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Seven Root Causes for Poor Employee Engagement

Seven Root Causes for Poor Employee Engagement

Here are seven root causes-factors that cause employees to disengage and leave:

  1. They found the job or workplace to be different than what they had expected when hired.
  2. They were not well matched or challenged in the jobs for which they had been hired, or to which had been assigned or promoted.
  3. They received too little coaching and feedback from their supervisor.
  4. They perceived few prospects for professional growth and advancement.
  5. They felt undervalued or underrecognized, either through lack of informal acknowledgement of their contributions, feeling underpaid, not feeling “in the loop,” not having their input sought, not having the right tools.
  6. Feeling stressed or burned-out due to overwork or life-work imbalance.
  7. Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.

These seven causes are not the reasons most employees give in exit interviews. Departing employees typically respond with the answers their leaders prefer to hear-better pay or opportunity. Through such denial, managers never learn what they need to avoid or correct the real causes of disengagement and turnover.

Most managers believe employees leave mainly because of “pull factors”-pay and opportunity. However, Saratoga’s research concludes that 80 percent are motivated to leave because of these seven “push factors.”

Managers and leaders may not want to acknowledge the real reasons employees leave-since all seven are factors they can influence directly.

The good news is first that some turnover is desirable. Second, between the time employees become disengaged and the point when they leave, there is time and opportunity to re-engage them. Third, if we know why employees disengage and leave, then we also know why they stay and engage. Fourth, since only about 12 percent of employees leave mainly because of their pay, the things we need to do to re-engage most employees are relatively inexpensive, requiring mostly the time and attention of direct managers, the support of HR, and the commitment of senior leaders.

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How to Increase Employee Commitment and Engagement

How to Increase Employee Commitment and Engagement If employee allegiance no longer has a metaphysical basis in a culture, people are left with only two values—personal peace and personal affluence—and these values diminish loyalty with their self-absorbed focus. Employees who long only to be left alone to follow better possessions and better experiences have no room for loyal relationships.

To increase commitment, managers focus on employee ownership and retention, either by giving employees equity in the company in hopes that if they own it, they will give more commitment so that their equity will increase in value; or by giving project control in hopes that if the employees own the project, they will give the commitment that is needed for the project’s success. Employee ownership, however, is a deficient substitute for employee loyalty.

Employee Engagement Strategy Examples

Managers who try to encourage loyalty through employee retention soon realize that this too is inadequate to build loyalty. These programs tend to focus on employee self-fulfillment rather than earning and retaining loyalty to the values, purposes and people of the organization.

Our survey indicates that the top five drivers of employee commitment are:

  1. management’s recognition of the importance of personal and family life;
  2. opportunities for personal growth;
  3. satisfying customer needs;
  4. communications about benefits; and
  5. skills keeping pace with job requirements.

These drivers deepen employees’ commitments, but only on condition that some other prospective employer is not providing them more fully or with better pay. Gaining employee commitment by nourishing the need for self-fulfillment is another example of loyalty for personal gain rather than loyalty to the values, purpose and people of the organization.

The problem with trying to win loyalty through ownership and retention plans is that these are attempts to buy what must be warranted. Loyalty means to be steadfast in one’s allegiance to a person, cause, or company and to beliefs, practices, and relationships that benefit all involved. A culture that wins loyalty is built by exemplifying high values and right purposes, by assuming constituents to live these high values and right purposes, and by rewarding them when they do and challenging them when they do not.

Four Implications for Employee Loyalty

Managers and employees who take sincerely the need to build loyalty must see four consequences.

  1. Building loyalty to the values, purposes and people of an organization is swimming against the tide of current trends. It will entail time and energy.
  2. Managers need to either commit to building employee loyalty or quit criticizing about the lack of it.
  3. Employees will likely reap what they sow in terms of loyalty. If they do not learn the lessons of loyalty now, they will not know how to earn and build loyalty when they become managers.
  4. Managers need to vet potential employees as to their prior commitment to organizational values, purposes and people rather than just personal gain.

