to work with you for several months and be made responsible for several initiatives outlined in the following points.
  2. Create a Digital Direct Marketing Plan
    Your consultant should be versed in more than basic websites and email marketing. The plan probably includes development of a content marketing strategy, using multiple cross-channel media, that is designed to bring in leads. Perhaps the role includes the introduction of customer relationship management (CRM) software. The plan might also include acquisition of a marketing automation system that enables sophisticated nurture marketing programs to integrate direct mail, email, personalized microsites, social, mobile, content marketing and more.
  3. Fund It
    You must be ready to invest the money it will require to see results. Be prepared for this transition to take anywhere from six to 12 months of refinement before it’s clear how this can work for you. This can be challenging if your company is seeing slowly declining sales, but the alternative isn’t so rosy. If you wait too long, you won’t need to worry about funding it as your company slowly disappears into non-existence.
  4. Empower
    As a business owner or senior manager, obviously you’re going to want to have input in the digital marketing plan and how your company’s money is invested. But you must accept that to be successful you’ll need to empower people to make decisions on your behalf. Of course, with empowerment comes accountability on the part of the consultant and your staff.
  5. Your Company Culture May Be Stressed
    Chances are that if you’ve brought on a consultant (or fulltime new hire) to make change, your staff will feel threatened. Budget dollars that went to fund existing traditional direct marketing initiatives are likely diverted to new initiatives. That will create anxiety and stress from current long-time staff. And it’s human nature for people to become hostile, passive-aggressive, and even work to discreetly sabotage new efforts.
  6. The Org Chart May Change
    The consultant you contract with should be able to objectively evaluate individual staff’s strengths so they are placed in a role where your current employees come out winners. The organizational chart will probably evolve during this process.
  7. Be Flexible and Agile
    The future belongs to companies that are flexible and agile. If your culture is slow and overly methodical, ask yourself if you’re willing to leave your comfort zone. If not, reread the last sentence in No. 3 above.
  8. Your Plan to Transition From Consultant to Full-Time Staff
    The consultant’s responsibility will be to create a transition plan to hand off the keys to new initiatives and processes that have been created (and proven) for your new fulltime hire. Often, the consultant works with an executive recruiter to identify a replacement, and stays on for a few weeks after the new hire starts to ensure a smooth transition. Sometimes, a consultant is asked to stay on fulltime, but consider that a consultant is most likely energized by “the chase,” so to speak, and will want to move on to help reinvent the next company.

Following these eight steps will set up better odds for a win-win for employer and employee. By the time a new-hire is on board, the organization has had time to absorb and accept cultural change. Assuming the outcome is successful, this process gives confidence to not only the employer, but the new hire and the entire staff. Most importantly, you have broadened your approaches to reach your market through digital channels that are capturing more of their time and attention

Two Summer Must Dos: Play and Play On!

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

It’s August. Have you taken any time this summer to play in your brand? To even play at all? Remember the days when you didn’t need a reminder to play? When, as a child, you just may have left the house for hours at a time and rode your bike or played kickball or went to the pool or beach or woods or played Monopoly or read under a tree. Long stretches of time went by without schedules, watches, computers, without anything at all plugged in around us. You certainly didn’t need to be told to set up a play date. Playing came as naturally as breathing.

Nowadays, there are serious adult-level articles, books and TED talks encouraging us to play. Experts from the fields of research, creativity, management, innovation, medical, education and human relations all want us to set up play dates. They want us to take play seriously. They remind us how important it is to unplug and unwind. To detach. To disconnect. To pause and be. To give our multifunctioning, always-on brains a rest. These experts nudge us a step further and call play a necessity. A must do for long-term vitality, for peak performance. Samuel Johnson believed, “All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.”

We don’t quite believe it. Or, we believe it but we think it’s for everyone else but us. Or we nod and agree and think yes, it is valuable for us, but we just can’t get to it right now … and then right now becomes three months from now which becomes six months from now … which becomes well, like never, not this year!

