Skip to main content

Millennials - What's Next?

As we start a new year, and creep ever closer to the end of another decade, this is a good time to reflect on where we are and how we need to plan for the future. How have companies changed over these "millennium teen years" and what is ahead on the horizon? As distributors looking to help businesses with their employee recognition and motivational challenges, how do these changes affect what works best to recognize, incentivize and motivate the workers of today and tomorrow?

Arguably the area with the biggest effect in the workplace over the past 10 years is technology. Technology has changed the landscape of the workplace in a myriad of ways:

Telecommuting & Flexible Work Schedules - Technology has made the office a very portable place. This can be both a good and bad thing. Workers now have the flexibility to work in their pajamas and be home when the cable guy comes. They can take a day off in the middle of the week and make up time in the evening or on the weekend. However, this also means that their phone is always on, overseas locations may require evening or weekend calls/video chats, and you are expected to respond to a customer's needs almost immediately. The age of "Prime 2-day delivery" has sped up the expected response rate of all companies.

Social Media, Online Networking and Recruiting - Technology has sprouted a whole new world of communication and outreach as well. Millennials and Gen-Xers have grown up in a social media world and companies have followed along using LinkedIn and (just to name a few) to recruit and promote themselves. Today's employees can network with industry groups, learn of job openings, and find out average salaries in a particular area and job function simply at the touch of a button. The job market is a much more transparent place both for companies and employees. Add this wealth of available information on "what's out there" with the trend of younger workers being more likely to jump from one company to the next, and today's companies have a much greater challenge retaining talented employees than ever before.

So how can companies going forward do a better job of recruiting the best talent, engaging them, and retaining them for the long haul? Unlike employees of the past, younger workers today are not as concerned with company longevity. A steady paycheck is not enough to retain and engage them. They aren't concerned with a gap in the resume like those from the Boomer generation (heck - they are consciously taking "gap years" before they even get into the work force!). Companies need to put a much greater focus on recognition and motivation. It can't be simply a once a year "Christmas Party" kind of thank you. Recognition needs to be an integral part of the culture of a company.

Why? Take a page from the multi-level marketing industry (MLMs, companies like Tupperware, Tastefully Simple and Avon), where their sales force is largely commissioned-based volunteers. These companies have recognition and incentive programs built into all aspects of their business. Managers are trained from day one on how important recognition and incentive programs are to retaining and motivating consultants. More traditional companies would do well to follow and put into practice some of these MLM best-practices.


MLM companies have extensive programs to welcome and train new recruits. They pair up new consultants with a coach, they offer a variety of training and inspirational videos online, and have new recruit regional meetings to give new consultants a chance to network and bond with others in their position.

Onboarding at traditional companies might include a day with HR reviewing the employee handbook and filling out benefit forms, with perhaps being taken to lunch by the boss. However, what happens on day 2, or day 90? Companies need to have a plan to engage new recruits and make them feel a part of the team - not just with one activity, but with multiple outreaches over the first weeks and months of their employment.

On-the-Job Training & Mentoring

New Consultants work with a coach that shows them the ropes, but they also attend regular conventions and seminars to learn about new products and new sales techniques. Different short term sales and recruiting promotions throughout the year create new enthusiasm and incentive to "meet the goal" and "win the reward." Monthly or bi-weekly meetings with their coach or "up-line supervisor" gives the recruit a chance to ask questions and the coach to reinforce goals.

Traditional companies generally have a co-worker or the supervisor show the new employee what their job is, then leaves them to fend for themselves once they have mastered the basics. It is up to the new employee at that point to ask for assistance if they have questions (at least until the annual review). Managers need to have regular review sessions (at minimum monthly) to review progress, discuss their employees' goals and career path plans, etc.

Inclusion and Reinforcement

Constant inspirational reinforcement is an integral part of all successful MLM companies. If you have ever been to one of their annual conventions, you cannot miss the high energy and enthusiasm of presenters and participants alike. Consultants rave about their experiences and bring this energy back with them.

Traditional companies need to bring that feeling of inclusion and enthusiasm to their workforce as well. There are vast numbers of training classes in practically every major city that cover industry specific as well as more generic skills. Each industry also has some version of a convention. Companies need to take advantage of these opportunities to send employees to learn more about their jobs, their industry in general and how to be better managers and better employees. These "outside adventures" are not wasted time away from the office. They are a chance to see new practices in action, a chance for camaraderie with others in the company they may not interact with on a daily basis and a chance to bring new energy back with them to their positions.

Career Path Development

MLMs have a very clear career path - an "if you do this, you will get that" path that is in writing. Right from the start, consultants are shown a path to greater income and possibilities if they meet certain requirements - not just how to book the next party.

In traditional companies, there is a focus on filling the position that is needed at the moment, but not developing the employee going forward. Companies need to stretch their thinking and hire and train their employees for the next level. Employees shouldn't have to simply wait for their boss to retire to move up in the company. They should be discussing their career goals with their managers regularly and always be developing the skills needed to move to the next level.

No longer can companies just post an employees wanted sign and hire the first person to come along. A company's human resources are becoming increasingly more valuable and the need to engage your highly talented employees so they stay with you is more and more of a challenge. Companies that offer employees more - through better training, mentoring, engagement and career path planning - will see benefits for years to come. Those that don't will increasingly be pushed out of the marketplace by companies with more nimble, creative and enthusiastic employees.

What trends do you see in the workforce today and what challenges are your company, and your customers' companies, facing?

By Ann Condon - Communication Manager, E.A. Dion, Inc.