Millennials: Not talking about this generation

Far too often these days, businesses are practically falling over themselves to attract Millennials to their sales teams, making compromises in all kinds of places where they shouldn’t. And I’m tired of it.

Don’t get me wrong: every generation is important. And, it’s smart to achieve the right balance in your work force to reflect your buyers and your market. The mistake I see today is where organizations compromise on pretty much everything to attract younger generations without first understanding what’s already working well in their line of business.

In other words: they fail to recognize what doesn’t need to change…and misdiagnose what does need to change.

Alignment is key.

Understand what it means to have the right business culture. This is especially important when looking to grow in a crowded market where talented people are at a premium.

Your culture is not defined by the expectations of your workforce: it is defined by the clear, measurable objectives you set for your organization and ensuring they’re correctly aligned with people who share those objectives.

Don’t learn this lesson the hard way. Learn instead from the following case study.

I recently spoke with a manufacturing company that bent over backwards to change their business culture to be more attractive to Millennials. They introduced flexible work hours. They reduced layers of management. They added rewards that were less financially based and more focused on free time: all the kinds of things you typically read about as key demands of this younger generation.

Initially the plan worked. And then just about every one of their young hires ended up leaving.

The company went digging to find out why, and discovered where they failed. They’d not spent enough time matching their new recruits with the skills the firm needed to sell more and grow.

Skills match trumps culture. Regardless of the culture you develop, if you hire the wrong match for the job, the employees will fail.

Right people, wrong assumption.

Finding the right people has nothing to do with age or gender. It has everything to do with matching skills with goals. You will not find that match if your recruiting strategy is built on the false assumption that an entire generation thinks a certain way or values a narrow list of rewards.

You grow by finding good people—the right people with the right skills—and by offering them work (and a way of working) that is compelling to them. That happens only when you treat people as individuals and not as faceless members of a giant-sized generation.

Let’s look at a few examples of how you should be matching skills to your goals and business structure.

Fearlessness for startups: If you’re a startup or are moving into a new market, you need people with razor-sharp business development skills. They must be fearless, wildly creative and immune to rejection.

Nimbleness for value-driven businesses: If you’re selling a value-priced product or service, you need people who are great at quick turnarounds and who can close a sale in a single call.

Management smarts for complex organizations: Selling a complex, multimillion dollar product? You need to match that with people who can manage a long sales cycle and can work tenaciously though a multi-stage selling process.

Eloquence for challenging products: If you have a challenging product line that defies a typical description of features and benefits, you need creative, eloquent people who can explain complicated ideas in ways that customers can quickly understand.

Clarity means everything.

There’s no generation out there—or any other demographic—that’s going to solve your need to grow through recruiting.

Clear, consistent business goals, on the other hand, will give you what you’re looking for: accelerating sales, a well tuned highly skilled sales force and an utterly magnetic sense of purpose and opportunity that talented people will flock to join.