In an interview with The Arizona Republic, the owner of the Phoenix Suns National Basketball Association team, Robert Sarver, called out one of his players, saying, “My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks, and Markieff Morris is the perfect example. He had a setback with his brother [who was traded from the team] in the offseason, and he can’t seem to recover from it.”
The perception that millennials differ - as a whole - from previous generations is widespread. Some common beliefs are that they are hard-working but crave instant gratification and recognition and don’t – as Sarver pointed out – deal well with rejection or failure. While surely not applicable to all Gen-Yer’s, many HR strategies have been developed to ensure that this group of employees remains productive and engaged.
In an unrelated article, USA Today reported on a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, which found that fewer and fewer millennials are getting driver’s licenses than ever before. The study suggests that the emergence of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft provide alternative transportation for young professionals, particularly in dense urban areas where such apps are most popular and the cost of driving can be much higher. General Motors, the global automaker, must agree with these findings to some extent, as they have invested in Lyft. And, of course, other businesses are looking at ways to tap into this section of the workforce, with products and services that meet the specific needs and desires of millennials.
Regardless of whether we agree with the classification of millennials, one fact is true: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials will soon be the dominant group in the workforce. (The bureau predicts that 44 percent of the workforce will consist of Gen-Yer’s by 2020.) As a result, and as a sales compensation professional, it isn’t hard to wonder how the emergence of these younger workers will impact compensation in the future.
While certainly not new, we can imagine that millennials will drive increasing use of technology in sales compensation. The desire for feedback can be accommodated through more real-time sales performance updates. Chris Cabrera, CEO and founder of Xactly, noted this in a conversation (albeit not just about millennials), when he said, “The [smartphone] is the modern day dangling carrot.” Indeed, a smartphone can be the device by which millennials track progress, receive feedback, and even gain bragging rights.
And when it comes to bragging rights, another intriguing element of compensation that we may have to reconsider is the “car upgrade” that many top-performing field sales people receive. Will millennials continue to value a car upgrade as a form of recognition (assuming they still drive!)? Or is that money a company could better spend elsewhere to reward and recognize high performers?
At its essence, the emergence of millennials into the workforce and into sales positions in greater numbers suggests that new strategies may need to be put in place to keep this group engaged and productive. (This is a topic that I discuss in more detail in my book, The Future of Sales Compensation.) What, if anything, have you done differently with respect to sales compensation for millennials? Use the comments section or email me to discuss!