Millenials have changed the structure of workplaces. Many members of the millennial generation have different expectations of what they want out of a career than those who may be hiring and managing them.
Millennials have had easier access to information than any that came before them. Within seconds, they are able to retrieve data on just about any topic. For a group that has become accustomed to this type of access, management and training for the workplace needs to be strategic.
As the first professional sports league to invest in developing its sales talent from a national perspective, Major League Soccer (MLS) is no stranger to the challenges of training a millennial. Through the creation of the National Sales Center (NSC), a high-octane sales training academy based in Minneapolis, MLS is on the forefront of developing innovative training approaches that address the nuances of the modern-day millennial.
These are some of the foundational elements the NSC implements to successfully train a millennial:
1. Answer the “why”
Millennials are apt to completely immerse themselves into something when they know why they’re doing it. Full understanding of the process and how it fits into the big picture is not just important — it’s necessary. This is something that the MLS National Sales Center hammers home daily. Trainees are never asked to complete an exercise without learning the reasons behind it and why it will ultimately make them better salespeople.
2. Foster collaboration
Relationships are incredibly important to this generation. They tend to gauge their sense of importance within an organization not just on their job duties and output, but how they are treated by both peers and superiors. Millennials like to meld social with professional. They’ll work harder for a manager they see as both a mentor and a friend, and they will pour their hearts into an organization they consider their family.
3. Define roles and set expectations
This doesn’t just mean slapping a nametag and title on their cube. Just like knowing the “why,” knowing the “what” is important, too. What is their impact on the organization? What is expected of them? Establishing these goals and expectations early on sets them up for a clear path to success. Set the expectations high, but be realistic.
At the NSC, these expectations are summed up in a manifesto called the “No List,” which hangs in the office for all to see. The list is comprised of the negatives to avoid in order to achieve success within Major League Soccer.
4. Find out what drives them
What is each individual’s passion? At the NSC, everyone has a shared passion: growing the sport of soccer in North America. But what is each individual’s true passion?
“Within the group we currently have in session, we have a trainee dedicated to using the sport to fuel social change. We also have trainees born outside of the US, who have only known soccer as a way of life and see it not just as their passion, but as their purpose,” says Berryhill. “For each trainee, that passion started burning within them for different reasons. If we don’t learn that about them, we’ll never be able to get to the core of why they’re here and why they’re driven to succeed.”
5. Constant feedback
Never before has a generation been so hungry for feedback and constructive criticism. They’re chomping at the bit to learn new skills and hone the ones they already have. The NSC records each call that is placed, and management regularly reviews the calls both in a group and individual setting. This has proven to be a great way to reinforce best practices while fine-tuning the skills of each trainee.
6. Continued education
Millennials are far from complacent. Just as they have an appetite for feedback, they feel an urgency to acquire new skills through ongoing learning. The NSC introduces new ideas not by just teaching, but involving the trainees. They’re involved in active reinforcement on a day-to-day basis, and experience continued reinforcement through various alumni connections and communications after the trainees leave.
7. Build their confidence
Confidence levels could be the difference between a strong or useless day in the office. Though there’s no one magic formula to build and sustain confidence, the NSC feels that it has found a good blend that works to fortify confidence in each of its trainees. Through its partnership with the Brave New Workshop, a Minneapolis-based improvisational theater, the NSC weaves the fundamentals of improv comedy into its curriculum — trainees even perform on stage.
A cardinal sin in improv is saying “no” to your stage partner, so being part of an improv scene changes the way a person thinks over time, Berryhill said.
“Improv has taught us to be receptive of whatever comes our way, forcing us to think on our feet.”