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Onboarding Multi-Generational Sales Teams

7 min read
Updated Aug. 25, 2021
Published Jun. 21, 2018

The key to a successful onboarding program is flexibility and personalization. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution; a tailored onboarding experience is critical for creating successful employees from day one. Flexibility is important when onboarding multi-generational salespeople. Differences in age and experience bring a wide range of challenges.

Today’s workforce is made up of three distinct generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Millennials. Each generation has unique strengths and benefits they can bring to an organization. Onboarding practices that encourage open communication, respect, and collaboration will help an organization capitalize on a diverse knowledge base.

With 52% of workers stating that they’re less likely to get along with someone from a different generation, it’s vital that organizations have a structured onboarding program that addresses generational diversity.

Baby Boomers (1945 – 1964)

This generation has been in the workforce for 30 years or more. They have grown to be leaders. The majority of executive teams and senior-level professionals are comprised of Boomers. They are independent, competitive, and goal-oriented. What they sometimes lack in tech-savviness, they make up for with years of business experience and knowledge.

An organization should have clearly defined parameters and metrics to measure success and track progress during the onboarding experience. Clearly defined goals give Baby Boomers objectives that they need to reach, and being the generation that knows how to produce results they will strive to achieve them and meet their objectives.

One of the challenges of onboarding a Baby Boomer involves technology. This generation didn’t grow up with technology and adapted later in life, so it makes sense that there would be a learning curve when adopting newer technology. An organization should first identify how comfortable the individual is with technology, then develop a plan to build knowledge in those areas.

Baby Boomers are independent, so the open-office layout of modern technology companies might be a challenge. They’re open to collaboration, but a lack of quiet space to focus on work will likely be jarring. Making different workstations available throughout the office could prove beneficial, as it allows everyone to work in the environment where they are most comfortable.

Baby Boomers are excellent leaders in any organization. Their years of experience are a valuable resource to utilize. They also are excellent mentors to younger generations just starting their careers and can help provide professional guidance and insight. An estimated 10,000 plus Baby Boomers retire each day, so it’s crucial that an organization utilizes Boomers’ knowledge and experience to help grow and strengthen the organization before they exit the workforce. This generation is unlikely to job hop, and are most likely with the organization they will retire with. Retaining this generation to help onboard younger employees is an excellent way to share knowledge and experiences, and develop future leaders within the organization.

Generation X (1965 – 1980)

If the Baby Boomers are on the way out of the workforce, it’s safe to say that the X’ers are poised to fill their shoes. This age group possesses the professional experience to step into the senior level and executive vacancies. They are adept with technology, having experienced its emergence first-hand. Clearly define objectives for this age group; however, flexibility can exist within that framework.

Generation X knows what to expect from leadership and the organization. A poor introduction to the company will not sit well with them, so it’s important that the onboarding experience be comprehensive. An effective, organized onboarding experience could include a 30/60/90 day program to follow up on development and growth during the first few months. Such a program will allow a Gen X’er to track their progress and understand expectations and goals within the context of the company’s culture.

Since this age group anticipates stepping into the vacancies that Baby Boomers leave as they retire, an organization will benefit from having a mentorship program in place. Encouraging Baby Boomers to provide career guidance is an excellent way to prepare Generation X for the leadership roles they will inevitably fill. It also serves as a way to integrate new hires into the organization and minimize time to productivity.

Millennials (1981 – 1994)

One of the most talked about generations; Millennials now make up the most significant percentage of the workforce at 35%, or around 56 million (Pew Research). They are known for their technical savvy, constant connection, and enthusiasm as they start their careers. As most Millennials are just beginning their professional journey, they are looking for a way they can establish themselves and further their knowledge base and skill sets. Since they have an affinity for technology, learning new software and systems will be second nature.

Millennials have a penchant for constant connection and team-oriented environments, and these values should inform their onboarding experience. A group onboarding process that incorporates a buddy system or a new hire club is an excellent way to tap into their team orientation. This way, Millennial new hires have a support system in place and can collaborate with others as they learn the inner workings of the organization. An internal social networking system where employees can communicate instantly and remain connected is also a valuable onboarding tool.

One of the most important criteria Millennials look for when choosing a job is the company culture. Millennials expect more out of their companies than previous generations and look for companies with a culture that aligns with their own personal beliefs and values. Incorporating the company culture into onboarding is vital to building loyalty within the organization. That means everything from having new hire material prepared to hosting team building events.

Onboarding should be personalized, stimulating, and social. Sitting in a room all day reading training material can be disengaging for anyone. For this generation of salespeople, it is nothing short of intolerable. Incorporate peer interaction and active participation to keep their attention, and make the training engaging and interactive.

43% of Millennials leave their jobs within two years

Retention should be at the forefront of a company’s priorities for this generation that’s known for job hopping. According to a recent study by Deloitte, a staggering 43% of Millennials plan to leave their jobs within two years. Recruiting and training new employees is a costly process; companies would do well to start retainment on day 1. A study by SHRM found that 69% of employees stay with a company for more than three years, proving it worthwhile to invest in a successful onboarding program.

The Importance of Company Values Across Generations

Company values are key to a workforce that is united across generations, and the first place to introduce this is in the onboarding process. When the same fundamental core values align everyone, it creates the building blocks for a robust and healthy organization. Skill sets, generations, and experiences vary. When employees share the same values, it helps to create a bond that everyone shares regardless of differences.

Organizations only benefit from generational diversity. Set salespeople up for success by enabling everyone to communicate with the confidence of Baby Boomers, channel the drive of Generation X, and share the enthusiasm of Millennials. It all begins with the onboarding phase, but it’s important to remember that onboarding is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The most successful onboarding processes are personalized experiences that adapt based on the needs of the new hire class.

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