Mercer reports on generational differences in the work place – implications for sales training?

Coaching and Providing Feedback to Millennials

More than 2,400 U.S. employees took Mercer’s latest What’s Working™ survey. The key takeaway: Compared to past surveys, they feel less committed to their employers and less satisfied. One in three is seriously looking to leave; among younger workers, it’s four in 10. Widespread apathy is also a concern: The 21% who didn’t commit to staying or leaving are least satisfied and engaged. 

We found these findings generally interesting. Yet, we were especially interested in two generational insights the study identified. 

1. Younger workers  (under 34 years old) represent a challenging contradiction for employers – they tend to be more satisfied with both their organizations and their jobs, and are even more likely to recommend their organizations as a good place to work. However, younger workers are also far more likely to seriously considering leaving their organizations. 

Implications for employers? The question is whether companies should just accept this dilemma as the way it is or make the investment to try and change younger workers’ attitudes about leaving their organization. 

2. The youngest workers have more in common across borders than do older colleagues – while cultural norms historically have had a powerful influence on worker views and attitudes, this is changing among the youngest members of the workforce (especially those age 24 and younger). This means that people under 24 years old are more likely to view work more like their global counterparts than older workers in their own countries. 

Implications for employers? If a common global work culture is emerging, HR programs could gain huge economies of scale if they could be structured and operated consistently across borders, employee mobility would be easier because they would need to adapt less as they move from one location to another, and organizations could fill talent gaps from a global pool, thereby building more diversity into the leadership pipeline. 

The WSJ reported on this study, highlighting how three companies were addressing these issues: 

1. To stem potential losses among younger employees, International Business Machines Corp. has launched rotation-based training programs that expose young staffers to diversity in geography, job responsibilities and co-workers. Those new experiences can keep the employees from getting bored too quickly, experts say. 

2. Meanwhile, scientific instrument-maker Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has been sending new hires to at least three U.S. locations over two years. It has expanded the program across a number of job functions, including human resources, research and development and finance. All of the employees who have completed the program were invited to continue on afterward, the company says, and three-quarters of them are still there. 

The program helps young employees narrow down where they want to work, both in terms of location and job function, so they are more comfortable settling down afterwards, one employee says. Others say that knowing the company has invested so much in their development makes them want to stick around longer. However, Mr. Tulgan warns that sometimes rotation programs can work too well, building the expectation among young staffers for frequent moves in the future as well. 

3. Payment processing company MasterCard Inc. has tapped its Young Professionals network, launched last year, for focus groups on mobile-payment technology, digital strategy and social media initiatives. It also offers lunchtime chats and blogging opportunities to connect employees across departments and age groups and make them feel more involved in the organization. 

Historically most large organizations haven’t addressed generational differences as a major consideration when designing and delivering sales training. Given that we have a substantial information base about generational differences, is it time to put this information to use when designing sales training programs? What would you do to design a sales training program specifically to be used with younger workers – the millennials? 

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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