The Millennial Mindset: How to Work with Gen Y

The Millennial Mindset: How to Work with Gen Y

It is no secret that Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are pretty different groups of people. Beyond their differences in age, they also have dramatically different approaches to life and work, which can make communication and collaboration in commercial dealerships difficult. However, productivity requires cohesion amongst the sales team, so today we’re breaking down the “Millennial Mindset” and discussing characteristics of Millennials, working with Millennials, and Millennial retention. We hope this discussion helps all generations work together to ultimately move more inventory!

Characteristics of Millennials

First, let’s be clear on who we’re talking about when we say “Millennials.” While Baby Boomers are in their late 50s, 60s, and early 70s, and Gen Xers are in their late 30s, 40s, and early 50s, Millennials are in their 20s and 30s. No longer children, Gen Y is already in the workforce and some of them have been employed for over a decade now. But just because they’ve been working for a few years does not mean that Millennials are understood by their Gen X and Baby Boomer coworkers and bosses.

Older generations should know that, contrary to popular stereotypes, Gen Y is willing to work hard and does not require praise for every little task (after all, it was the parents of Millennials who demanded a trophy for every child, not Millennials themselves). However, after seeing previous generations slave away at jobs they were not passionate about, it is true that Gen Y values a work-life balance and wants their work to serve a greater purpose if they are to dedicate significant energy towards it.

Millennials also are tech-savvy and constantly connected to the changing world via smart-devices, making them effective at rapid adaptation and excited to try new ways of doing things in order to disrupt the status quo. Their desire to implement lasting change and their ability to innovate guides them to seek out opportunities for improving their industries and their places of work, rather than quietly suffer the downsides of a job. Finally, the Gen Y workforce has greater ethnic and gender diversity than older generations, sees valuable strength in that diversity, and has a knack for getting along well with others.

Working with Millennials

As you read through those characteristics, it’s easy to see how differences between Millennials and their Baby Boomer and Gen X counterparts could either enhance your dealership team or contribute to miscommunication and conflict. For example, Gen Y workers are less willing to work extra hours or on the weekends simply for the sake of the business, which can be understandably frustrating for sales managers. However, if the manager can make a personal connection, or can tie the extra effort into a larger sense of purpose, the Millennials working those extra hours or weekend hours can deliver some of the best performances your dealership has ever seen.

Similarly, Gen Y will be more likely to look for ways to improve the current ways your dealership goes about its business. That potential disruption can often upset Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, who prefer proven and familiar ways of doing things and who are adverse to unnecessary risk. It’s a fair point that dealerships should make decisions with careful deliberation and need not overreact to every shift in the wind. However, with an adaptive ability to keep up with evolving technology, and a diversity of perspectives that can identify problems and opportunities older generations may not even be able to see, Millennial recommendations have the potential to secure the future success of your dealership for years to come.

In a multigenerational dealership, the odds of misunderstanding each other are high, but so are the opportunities to harness the qualities of both older and younger employees to maximize productivity. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers should be recognized for their valuable knowledge, experiences, and expertise. Millennials should be encouraged to discover aspects of the business that inspire them and should have platforms for sharing their thoughts and ideas. Finding a respectful balance between tradition and innovation serves your dealership better than either would be able to do alone.

Millennial Retention

One last quality of Gen Y that could affect your dealership concerns retention. Millennials are “experience hoppers,” meaning they are much more willing than previous generations to move on to new jobs or careers. This phenomena is driven in part out of aspiration, and in part out of placing a high value on having a variety of personal and professional experiences. This is positive in that they can be well-rounded and ambitious workers, but negative in that a revolving door of employees can cost your dealership time and money. So you’ll need a developed retention strategy as Gen Y starts to make up the majority of the workforce.

To encourage Millennials to stick around — apart from the obvious but expensive option of offering increasingly higher pay — there are two primary strategies that cater to their generation. First, provide a diversity of experiences while on the job, helping them get to know the various people employed at the dealership, the many different customers your business serves, and all the important jobs and tasks that are accomplished in a given day, week, month, and year. This strategy gives Millennials employees the new experiences they value while also providing opportunities for them to find an aspect of the business they are passionate about and are willing commit extra effort towards.

Second, it is important to develop, implement, and communicate a well-thought out career path. This is something that all your employees will appreciate, but especially those who belong to Gen Y. Providing fixed career goals that will take them down a path of growth and advancement will appeal to Millennials’ sense of ambition and encourage them to focus on achieving specific objectives. Having certainty that your dealership won’t stick them in one position forever nurtures a spirit of engagement and momentum.

The Millennial Mindset is a topic of much research and conversation which far exceeds the length of a single article, but hopefully we’ve provided you with some helpful insights about how to work with Gen Y in your dealership. Despite being heavily stereotyped in the media, Millennials have so much to offer modern-day dealerships. It’s just a matter of knowing how to relate and accessing that potential. And we want to know about your experiences! Has your dealership encountered success or struggles in implementing Gen Y workers? Let us know in the comments below!


Ethan Smith
Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.
Anja Skrba / April 12, 2019

Hi Ethan,

As a Millennial, I can agree that we value a diversity of experiences while on the job because it’s really important for us to develop new skills, have a chance to implement them through our career path.


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