Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X-ers (1965-1979), and Millennials (1980-1995) have been the core generations that sales managers have long tailored incentive and engagement programs to. All have very different goals, needs, and work styles that require accommodation in order to improve sales performance, reach sales goals, inspire, and motivate.
Entering today’s workforce is the fourth generation, labeled Generation Z. Gen Z are individuals born between the late 1990s and 2010 that are starting to graduate college and join the sales world as independent adults.
We know that Boomers are incredibly loyal, Gen Xers are independent, Millennials seek reassurance and collaboration, and Gen Zers are more diverse than ever. How can you possibly motivate and manage such a multigenerational sales team?
Over the next decade, a major challenge in the sales industry will be to attract and retain a skilled workforce as the labor market continues to tighten and technology continues to evolve. Each generation has its own distinct characteristics, values, and attitudes toward work.
To successfully blend these diverse generations, we need to embrace radical changes in recruitment, benefits, and creating a culture that actively demonstrates respect and inclusion for a multigenerational sales team. Here are some of the values and work traits broken down by each generation.
- Strong work ethic
- Hierarchical culture
- Value respect
- Strong communicators
- Seek problem-solving opportunities
- Competent colleagues
- Seek trustworthy employer
- Fixated on the greater good
- Seek empathetic employer
- Always training for new skills
- Desire flexibility
- Want meaningful work
- Develop best in diverse workforces
- Digitally fluent
- Desire a culturally competent employer
- Want mentorship and stability
- Seek competitive wages
How to Motivate Different Generations and Win Loyalty
Before you can truly motivate a multigenerational workforce, you need to understand what each group values – hopefully, the last section helped answer that question!
One of the hardest things about managing a sales team is understanding the right approaches to take to motivate them. For some, it’s simply financial incentives; for others, money isn’t everything. Here are some tips on how to motivate different generations and win their loyalty.
Motivate Baby Boomers
To motivate Baby Boomers, utilize their experience, and leverage their optimism. As a goal-oriented generation, baby boomers are motivated by peer recognition, promotions, and professional development.
If you want to win their loyalty, publicly honor them in front of their peers for their dedication, knowledge, and experience. Show them the impact of their work and offer a reliable retirement benefit.
Motivate Gen X-ers
As innovative, independent critical thinkers, Gen X members are motivated through career progression that is based on competence. Gen X-ers value employer recognition through bonuses, monetary rewards, such as gift cards or tuition reimbursement, and flexible schedules.
Give Gen X-ers credit for their work and assign them meaningful tasks, and they will feel motivated to exceed expectations. To win their loyalty, lead by example, and practice what you preach. Avoid micro-managing and give them frequent high-level projects to develop and execute.
Sales manager often state that Millennials are frustrating to work with; needing lots of handholding and are overly sensitive, but that’s not always the case. Millennials are often motivated and inspired by leaders, mentoring, feedback, and the right workplace culture. They like to present their success and respond well to recognition from authority figures.
To win their loyalty, you have to get on their level through socializing and getting to know their goals and interests. Tell them and show them how their work adds value and involve them in decision making. Ask their opinion, continue their learning in every way possible, and provide flexible schedules.
Motivate Gen Z-ers
Gen Z is fresh on the market. They want meaningful work with responsibility. Motivate them by letting them discover and iterate on their own. Give them examples of best practices and share gratitude for their contributions. Like millennials, they still want reassurance of a job well done, but they care more about individuality than popularity.
Winning their loyalty means giving them on-the-job training and certifications to advance their skills, offering financial stability, and giving them momentum to better opportunities. Unlike other generations, members of this generation expect workplace flexibility and diversity.
Multigenerational Sales Teams
Sales managers who understand the attitudes, values, work ethic, and motivators of each generation can do a better job of hiring, coaching, and retaining top sales talent. Sales teams who understand the differences across generational gaps do a better job collaborating and performing better.
No matter what an employee’s age or the generation they represent—transparency, strong leadership, and a consistent effort to keep employees engaged makes anyone, at any age, feel valued for their contributions.
Forget Grandma’s golden rule, “treat others how you wish to be treated,” and embrace the Platinum Rule, “treat others the way they want or need to be treated.”
Focus on Individualized Management
Talent comes in all forms - and ages! The most important job of a sales manager is to develop each person on their sales team individually, and understand their unique talents.
Every individual has a different set of talents, interests, goals, motivations, and work styles. If managers better understand the individuals they're coaching, they will build a stronger relationship and further their development.