Play
Perhaps we need a permission slip … a permission slip not to read or listen or intellectualize about play but to actually play. To catch up with our souls, to feed our imaginations, to simply rest and be. DO IT! Mark some days off to be totally off. Soon. This month! Then do something not related to business at all. Whatever that brings you joy. Do it all slowly. Let the work brain rest. No business books, articles, videos. Nap. Stroll. Wander. Daydream. Journal. Paint. The “whatever” does not matter. What matters is actually doing it. And soon matters. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

We must develop this talent so that we will have the capacity to …

Play On!
Our business lives are demanding. Brand leaders must be on their A games day in and day out. Without recharging our batteries, we may get winded … or worse … we may lose our passion. There comes a time when we might need a reminder to keep in the game, to play on. Missy Park, Founder of Title Nine, knows the value of staying in the game. Take a peek at the letter of encouragement she recently shared with her customers:

So, before this summer wraps up, give yourself a gift: take some time to play. There’ll be plenty of time to play on soon enough!

Addressing the Skills Gap: 5 Reasons Why Year-End Giving Should Include a DMEF Donation

The uncertain domestic and global economy masks a glaring concern—one that goes to the root of sustainability in our discipline. In the direct, digital and database marketing fields, there is a tremendous shortage now of qualified professionals, and likely in the near and long term.

The demand [for talent] has far outstripped the supply.” – Joe Zawadzki, Chief Executive, MediaMath, The New York Times (Front Page, Oct. 31, 2011)

The uncertain domestic and global economy masks a glaring concern—one that goes to the root of sustainability in our discipline. In the direct, digital and database marketing fields, there is a tremendous shortage now of qualified professionals, and likely in the near and long term.

  1. In its seminal research report, From Stretched to Strengthened: Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study (October 2011), IBM states that an explosion of data, social platforms, channel and device choices, and shifting demographics all point to tremendous hurdles for CMOs [chief marketing officers] to overcome. IBM calls it “a gap in readiness.” The ability of higher institutions to provide global (and local) brands with people with skills necessary to capitalize on customer-centric interactions is vital.

  2. Another current report from McKinsey’s Global Institute, Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity (May 2011), states that the world needs as many as 190,000 specialists with deep analytical skills whose sole focus is Web marketing (never mind, analyzing data in multi-channel environments). These new professionals will need to be steeped in mathematics and statistics, as well as in marketing and the vertical markets where brands reside.

  3. During the 2010-2012 period, according to the Direct Marketing Association (The Power of Direct Marketing, October 2011), the U.S. economy is forecast to create more than 280,000 jobs from mobile, search, Internet and email marketing alone. It’s vital we are able to deliver and develop professionals in our field who have requisite knowledge and education.

  4. In a recent employment study for Direct Marketing Association (Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report, September 2011), undertaken by Jerry Bernhart Associates, employers noted that analytics-related posts are the most highly sought in our field, followed by marketing, sales, creative and information technology. Most recently, 61 percent of employer respondents said they were experiencing difficulty attracting the right talent for open positions, with 50 percent attributing this to a shortage of qualified candidates, and 18 percent to a lack of specific job or technical skills.

  5. The Direct Marketing Educational Foundation (DMEF) serves to address the skills gap by enabling its Scholarship program, Student Career Forums, intensive training in interactive marketing (I-MIX), its Professor’s Institute, among other activities, to make direct and interactive marketing one of the most highly attractive fields for young adults. During the past year, DMEF engaged 2,580 students, more than 270 professors, and 650 schools in its various programs. We stand ready to exceed our success this coming year—but we need your support to do it.

For these five reasons, I just sent my donation to DMEF for its year-end DirectWorks Challenge (an initiative where I serve as a consultant). I encourage every professional in our field to make a tax-deductible donation today—preferably before Dec. 31, with my thanks: www.directworks.org/contribute

It’s the one donation that keeps giving back to us as marketing professionals.