In terms of employee loyalty, managers can choose to either curse the darkness or light a candle.

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How to Create a Culture of Appreciation

How to Create a Culture of Appreciation

Through Appreciation, Your Human Resources Will Increase in Value and Worth

Most of us think we appreciate our employees. We say “good job” for work well done, we give out Employee of the Month awards, and we honor our top producers. Yet, two out of three workers say they didn’t receive a single word of praise or simple recognition in the past year. Well, you think, “That’s the other guy—I appreciate, I’m grateful.” Yet, the number one reason people leave jobs is lack of appreciation—not low pay, not too many hours, or too few benefits. People quit first because they don’t feel appreciated!

How much does turnover cost you? How much do you spend in recruiting, hiring, and training new hires? How much time-productivity is lost in the process? In addition, what about absenteeism and lack of motivation and enthusiasm? Because those who aren’t quitting, but who feel unappreciated, are coming to work less often, with less zeal and less commitment. And who incurs the cost? You. Your business. Your company.

And the cost is considerable. Appreciation has a real and measurable impact on your bottom line. Studies reveal that the degree to which people feel their company recognizes employee excellence results in dramatic differences to the company’s bottom line. Businesses effectively valuing their employees enjoy triple the returns on equity, returns on assets, and higher operating margins.

And that’s just when employee excellence is appreciated. What do you think can happen—what does happen—when you have an entire culture of appreciation? When an obsession with value, with the worth of people and situations, becomes your way of doing business?

Companies such as Southwest Airlines and See’s Candies have embraced the appreciation approach. The result? Southwest Airlines is making money while its competitors are filing for bankruptcy. See’s Candies has tremendous customer loyalty, longevity, and profitability in an industry fraught with competition. When I interviewed the leaders of these companies, I discovered that they have a culture of appreciation.

Value Your Employees and Attract Value from Them

Value Your Employees and Attract Value from Them

Appreciation is not just another word for gratitude. Appreciation is about recognizing and caring about the value of things. This is the way the word appreciation is used in the marketplace: we say that land appreciates, gold appreciates, art appreciates,—and they all increase in value and in worth. When you are genuinely concerned with the value and worth of your people, and decide to make valuing your number-one priority, the value of your business skyrockets.

The reason appreciation works so spectacularly is scientific: Appreciation is an energy that attracts like energy. Therefore, by valuing your employees, you attract value from them. Like attracts like. It’s not just a catchy phrase—it’s a scientific reality you can use to your direct benefit.

How? It all starts with you—whether you’re the owner, department head, manager, or supervisor—what you think and what you feel affects every person involved with your company. You set the tone, you set the pace, and you determine what is going to matter and what isn’t. You have enormous impact.

If you see your products and services as having tremendous value, those you manage will appreciate them in the same way. If you see the people who work for you as having tremendous value, those people will want to step up to the plate for you. Your business cannot help but prosper. It’s scientific. Like attracts like.

Five Ways to Appreciate Your Employees

Five Ways to Appreciate Your Employees … Your Human Resources

Here are five ways you can appreciate beyond Employee of the Month:

