Don’t Malign Millennials,
Put Their Skills to Work
Recently I came across a video about managing millennials in the
workforce. I spent about 18 minutes listening to a neuroscientist
sling adverse statistics and disparaging adjectives at a large repre-
sentative portion of our sales force, categorizing millennials as
being weak, entitled, self-serving and indolent. A further media
search yielded more gloom; if this generation is our future, then
the industry—along with my own
success—must be doomed. After
all, lackadaisical people do not
typically make great salespeople.
I’m not a millennial, but most
my work week is spent training and
coaching young professionals. As
such, rather than making assump-
tions about an entire generation, I
focus and build on their individual
strengths. A strong leader not only
understands, but also values
unique motivators, learning styles
and assets of the individuals they
are leading. With that in mind, I’ve set out to dispel some of the
common myths about millennials and speak to their assets.
One of the biggest misconceptions about millennials is that they
are lazy, and therefore unlikely to succeed in a highly competitive
industry dominated by Type-A personalities. This is simply untrue.
The attention spans of millennials are certainly shorter than previous generations, as reflected by their ability to text, browse and talk
on the phone at the same time, for example. However, this ability
to multitask can be a tremendous strength when managed effectively. It demonstrates a level of curiosity and quest for knowledge
that helps reduce the learning curve when acquiring the skills
necessary to navigate complex CRE transactions.
Accustomed to multiple sources of stimuli, millennials do not
necessarily learn in a linear fashion. This can be problematic for
managers used to providing more structured learning environments that follow a rigid curriculum. Flexibility is key to training
this group- in other words, follow the ball wherever it bounces.
Another oft-quoted misnomer about millennials is their resistance to authority. In my experience, it is not that millennials are
opposed to authority; they question it. For this cohort, leaders
would do well to not only explain why things are done a certain
way, but to also allow constant feedback, input and change.
As an alternative to authority, millennials respond very well to
accountability because it represents a two-way street. Success-driven
millennials demand that their mentors lead by example. From an
organizational standpoint, the paradigm raises the bar for everyone.
Although millennials require leaders to alter their approach to
coaching, training and motivating, they bring skills to the table that
some senior agents lack. For one, they’re in a great position to
embrace modern technology.
BY SUSAN BANDS
Millennials’ connection to technology also provides insight into
how this generation is best introduced into the workforce. The so-called “PlayStation Phenomenon” has shaped their learning style,
whereby they are accustomed to “figuring it out”—all the while
their video game heroes are dying, starting over, dying again…until
they get to the next level. The model is best reflected in new training methods, which contradict legacy systems.
Entry into commercial real estate, even today, is traditionally by
way of two paths. A new agent can either work in a support role for
a few years, absorbing knowledge from the sidelines, or be given a
desk and phone and left to their own devices. Both avenues are
inherently ineffective ways to onboard millennials. In the first
model, they fail to learn by doing, and paying dues is not a strong
The greatest gift a leader can give
millennials today is to empower
them to take action in a controlled,
suit for a generation that embraces autonomy. The second model
presents a lack of feedback and higher potential for failure. The
greatest gift a leader can give millennials today is to empower them
to take massive action in a controlled, supportive environment.
In my experience, leaders need to adapt. For this generation,
finding the right balance between autonomy and accountability is
the key to success for both the organization and new agent.
Millennials thrive on feedback, so training, structure and team
culture should be focused on generating a feedback loop. They are
also more collaborative and socially conscious than previous generations and, therefore, are more likely to embrace the success of
others within their cohort. They tend to be transparent in discussing successes and failures with each other. This leads to a culture of
respect and camaraderie that is a unique, helpful tool in an industry that is otherwise highly competitive.
Considering that most of our workforce is comprised of millennials, it pays to make some minor adaptations in leadership style in
order draw upon their strengths. It simply requires an understanding and appreciation of their value system, learning style and drivers. Millennials are commanding us all to bring our “A” game to
work every day and in doing so, they’re helping to reshape the
commercial real estate industry for the better. ◆
The views expressed here are the author’s own and not those of the
ALM Real Estate Media Group. Susan Bands is the sales manager of
Marcus & Millichap’s New York City office. She may be contacted at
14 REAL ESTATE FORUM JUNE 2018