The Demographic Shift, Part I

Over the last several years, employers have seen unprecedented changes in their workforces. Baby boomers are gearing up for retirement, and millennials are entering the workforce to take over their positions. Many companies are bringing in younger workers early, in order to make the transition easier and reduce future staffing gaps.  Multigenerational teams can be extremely effective, but they aren’t without challenges. Culture clashes and communications issues can cause stumbling blocks, especially among sales teams where egos can often come into play.

The Generations That Make Up Today’s Workforce

In order to navigate a multigenerational landscape, sales managers must first understand the unique characteristics of each generation. The three generations that make up today’s workforce are:

  • Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 and 1964, this generation was heavily influenced by Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and the emergence of television. Boomers typically draw motivation from their work, rather than rewards.
  • Generation X – Famously labeled “Slackers” and “Latch-key Kids,” Gen-Xers were born between 1965 and 1979. They are independent and dislike micromanagement. Raised by workaholic parents, they work to live, they don’t live to work.
  • Generation Y – The millennial generation was born between 1980 and 2000. They are heavily influenced by the 24-hour news cycle, and social consciousness. They typically seek a workplace that aligns with their personal values, and aren’t afraid to quit jobs that don’t meet their expectations.

Potential Sources of Conflict

When it comes to managing a multigenerational sales team, communication and performance management are typically the biggest challenges for leaders because each generation was raised with different expectations when it comes to the nature of work.  For example:

  • Baby Boomers don’t require or like hand-holding. They are less likely to ask questions, and they believe that work should happen from nine-five, in the office.
  • Generation X – The first generation to be raised by two working parents, Gen-Xers often took care of themselves and were not showered with attention. They work well independently and push back against micromanagement.
  • Generation Y – Millennials are famous, thanks to their “helicopter” parents. They crave constant feedback and will ask many questions to ensure they meet expectations. They rely heavily on technology and believe that work can happen anywhere, at any time – whether at the office, in a coffee shop, or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.

Preparing Sale Managers for The Demographic Shift

It’s critical for managers to understand the influences and general preferences of each generation, but they should also understand that not everyone fits into the stereotypes of the generation they were born into. The best thing that sales managers can do is treat each team member as an individual. Effective leaders will remain aware of generational tendencies, but won’t let that cloud each and every decision they make. In part two of this series, we will take a look at the ways in which managers can effectively drive performance in an environment of shifting demographics. In the meantime, if you’re looking for ways to take your enterprise software sales team to the next level, contact Strategic Search Solutions today.

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