Millennials (born 1981 – 1996) and Generation Z (born 1997 – 2012) are not lazy, lethargic, entitled and directionless and the more the leaders of an organization think this way, or worse, publicly denounces these groups, the more they alienate their employees and turn staff (don’t be a grumpy old men). Let’s face it, every generation thinks that we are doomed based on the generation that follows us. My son Kurt (born 1996) recently quipped, “Dad, if I am the generation of the lazy and the entitled, then congratulate your generation for creating us.”
However, both Millennials and Generation Z’s will have different priorities and motivators, and even these 2 generations have differences.
Millennials vs. Generation Z
What they have in common:
- A desire to find (or create) meaning
- A motivation to contribute to the world
- Being highly educated
- Cultural diversity
- A desire for their own personalized experience
- A desire to seek work/life balance and integration
Generation Z is also different from Millennials in many ways. Many things that Millennials foster as preferences have become expectations of Gen Z’ers, and they expect you to take them seriously. They define themselves differently, are intrigued by group trends, are passionate about issues that their parents may not understand and are willing to do research.
Generation Z differences include:
- More independent
- More entrepreneurial
- More communicative
- More competitive
- More motivated by security
- Driven by career/financial goals
- Less validation expectations
The following are examples of how successful dealerships/dealer groups have aligned their thinking with the Millennials and the Gen Z’ers they work with.
A domestic dealership an hour outside of Vancouver allows salespeople to work a 30-hour work week. With the blessing of the team, the dealership hired additional salespeople to cover their 7-day-a-week showroom hours.
One of the most successful Honda dealers in the U.S. hires college graduates only, pays them a $75,000 salary and the salespeople work a 4-day work week.
The salespeople have a clear set of sales-related tasks they must complete each day as part of their compensation. The sales team averages over 15 sold vehicles/salesperson per month.
A large, domestic dealership north of Toronto allows the sales staff to do their own shift scheduling. Some of the younger, single salespeople prefer to go to the gym in the morning and work later to the 8:00 p.m. closing time, while some of the older, married salespeople with families prefer to work morning and afternoons and have dinners with their families and quality time with their kids in the early evenings.
Another highly successful domestic dealership in the Niagara region ensures that each salesperson has a schedule that includes two days off in a row every week. Salespeople have the opportunity to go away for a “weekend” and recharge their batteries.
Yet another domestic dealership in southwestern Ontario allows its top performing salespeople to work from home as much as they please, e-mailing, texting, making phone calls, setting up appointments and coming into the dealership for appointments and deliveries only. They are not assigned to any shift schedule.
A dealership an hour north of Toronto encourages their entire staff to get involved in the community with non-profit organizations. Salespeople, service advisors and technicians work in soup kitchens, volunteer at food banks, mow lawns and shovel snow for seniors, drive elderly and disabled to appointments, etc. For every day of community service, the dealership matches it with a day of vacation.
A dealer group in Atlantic Canada provides salespeople with unlimited vacation from the day they start, even sabbaticals.
A dealership south of Chicago hosts “Friday Zen”. A local Massage Therapy school sets up over 20 tables on the second floor of the dealership and Massage Therapy students provide free massages to all staff throughout the day.
Millennials and Gen Z’ers are entrepreneurial and prefer to develop several revenue streams – they don’t like having all their eggs in one basket. Forward thinking dealerships encourage and support this. They do not bemoan the constant use of cell phones in the showroom – Most Gen Z’ers consider their cell phone as a natural extension of both their social and entrepreneurial life. Progressive (and clever) dealerships teach salespeople how to use various video apps and how to create YouTube® and Tik Tok® channels that not only brand and promote their sales career, but actually generate revenue from social media platforms. Several Canadian salespeople are generating a six-figure income from selling cars as well as a second six-figure income from their social media followers. One of our current and most successful 1-day workshops teaches salespeople exactly how to do this.
Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers have traditionally put in long hours and 5 or even 6 day work weeks and relish their time away from the workplace and co-workers. Millennials and Gen Z’ers on the other hand, love to socialize with their coworkers outside of the workplace. Progressive dealerships encourage this with organized events for the sales and service teams such a ping-pong tournaments, pool tournaments, poker nights, online gaming tournaments, golfing, basketball, volleyball, wine tasting, paintball, axe-throwing, horseback riding, salmon fishing, kayaking, zip-lining, skydiving and track days.
Furthermore, Millennials and Gen Z ‘ers enjoy constant banter with their colleagues (salespeople, service advisors, technicians as well as their sales managers) via group chat both during and after hours. Sales Managers form strong bonds with their teams by participating and learning more about their people through this informal and often highly charged chirping and chatter.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Millennials and Gen Z’ers do not respond to autocratic and dictatorial styles of leadership. Yelling and shaming at sales meetings, humiliation, “My way or the highway” statements and attitudes and high pressure work environments are considered repulsive. Millennials and Gen Z’ers want leaders that respect their input and opinions, and “truly” listen to them and not patronize them. They respond to team environments, where the sales team both wins together or loses together. When the team wins (achieving sales/profit/CSI targets, etc.), the team shares both the spoils and the accolades and celebrates together. When the team loses, the leadership does not point fingers, but instead takes ownership and responsibility. The entire team (including the leaders) support, nurture and coach each other.
The pandemic seemingly has been the catalyst for a transformational shift of the entire workforce, including retail automotive. Dealer Principals and managers that live in the past and constantly talk of “what we used to do” and drone on about the habits, lack of work ethic and cell phones of the “younger generation” will be left behind with empty showrooms. Progressive, enthusiastic leaders will not only adapt to the new generation of young entrepreneurs, but will look for ways to inspire and delight them in the workplace.
Chris Schulthies is the president of Toronto-based Wye Management. Wye Management provides sales and management training (showroom and digital) for dealerships, dealer groups, OEMs and industry suppliers in Canada and the U.S.