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How to Update Your Program for the Next Generation of Partner Leaders

We speak so much about the next generation of partner programs, but what about the next generation of leaders inside the partner organisations? You know who I’m talking about. (Whisper: millennials.) Who are they? What do they need from vendor partner programs? Are they a changing force to be considered alongside customer buying trends and the transformation of partner engagement?

Every opinion on this topic seems to be written by someone born pre-1970. I love you, boomers, but it’s important for us to weigh in on the subject. As someone born in 1983, I fall into the brackets (1981-1996) sometimes used to define the “millennial” generation. (Since our industry’s insistence on sticking a label to everything goes against the way this generation works, I’m trying very hard not to use that word.) Even so, who are millennials the new generation? These new partner leaders in 2022. And what on earth do we WANT?

Dive Into Next Generation Partner Programs

The broad strokes about millennials

2206-webinar-socialMillennials are the largest adult cohort at 1.8 billion globally. We are native technology users who see beyond the salary and financial incentives of our jobs – and the same goes for our partnerships. We hold user experience in much a higher regard than previous generations (watch us hop to another website when the one we are on won’t load quickly!).

We demand the right to have our voices heard; we expect diversity in the workplace, equity for all; and we will vote with our feet to leave an organisation that doesn’t align to our ethics. A bright, smart, and progressive generation, we love digital everything, especially social media, and we want our careers and engagements at work to have emotional depth and meaning.

With Gen Z joining us in the working world, for the first time in history, we have five different generations in the workforce with Millennials on course to dominate the percentages. CompTIA claims that 75% of the channel will be millennials by the year 2025.


What to expect from new partner leaders

Vendors need to adapt their partner programs to ensure the new generation of partner leaders ‘get’ them and continue channel engagement. Here are a few generational characteristics as they apply to partnerships:

  • They are tech savvy and expect vendor partner programs and portals to perform. Partner Experience (PX) is a real thing.
  • They are unapologetically themselves. Expect to see more personality, background, culture and pride in who they are as humans than previous generations. Reflect your own personalities and your company culture to your partners for a deeper partnership.
  • ‘Work’ is something they do, not a building they go to. Expect video calls from kitchens long after the C19 pandemic is (gladly) a distant memory.
  • They care deeply about work/life balance and appreciate flexibility in collaborative work with vendor partners.
  • Digital collaboration and clear communication are basic partnership table stakes. This new generation of leaders hates email. Consider engagement platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google chat, etc.
  • Company accountability across ethics, diversity and inclusion, credibility, integrity and sustainability are important to them. These will be factors in how they choose vendors to partner with.
  • They are ambitious and driven. Giving them a platform to speak, allowing them to use their voice and listening to their feedback will help everyone work well together in partnership.
  • They don’t need a label on everything. Consider dropping the partner acronym/types and interact with partners based on what they do, not by the precious metal name you assign them.
  • They crave mentorship, enablement and education. Self-improvement is addictive to them and they will welcome vendor support to be more and do more together.
  • Don’t expect the same blind loyalty from this group as previous generations. They’ve seen this industry chew up and spit out older colleagues and parents. YOLO (You Only Live Once) – so if it’s not working for us, see ya later.


Where to get started

You can’t reinvent your partner program overnight, but you can start right now. Make a few key changes to appeal to the generation of new partner leaders.

  1. Be tech savvy! Ensure your partner portal is modern and has a strong roadmap for the next generation. If you use unified collaboration and communication platforms in your internal teams, open them up for external access to ensure you can truly collaborate with partners.
  2. Communicate to your partner community from one place – and make it digital and device agnostic!
  3. Consider segmented content for partners. Alongside traditional white papers and reports for baby boomers, create videos and bite-size content for the next generation.

Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) are already in the workforce and they are ambitious. They will transform our channel too, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Watch: The New Generation of Partner Leadership

Have you encountered younger partner leaders engaging differently with your channel program? Tell us about it and be sure to join our webinar on Tuesday, June 28, from 8-9am Pacific. Our guest is David Brown, ex EMEA Channel Chief turned Head of Customer Success at Phoenix Software, Microsoft’s UK Partner of the Year 2021. We will discuss how the leaders and sellers of the Millennial and Generation Z impact the way we deal with Program Design & Strategy.

Amy-Roberts-120Amy Roberts is a principal at PartnerPath based in York, UK (and borderline Millennial). She has two decades of experience in channel curation, leadership and transformation. Schedule a remote cup of tea with Amy if you'd like to chat about partner programs, digital experience platforms, or figuring out where to start with modernising your partner engagement.

Topics: Partnering Tips

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