A tale of two companies

Where do you think millennials want to work?

Millenials-BizInsights-03222016Over the Thanksgiving weekend, while hanging out in Vail, Colorado for a couple of days, I had a casual conversation with a young professional couple who happened to be sitting next to us in the lodge. Both were millennials. It was interesting to listen to the things that matter to them. And the things that are potential deal breakers.


The summary of her story: “I am 31 and the oldest of our sales team. My boss is 28, and she’s awesome.  She knows how to lead. The VP of sales is very challenging, and if I leave, he is the reason.”
She elaborated.  Let’s start with the boss.

“She leads five of us, and she is really good about helping us learn the things that she’s done to be successful so early in her career. She meets with us individually every Monday. She has mentored us on how to generate leads, how to have conversations with people we’ve never met, how to adjust our style to our audience, how to track our opportunities (though in fairness, she does this for us, most effectively). She holds each person on our team accountable for progress, she is available to help us when we need it, she joins us on sales calls, entertains prospects with us when it’s important, and then…she stays out of our way.”

“The VP of sales swoops down (uninvited) and inserts himself into our opportunities with no interest in learning about the opportunity, the prospect or the situation. He sends emails and text messages directly to our prospects because he thinks we need him to advance the deal and, ultimately, close the deal. He shows up at prospects’ offices unannounced, he over-talks during sales calls with these prospects and asks questions that we already know the answer to. It is worth noting that his emails, subject lines and text messages usually have typos in them. The most recent subject line said ‘Out progress to date.’ When I have asked for time to meet with him to brief him on opportunities, a common answer is, ‘I don’t have time for that. We’ll just figure it out as we go.’ When I tried (on one occasion) to talk with him about the ways in which he participates in my opportunities and the concerns I have, his reply (was), ‘Listen, I’ve been in sales for 30 years; I don’t need you to tell me what to do or how to do it.’”

This woman struck me as being very sharp: articulate, methodical, organized, professional, hardworking and passionate about being successful in her role. She added that she is fairly convinced she has lost deals because of the VP of sales, though she has not confirmed this. Her boss has tried to help and has the same struggles with the VP (whom she reports to directly). She and her boss have had a couple of brief conversations about how long they think they can endure this. Unfortunately for them, the CEO is wired similarly to the VP. The culture likely will not change, and the VP will not be held accountable for creating an environment that is more appealing to a high-performing millennial workforce. Since both the culture and the executive are likely to remain as described above, my bet is that the millennial sales team will turn over in 18 to 36 months. Just like the one that preceded this one.


The summary of his story: “I’m very fortunate. I work for a company that would be difficult to leave. I’ve been here for about six years. After working in a role that I did not find particularly fulfilling, the company took a chance on me and moved me to an entirely new function. When I got engaged to someone who lives across the country from me, they were willing to move me, allowing me to work remotely. I am working on interesting projects as a project manager and have access to my leader whenever I need. I don’t envision going anywhere soon.”

It will remain as I’ve shared before: The primary responsibility will fall on the organization and its leaders to create the environment that will attract and retain these talented young professionals.

Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Brookfield-based Living As A Leader, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. You may send questions to her at anorris@livingasaleader.com. To read all of her columns, visit the knowledge portal at www.livingasaleader.com.

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Aleta Norris is a partner and co-founder of Living As A Leader, a national leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. Living As A Leader supports the development of leaders in more than 125 organizations across the country. For several years, Aleta has been researching and speaking about the critical responsibilities organizations and leaders share related to the attraction, retention and engagement of the emerging workforce.

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