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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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.