  • Adopt an appreciative focus. Appreciation is an active, purposeful search for the value or worth of whatever or whomever you meets. Many times, your focus is on everything that’s going wrong as you come to work: all the problems that you must somehow solve or delegate to be solved. In the process, you ignore, and most emphatically fail to value, everything that’s going right. Look at your business with new eyes. Search for what you can appreciate and find of value in every person, every moment of the day. Ask your managers to report what’s working right, where the greatest progress is being made, who’s going the extra mile. Take time to acknowledge the positive reports from your managers, ask for more details, and be enthusiastic about what they have to say.
  • Problem-solve with appreciation. When problems inevitably arise, ask employees what they think might resolve the issue. When valued this way, most workers will try to produce good solutions, especially since they often know the workings of their particular job or department better than anyone does. By using this approach, you are acknowledging your employees’ value before usurping it with yours. Of course, others will not always solve problems for you, but by valuing your workers’ ability to do so, you increase the chances that they will. In addition, by acknowledging their value, you increase the possibility that employees will become proactive and eagerly seek solutions to future problems. When you see value in people, you free them to be more creative, more innovative, and more valuable to your business. In addition, when employees are part of the solution-making process, they own the solution and are therefore more willing to do what it takes to see it through.
  • Catch employees in the act of doing something right. So often, we focus on only catching employees doing something wrong. In truth, catching people doing something right, something of value, is far more beneficial to your business. Make a habit of walking around the business spontaneously. Using the appreciation reports gleaned from your department heads, let workers know that you appreciate a specific aspect of their effort. Tell them how their “good act” was noticed and what it means to you and to the company. Know enough about what workers are doing in different departments so you can make meaningful comments about their contributions. Specific comments are much more appreciated. Saying “You’re doing a great job” isn’t as meaningful as saying, “The specs you wrote up on Project X really made a difference to our customer.”Ask employees what they’re working on now. Engage them in conversation about their work. Wanting to know their thoughts lets employees know that what they think and say is valuable. Look workers in the eye, use their name, and be genuinely interested in their comments.
  • Create a culture of appreciation. Collect stories of work done well. Make heroes of the men and women who work for and with you. We are all starved for recognition, for genuine applauding of our talents and skills. The success of TV reality shows is predicated on our need to be valued and to be seen as valuable. We want to be appreciated for who we are and want the opportunity to be winners. Celebrate the value of those who deserve, regardless of position or department. Celebrate workers’ good acts outside of work as well. By fostering a culture that acknowledges good acts within your community, your company will reap the benefits. Discourage negative talk and gossip about anyone or anything. Don’t indulge in “the economy is terrible,” “stockholders are a nuisance,” or “meetings are a waste of time” conversations. Don’t trash or bash others.
  • Lead by example. Appreciation is not a fad or technique. It is a paradigm shift, a new approach. It is even more critical today when employees often have a variety of career choices and move on when they feel unappreciated. If you want to see the tremendous advantage an appreciative approach can make, infuse your business with appreciative thoughts and practices.

It all starts with you. From you, appreciation can spread to the great benefit of your performance, productivity, and profitability.

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How to Address the Struggle for Self-Realization in Your Organization

At the dawn of the new millennium, two powerful factions are arrayed against each other. Each faction advocates an extensive list of reforms.

  1. those influenced to support the principle of equality of condition and to extend their progressive program of reforms
  2. those equally determined to reinstate equality of opportunity as the reigning principle.

Now, we need to tackle such concerns as the struggle for self-realization, the desire to find a deep-seated meaning in life than the endless accumulation of consumer durables and the pursuit of pleasure, education not only for careers but for spiritual values, methods of bankrolling an early and rewarding retirement, and increasing the quality time available for family activities.

The changing nature and distribution of work and leisure and changes in the structure of consumer demand are creating overabundance in some areas (such as the excessive consumption of calories and fat) and severe shortages in others (such as health services at all ages).

How to Address the Struggle for Self-Realization in Your Organization

To accomplish self-realization, we need to understand life’s opportunities and sense which ones are most attractive to us at each stage, and the requisite educational, material, and spiritual resources to pursue these opportunities. Currently fair access to spiritual resources is as much a benchmark as access to material resources was in the past.

  • Spiritual resources include a sense of purpose, a sense of opportunity, a sense of community, a strong family ethic, a strong work ethic, and high self-esteem.
  • Developments in physiology have contributed to the growth of the elderly population, giving rise to the problem of in, intergenerational equity—the assurance that one generation will not suffer a lop-sided share of the burden of financing a lifetime of self-realization.
  • Also pressing is the need to develop arrangements that permit prime-aged workers greater flexibility so that they can attend to their own and their family’s spiritual needs.
  • Lifelong learning is another new equity issue. It involves offering opportunities not only to upgrade skills to earn a living but also to extend knowledge in the arts and humanities.

