Is there a right way and a wrong way to manage Millennials? This question was the basis of a major study by Deloitte last year. The focus: Emerging trends involving Millennials in the workplace. The findings were released back in January, but bear revisiting as Millennials again find themselves under attack in mainstream media.

The massive survey, entitled "Big Demands and High Expectations," offers managers a few critical insights on appealing to Millennials, attracting them to your workforce, and keeping them there. To that effect, the purpose of this post is to apply the report's findings to a single question: What are the best ways to keep the most mercenary demographic in your workforce loyal to your organization?

5 Ways to Retain Millennial Talent

Everything harkens back to the report's overarching conclusion, drawn from Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg: “To attract and retain talent, business needs to show Millennials it is innovative and in tune with their world-view."

But with that in mind, let's look at five initiatives the Deloitte report instructs managers to undertake, which will maximize Millennial loyalty to their organization. 

#1. Make Innovating a Priority

An eyebrow-raising statistic from the Deloitte report: "More than three-quarters of Millennials say they are strongly influenced by thoughts of how innovative an organization is when deciding if they want to work for it."

Keep in mind, that's not "profitable," necessarily, but innovative. Millennials are the generation raised on tech, and they value working for an organization on the cutting-edge of industry. The bottom line: the big boys on Wall Street no longer have as much allure to Millennials as the leaders in Silicon Valley. 

While this doesn't mean that a company has to be selling an innovative product or performing an innovative service, per se, it does mean that they are innovating in terms of their business practices, workplace environment, or corporate structure. The companies doing so appear to be setting themselves at an advantage over their less forward-thinking competition.

#2. Encourage Creativity

Creativity is a big word being thrown around by venture capitalists when describing what they look for in entrepreneurs. Likewise, Millennials are attracted to companies that seek those very traits out of their workforce. However, "most [millennials] say their current employer does not greatly encourage them to think creatively."  

To their credit, Millennials see creativity and innovation as a two-way street: Gen-Y members are seeking not just to work for innovative companies, but for companies that encourage their workforce to innovate.  


Is your company selling highly-innovative enterprise software? That might not be enough to satiate Millennial-age members of your salesforce if your business process revolves around endless cold-calling and is based on a playbook from 1984, not 2014.

The report also finds that Millennials "believe the biggest barriers to innovation are management attitude (63 percent), operational structures and procedures (61 percent), and employee skills, attitudes, and (lack of) diversity (39 percent)."

Notably, this data shows where Millennials are placing the bulk of the blame for their company's lack of innovation: at the feet of management.

#3. Develop Leadership Skills

A growing number of Millennials are beginning to become industry veterans. Unsurprisingly, Deloitte finds that "over one in four Millennials are ‘asking for a chance’ to show their leadership skills," while "75 percent believe their organizations could do more to develop future leaders." As Millennials continue to mature within the workforce, it would behoove industry members to begin training their leadership skills early.

A major cause of concern, of course, is the tendency for Millennials to be less loyal than any other workforce demographic. The ultimate fear becomes: "Is the employee we are investing in just being groomed to become a leader for one of our competitors?"

Such concerns, while valid, do not change the fact that, by 2025, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the workforce. Someone at your organization is going to have to be leading them.

And wouldn't it be better if your hiring manager could say - as a recruiting tool - that your company has a proven track record for grooming its leadership internally and promoting from within? 

#4. Show Creativity in Your Business Processes

Going back to creativity, Deloitte reports that, for Millennials: "Fostering innovative, ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions is more a matter of business processes than individual genius." Don't have the next Steve Jobs at the helm of your business? Not a problem.

Millennials are surprisingly practical about the most effective ways to use creativity and innovation within a business. Almost 60 percent believe that "organizations can become good at innovation by following established processes," and that "innovation can be learned and is repeatable, rather than being spontaneous and random."

#5. Take Calculated Risks

As noted earlier, nearly two-in-three Millennials cite management as a "barrier to innovation." Digging further into these numbers, Deloitte finds that such barriers arise from:

  1. A reluctance to take risks.
  2. A reliance on existing products, services, and ways of doing business.
  3. An unwillingness to collaborate with other businesses or universities.

The mandate is clear. Millennials want companies that do not fear risk, embrace change, and work with other entities to get a competitive edge.

Notably, one can view all these traits as perhaps some of the best assets of Millennials themselves as part of your workforce.

Keeping Millennials Loyal

As Millennials continue to grow within the workforce, it will be critical for organizations to take a less dismissive, more strategic approach to managing them.

In a Harvard Business Review essay from last year, Millennial and workplace thought leader Dan Schawbel noted two diametric trends in how Millennials and Managers viewed one another.

  1. Employees feel that their managers have experience (59%), wisdom (41%) and are willing to mentor them (33%). 
  2. Managers feel that Gen Y employees have unrealistic salary/compensation expectations (51%), a poor work ethic (47%), and are easily distracted (46%).  

One of these have to give. Schawbel, a long-time Millennial advocate and defender, seems to agree with the findings of Deloitte, that the onus toward change belongs most greatly on management. From their vantage point, Managers have the most work to do, but also stand to gain the most, by changing their outlook toward managing Millennials.

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By adopting a more sophisticated understanding of Millennials, and in turn, a better approach to leadership, they will give themselves the opportunity to gain a strategic edge over their competition as we move into a Millennial-dominated workplace future.

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