How to recruit, train, motivate and manage generation Y

April 14, 2010

Put yourself in the hot seat of a tough assignment. Imagine trying to recruit a sales staff of 3,000-plus 18-23 year-old’s from the nation’s finest colleges and universities, asking them to work an entire summer from their last final exam to the opening day of fall semester. To complicate your assignment, you’re recruiting for a job that encourages a six-day, eighty-hour workweek, averaging thirteen hours per day, with no time off for holidays or a summer vacation. Your recruits will be required to attend a week-long intensive training program – unpaid and at their own expense – and, at the conclusion of that training, they will be relocated to another city or town for the entire summer. They will have no choice of city and probably will not find out exactly where they’re going until after they have completed training. Further, your recruits must pay for all their own travel, food, and living expenses, and secure their own living arrangements within a few days of relocation.

For you to have any success, you’d have to be recruiting for the NBA, a prime time sitcom, or a boy band, right?

Not even close.

The positions you’re seeking to fill are door-to-door sales, offering straight commission and no base salary.

As one who closely examines the trends and traits of post-Generation X’ers, I would have thought this absurd, if not entirely impossible. But last week, my 19-year-old son, Zac, phoned home from college and informed me about his summer plans.

This year, the Southwestern Company interviewed more than 30,000 top college students across the country and selected fewer than 3,500 for its legendary summer sales program. headquartered in Nashville, this 136-year-old book distribution company has always relied exclusively on college students to sell its academic reference books by knocking on residential doors throughout the summer months. Southwestern’s sales have never been stronger, and the talent pool has never been deeper.

Zac is a classic Gen Why; in fact, his mug is prominently featured on the cover of my book, Employing Generation Why. he’s a great kid and a Dean’s list student who makes his father very proud. But Zac’s never been drawn to hard work, long days, or personal rejection. The fact that he’s willingly and knowingly sprinting towards all three this summer absolutely fascinates me. What is it about the Southwestern concept that appeals to Zac and tens of thousands of others like him? How can this company (and the army) continue to attract and retain huge numbers of the best and the brightest, while other companies and organizations offering more money, perks, and comfort turn these same kids off?

1. Honesty – Southwester has recruits sign an agreement fully disclosing 66 items detailing the downside aspects of the job. They tell them going in that this is, without question, the most difficult summer job in America. In a world where they have so often been deceived, Gen Whys are drawn to those who shoot straight with no bull and zero hype.

2. Challenge – Boomers tend to think that today’s kids are inherently lazy, and would rather play video games than work. In reality, Gen Why’s find the daunting challenge and adventure represented by Southwestern and the Army quite compelling. When faced with with the choice of assigning them a difficult task that requires thought and effort or a monotonous easy one, opt for the the one that challenges and inspires.

3. Guidance – We have been taught the Gen Whys resist structure and authority. In reality, they’ve grown up in a relaxed society that has left them thirsty for discipline and principled leadership. Don’t shy away from being bold and decisive, but don’t bark commands simply to show them who’s in charge.

4. Delayed Gratification – This one really throws us. We may think Gen Whys are only focused on the present and are not concerned about the future. In reality, most Gen Whys realize they need more than a classroom education to succeed in a global marketplace. they also realize that the key to success lies in the fusion of skills, character, and experience, and they are attracted to opportunities that present a chance for the development of all three. Consistently demonstrate through story and example how present short-term sacrifice can lead to future long-term growth and prosperity, no matter what path they eventually select for themselves.

The takeaway for exceptional leaders is this:
never compromise integrity or procedure for the sake of filing positions or appearing hip to Gen Why. Once they get a whiff of soft leadership, a lack of ethics or standards, or any hint of incongruity, you’ve lost their buy-in. And that will cost you dearly in the long-term.

By Eric Chester, The premier expert and coach in recruiting, motivating and managing, training and retaining generation Why. He resides in Denver, Colorado


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Antonio valencia May 14, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I’m really impressed with your research and appreciate all the knowledge you have. Ive been recently employed with an amazing company selling satellite with a huge emphasis on having door to door reps generating sales in residential markets. I’m the new national recruiter and always seeking knowledge outside of my audio book collection of some of the greatest speakers of all time such as Brian Tracy, John c. Maxwell, Jim Rohn etc.
The company I work for is Digital Satellite. We have an excellent reputation with our vendors and are notorious for hiring college students during the summer. I would appreciate any other resources &or information you might have that could help me in my search to find and retain talent for a position in the door to door industry that offers a very competitive compensation package along with tuition reimbursement amongst other things. Please keep in touch and thank you for the research that will help in my recruiting efforts.

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