For women, self-realization requires an end to glass ceilings and the creation of conditions that make careers and families fully compatible.

The new agenda is shaped by changes in structure that have reversed the trend toward economic concentration and the separation of work and home.

Today, 60 percent of our discretionary time is spent doing what we like (volwork). The abundance of leisure time promotes the search for a deeper understanding of the meaning of life.

Why this deep desire for volwork? Why do so many people want to forgo earnwork, which would allow them to buy more food, clothing, housing, and other goods? The answer turns partly on the extraordinary technological changes.

Food, housing, clothing, and other consumer durables have become so inexpensive in real terms that the totality of material consumption requires far fewer hours of labor today.

Indeed, we are approaching saturation in the consumption not only of necessities but also of goods that were in the recent past thought to be luxuries. The era of the household accumulation of consumer durables, which sparked the growth of manufacturing industries, is largely over. Most future purchases of consumer durables will be by those replacing items or establishing new households.

Quality of Life and Self-Realization

Today, ordinary people wish to use their liberated time to buy those amenities of life that only the rich could afford in abundance a century ago. These amenities broaden the mind, enrich the soul, and relieve the monotony of earnwork. They include travel, athletics, the performing arts, education, and shared time with family. The principal cost of these activities is often measured, not by cash outlays, but outlays of time.

Soon, the issue of life’s meaning, and other matters of self-realization, will take up the bulk of discretionary time.

New flexible work modes—such as a regular part-time work, blocks of work interrupted by blocks of released time, job sharing, flextime, telecommuting, hoteling, compressed work, early retirement, and postretirement earnwork arrangements—are desired by men and women who want a life that is not overwhelmed by earnwork. They do not measure success by income or position. They are content with a simpler lifestyle that places greater emphasis on family life, shared relationships, spiritual growth, religious faith, and good health.

Today, many corporations view alternative working arrangements as part of an inventory of personnel policies that increase corporate productivity and reduce absenteeism, labor turnover, and the cost of office space.

Today ordinary people must decide: What it the nature of the good life? Our world may be materially richer and contain fewer environmental risks, but its spiritual struggles are more complex.

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Excellence in Leadership Execution

Excellence in Leadership Execution

Just as the most dangerous part of a jet flight is going from cruise altitude to landing, making the transition from a lofty vision and innovative strategy to ground-level implementation requires great focus and flawless execution.

Having perspective and strategy is important; however, when we examine business plans that miss the mark, we find that the problem is rarely with the vision or strategy but rather with implementation and execution.

For 30 years, we have worked with senior executive teams on implementing sound strategies. We find that four key elements must be in place:

Operational Excellence for Execution

  1. Assessing and developing the knowledge and competency of the senior leaders. Assess the strengths and competencies of the senior management team and identify potential gaps that could impact implementation. You can learn what gaps in skills or knowledge exist through formal assessments conducted by an experienced third party to encourage candor and objectivity. In other instances, knowledge gaps become apparent through multiple interactions. Leaders must know their strengths and shortcomings and address the gaps, either by recruiting new members or developing the requisite skills or knowledge.
  2. The senior leadership team must be fully aligned with the intent and direction of the strategic initiative. Although candor and cooperation among senior leaders are crucial, functional heads often pursue their own objectives to the detriment of the strategic initiative. The implementation of key initiatives requires the full alignment and shared accountability of senior leaders. A lack of cooperation is readily apparent. Passive-aggressive behavior in staff meetings, a “not invented here” attitude when presented with new ideas, or a reluctance to embrace change indicate something is amiss. Unless senior leaders embrace the strategic objective and commit to its implementation, the odds for success are low.
  3. The culture must support the initiative and adhere to the essential values set. Certain values are so vital that we refer to them as the Essential Values Set. Culture is largely determined by the values shared by its members. This Essential Values Set is a universal set of principles that govern how the organization defines acceptable behavior. The presence of the Essential Values Set explains why some companies excel in executing strategic initiatives.
  4. The reward and recognition system must be aligned with the outcomes of the strategy. The cash compensation plan, along with other rewards, needs to be aligned with the cross-functional goals of the strategic initiative. Leaders should be rewarded for accomplishments in their areas of responsibility and for their support of cross-organizational initiatives. How aligned is your rewards and recognition process with the strategic initiative?

