Takeaway – All business professionals need negotiating skills, but millennials tend to make their lives more difficult with fuzzy goals. A little professional skills training will give you the competitive advantage you need.
Boss Rule – Know where to open and when to walk away. That means setting good SMART goals and understanding your bottom line before you get to the negotiating table.
Millennial challenge: Their goals tend to be ambitious (good) - but vague and unfocused (fatal). Fuzzy negotiating goals - “I want to make a difference” or “I want to work for a socially conscious organization” are great starting points – but you have to know how to convert them into rock-solid deal points. Millennials are notorious for making demands that the other side can’t deliver on (social good, lifestyle) and don’t include specific action plan (“I want to receive 20 hours of structured sales training”). Millennials have a habit of treating goal setting like a conversation -- but pros know that they have to walk in with an agenda and have a plan for executing.
Tools: Use a SMART framework to plan out your goals.
Our Story. Meet Mel the Millennial, and his boss Bob the Boomer. Mel works at Infinity Systems – an online matchmaker between freelancers and service providers of digital content and corporate outsources. He has worked for the company’s Washington DC office for 10 months, doing marketing and account management. He’s doing well and everyone likes him. One afternoon he gets a call from one of the company’s HR directors who tells him he is a candidate for Infinity’s new management development program. If he is accepted to the year-long program, he will be given a promotion and put on an accelerated career track for high-potential young managers. He will also be expected to commit to staying with Infinity for an additional year after the program is complete – meaning he is expected to make a 2 year commitment, on top of the time he has already been with the company.
The problem is that Mel is not sure that he is happy at his job. He likes Infinity well enough, his work is interesting and challenging, and he has been very successful in the year he has been there. BUT he doesn’t love DC, and the job is a little more sales- oriented than he had thought it would be. He doesn’t really see how his work is having any impact on the company. While he sees Infinity’s work as significant in how it helps start-ups and freelancers realize their goals, his corporate clients are just interested in reducing expenses and ultimately laying off their in-house creative teams.
Mel’s goal-system sounds a little like this so far:
“I want to make a difference at Infinity, and have more of an impact. The work I’m doing is of questionable value to society. On the one hand, I like supporting start-ups and freelancers, but I’m afraid that I’m also contributing to lay-offs and predatory cost cutting. Washington DC is not my kind of city. “
He decides to schedule a meeting with his department head, Bob Clawson, to discuss his situation. Bob emails that he’ll be available for 30 minutes in 2 days time.
Let’s intervene on Mel’s behalf and help him develop a SMART goal system. SMART is a framework – basically a checklist that helps decision-makers organize their analysis.
SMART stands for
Mel should be prepared to walk in to Bob’s office with a specific goal, broken down into 3 – 5 variables, or deal points. His issues are:
- He wants to work on meaningful projects instead of just making sales calls to potential clients.
- He would like to switch to Business Development, where he would identify and recruit service providers (freelancers and start-ups) and away from Account Management, where he is working with Fortune 500 clients.
- He would like to eventually move to one of Infinity’s other offices – either in NY, San Francisco, or Seattle. In time, he would like to work on the company’s international expansion – Europe or Latin America.
- Mel would also like to receive additional training and mentoring. Although he has been successful at Infinity up until now, he sometimes feels like he is “faking it”. The new management development program will include some general management training, but Mel feels like he would really benefit from some good leadership skills development – since running his own team and projects is critical to him.
- Higher compensation would be great, but Mel is more concerned with quality of life. He wants more money, but just as important is travel, autonomy, and control of his own work schedule. He would also like to develop his own projects.
- Since he wants to run his own projects and team some day, he’ll need an appropriate title, staff, and a budget.
- The transition to Business Development should happen no later than 6 months after completing the year-long management development program. Ideally, the transition will begin during the program, but that’s something he can discuss once he knows more about it.
- He would like a commitment to relocate to a new office before starting the program, but the actual move could come later.
- Mel would also like to be matched with a senior manager who has the experience and skills that he cares about – but that could be decided on later.
- Compensation should be increased by 25% or more, but what he really cares about is that 20% of his schedule be self-determined or flexible.
The most sensitive variables are relocation, transition to Business Development, and autonomy. If Bob doesn’t have the ability to give him a solid yes-or-no answer on those issues, then Mel is inclined to turn down the program.
Mel hopes that his proposal is realistic and possible, but he needs to determine from Bob what the company will allow for.
Mel would like an answer – even if it is bad news – before the program begins in two months. In reality, HR has told Mel that he has to decide within 3 weeks. If all goes well in his conversation with Bob, Mel should be able to give them a solid YES by the end of the week. But if negotiating his terms is a long, drawn-out process, then Mel has decided that he won’t enter the new program without a definitive answer.
After reviewing his new SMART goals, Mel is much more confident about the parameters of his decision. The process has forced him to identify 2 critical variables in the negotiation – moving to a new location and switching to business development. He realizes that he is more flexible about the other issues, as long as he gets those two things. He has also decided that, if he can relocate and switch roles that he is OK with committing to the company for anther two years.
Next: Mel figures out his Best Alternative to No Agreement