Hiring and Training Millennial Generation Sales Talent

By Suzanne McIntosh President, McIntosh Human Capital Management | March 17, 2013

How do hiring managers adapt their recruitment practices to the characteristics which define the Millennial Generation? Conversely, how does GenY adapt themselves to be successful with non GenY supervisors and clients? If we are to build successful high performing sales teams, our leaders must be equipped to manage a team with multiple generational characteristics. We also need to coach and counsel GenY on managing their clients who will have characteristics which require a flexible sales approach.

Generation Y was born in the mid-1980's and later. Consequently, a lot of our sales talent is in their mid to late 20s. They have now worked themselves into mid-level sales positions. They were raised by parents who instilled a different set of expectations and values than the generation before them. This is the generation of “helicopter” parents, indulged because their parents were time deprived, exposed to more through media and bombarded with more information than ever before.

This is the “Me Generation”. Characteristics of this group affect our hiring practices and how we manage them. This is a generation that puts more importance on material possessions and wealth. They will tend to switch positions frequently looking for job satisfaction and greater compensation. They will have greater expectations of the workplace and their supervisors, with a heightened sense of entitlement.

Let’s talk about how they affect us as Human Resources professionals and Directors of Sales and Marketing. I am speaking as a Recruitment expert who listens to GenY sales professionals talk with me candidly every day about their expectations for advancement and salary. When I send them out on interviews or assist them in finding their next career move, this is an opportunity to manage expectations and interview behavior.

GenY candidates expect to be making more money and sooner, than their experience dictates. I hear, “I have been selling for a year now, my next job should have a Director title and I want $20,000 more salary.” They jump around frequently looking for a position that will pay them more money faster. This has always been an aspect of the hotel sales field, but it is even more prevalent with GenY. I constantly counsel candidates to put another year in a job to build consistency, show loyalty and solidify their resumes. The pattern of six month here or there reflects very poorly on their dependability and commitment. I have junior salespeople want to quit a job because they just don’t “like it anymore” or don’t feel appreciated. I try to tell them they will be explaining this gap in their resume to perspective employers for a very long time …don’t do it.

GenY has high expectations for advancement, salary and a supportive/nurturing relationship with their manager. Keeping your sales office staffed with high performing stable talent is obviously critical. I am seeing a couple of trends with regards to bonuses. One is there is no “cap” on a salesperson’s earning potential. And a move back to focus on team measurements. An ill-defined, hard to understand, or worse, nonexistent bonus plan will make you less competitive in this market. An uncapped bonus tied directly to personal performance (rather than team or RevPAR that they don’t feel they can directly affect), is more attractive to the GenY sales manager. If you can’t meet an immediate base expectation, tie a 90 day increase into a performance goal and make sure the reward is meaningful and timely.

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Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.