High-performance Teams are Characterized by Six Healthy Values

  • Performance value. This “make it happen” value focuses on setting challenging expectations and achieving results with accountability. With a healthy performance value, people seek innovative ways to overcome obstacles, encourage teamwork, and accept prudent risk-taking. Without a healthy performance value, people engage in finger-pointing, passive-aggressive behavior, and blame-avoidance.
  • Collaborative value. Collaboration is built upon principles of trust, sharing, open and direct communication, and a belief in the positive intent of team members. Collaboration promotes teamwork, mutual support, and decisions made for the greater good.
  • Change value. The successful execution of key initiatives requires innovation, openness, and positive support for new ideas. Leaders operating from a healthy change mindset act as coaches, as opposed to judges or critics of new ideas. They encourage innovation, risk, and growth, as opposed to dismissing new ideas or diverse points of view. They refuse to allow a rigid bureaucracy or current processes to kill innovatio .
  • Customer value. The customers’ experience is a barometer of overall health. This value can also be defined as how well the organization focuses on a greater purpose-something beyond itself. The best leaders are focused on better serving internal and external customers. Positive and productive initiatives are framed in the context of a customer-value perspective.
  • Integrity value. Integrity refers to the consistency between the senior leadership’s words and their actions. Integrity is crucial for effective strategy execution. Integrity goes beyond simple compliance. At its core, integrity goes to consistency between word and deed to walking the talk.
  • Health value. Senior leadership teams that execute well share a healthy climate characterized by openness, trust, mutual respect, optimism, and hopefulness. This health value enables leaders to generate positive energy, assume the best motives and intentions in others, be more present and listen to one another for different points of view.

These six values position senior leaders as positive role models. If there is mistrust, internal competition, or negative assumptions of motives among senior leaders, the implementation of the strategy will be impaired.

Case Study: Execution Excellence Framework

The new CEO of a cellular telephone company and his executive team grappled with many challenges—one being to determine a strategy for competing in markets dominated by better-financed competitors. The senior leaders concluded that excellence in customer service was the key. They believed that if they could endear themselves to their customers, they could reduce the erosion of their customer base and free up resources to attract new customers. Reducing turnover by improving its service could result in $400 million in additional annual profits.

Here’s how this firm used the Four Elements of Execution to achieve this goal.

  1. Assessing and developing the knowledge mid competency of the senior leaders. They assessed the strengths and capabilities of staff to ensure that those charged with leading the initiative had the requisite skills. Their analysis revealed some gaps in knowledge that would be difficult to develop internally. So, they recruited several new executives with these capabilities.
  2. Senior feeders must be fully aligned with the intent mid direction of the strategic initiative. The success of the initiative hinged on everyone becoming committed to improved customer service. Knowing that employees would be looking to them, senior managers resolved their differences behind closed doors. While dissent and alternative points of view were welcomed in staff meetings, a unified front was required after the meetings.
  3. The culture must support the initiative and live the essential values. Presenting a positive and unified front reinforced the desire to better serve the customer. Although the leaders came from different business units, they put aside their individual needs and collaborated to identify innovative methods for serving the customer. Their ability to coach others and maintain focus on the customer’s experience contributed to the success. Senior leaders held each other accountable to “walk the talk.” They faced many setbacks and obstacles but maintained a healthy climate with an optimistic view of the future and cast a positive shadow.
  4. The reward and recognition system must be aligned with outcomes of the strategy. Senior leaders realigned their executive compensation reward and recognition system to support the collaborative measures necessary to implement the strategic plan.

Improve Your Execution

After two years, the company moved from 7th place to 1st in the JD Powers ranking of Cellular Customer Service and Loyalty. Customer turnover levels were 67 percent lower than national competitors. This resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits.

The behaviors of leaders cast long shadows and dictate success in implementing major initiatives. Senior leaders must embrace and model the four key elements of superior execution.

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Organizational Subcultures

It is important to recognize that even an organization’s unified culture is not entirely homogenous; subcultures subsist and each division or unit in the organization sees things from a somewhat diverse standpoint.

DeWitt Dearborn and his colleague, the Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon, had executives from a single company read a case study that was to be discussed as part of a training program. Before the discussion began, they asked the executives to write down what they each saw as the primary problem facing the organization described in the case. As you may expect, the head of marketing saw the problem as a marketing problem, the head of finance saw it as a finance problem, and the head of production saw it as a production problem, and so on.

That is, the different heads of the different divisions in the company tended to perceive the world in a way that was congruent with their own division’s function, and in terms of the culture that their division had developed. This is not to say that they did not share parts of each other’s culture, but they did have views exclusive to their own parts of the organization.

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What is Organizational Culture?

What is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is the essence of what is important to the organization. For itself, it stipulates and proscribes undertakings, and it defines the “dos and don’ts” that oversee the behavior of its members.

An organization’s culture serves at least seven important functions:

  • Specifies what is of principal importance to the organization, the standards against which its successes and failures should be gaged.
  • Determines how the organization’s resources are to be used, and to what ends.
  • Establishes what the organization and its members can expect from each other.
  • Makes some methods of controlling behavior within the organization legitimate and makes others illegitimate—specifically, it defines where power lies within the organization and how it is to be used.
  • Selects the behaviors in which members should or should not engage and prescribes how these are to be rewarded and punished.
  • Sets the tone for how members should treat each other and how they should treat nonmembers: competitively, collaboratively, honestly, distantly, or hostilely.
  • Instructs organizational members about how to handle the external environment: aggressively, exploitatively, responsibly, or proactively.
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How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently

How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently Will the induction of new technology present any menace to traditionalists? Of course it will. Innovation, by definition, is a undermining force. That is why we will need real leaders to champion the innovations. Leaders motivate people to think and act differently. We need to make sure that we are on the winning side of new technologies.

We must choose anything that will bring greater urgency and velocity to the search for new products, or advancements of existing ones, that are truly innovative. We can find some clues on how to act by studying the history of innovation. Here are some lessons learned.

  1. The instinct to create or innovate can be encouraged. We can systemize innovation by encouraging bright people with a real diversity of talent to work together in teams.
  2. Nothing stimulates innovation more than the rapid exchange of information, knowledge, and ideas. Faster transmission begets greater discovery. We see this in e-commerce. Amazon.com may constitute the greatest innovation in the distribution of the written word since the printing press.
  3. There must be obvious financial incentives for successful innovations. Undoubtedly, financial incentives add fuel to the fire for high-tech companies in the business-related world. But there is still a dearth of attractive financial incentives in defense procurement. Many leading companies have turned their backs on military R&D and defense contracting as a result of poor profit margins and red tape.
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Seven Employee Engagement Practices

Seven Employee Engagement Practices

Use these seven engagement practices to engage or re-engage your people:

  1. Give realistic job previews to ensure the expectations of new hires match on-the-job reality. This involves giving a candid description of difficult challenges or conditions, touring the plant, allowing candidates to discuss job challenges with current employees, or portraying actual work situations.
  2. Take more time in hiring to avoid person-job mismatches. Analyze the critical success factors required for all jobs, screen candidates via personality assessments, ask behavior-based questions, use multiple interviewers, and check references. Don’t over-prescribe how jobs are to be done, but communicate clearly what results are expected.
  3. Provide managers with training in performance management and coaching. This should include the art of giving performance feedback and dealing with situations of potential conflict. Leaders of engaged workforces teach an adult-to-adult partnership model that allows more input from the employee in performance goal-setting, and features more frequent discussions.
  4. Provide self-assessment workshops and train managers how to be career coaches. Require all employees to complete an annual Individual Development Plan and update it with managers after six months. Some CEOs state that managers do not “own” the talent and that “talent-hoarding” won’t be tolerated. Employees will not be prevented from moving laterally when they are ready.
  5. Create a culture that acknowledges all improvements and contributions. Assure that people receive the message that they are valued. Request employee input about matters that impact them, keep them informed, provide the right resources at the right time, and discipline or fire managers who abuse and disrespect people. Hire great people and pay above-market wages.
  6. Maintain reasonable workloads. Help people to have a decent life outside work. Survey your people and find out what they need. Companies with many female workers with children might start flex-time and subsidized child care or trade some pay for increased vacation time.
  7. Gain and maintain the trust and confidence of employees. Convey a clear and compelling vision that inspires confidence and gives people hope that they can grow as the organization grows. Convince workers that you care as much about them as you care about shareholders and customers. Back up your words with actions and maintain high standards of ethics and integrity.
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How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

The workforce is changing dramatically. For the first time in modern society, four generations—Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and Matures—are working side-by-side. The fastest growing segment is comprised of employees age 27 and under. In the past four years, they became 21 percent of the workforce. About 50 percent of the workforce is age 40 and under. A larger proportion is past traditional retirement age as Baby Boomers continue to redefine retirement and Matures continue to work.

These generational differences can cause friction, mistrust, and communication breakdowns; prevent effective teamwork and collaboration; and impact job satisfaction, retention, and productivity.

To manage a multi-generational workforce, leaders must first understand each generation, and the common experiences that connect its members. This enables them to align all employees with goals and create an inclusive culture in which age differences are recognized and leveraged.

Multi-Generational Workforce: Where Are You Coming From?

Knowing more about each generation affords a better way for managing and motivating employees of all ages. The common experiences of a generation, along with age and life stage, drive the attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles of its members. Each generation has a different perspective. Each brings unique attitudes and expectations to work, and each influences the manager-employee relationship. We need to understand other generations so we can build relationships that lead to cooperation and job satisfaction.

Millennials: Age 27 and Younger

Raised by Baby Boomer parents, Millennials want responsibility, recognition, and opportunities for high engagement. Many have a friend-friend relationship with their parents and expect to be treated as equals. At work, they are adaptable, open, and comfortable with ethnic diversity. To Millennials, a leader is a guide and mentor, not an autocrat. Their work style is independent, but they need feedback. Their solutions are often technology-oriented. They have a strong sense of social responsibility, and carefully select the organizations they work for. Millennials thrive on short-term goals and deadlines, and want frequent feedback and reinforcement.

Generation X: Ages 28 to 40

Gen-Xers were raised when many women worked outside the home, and so they learned to be self-reliant, resourceful, and independent. They bring work-life balance to the workplace. Gen-Xers are strategi, altruistic, tech-savvy, and impatient with Boomers’ emphasis on meetings and relationships. Though they are collaborative, they prefer to work independently with minimal supervision. They focus results and are masters at multi-tasking. With their focus on work-life balance, many Gen-X women are giving up high-powered careers or cutting back on work hours in order to raise their children. Finding ways to retain high-performing Gen-Xers as they start their families is a challenge. Gen-Xers are motivated by independence, growth opportunities, and managers who trust them.

Baby Boomers: Ages 41 to 59

Often called the “Me” generation, Boomers were raised in a time of economic prosperity and civil rights upheaval that fostered individualism and a sense of entitlement. Work is a high priority, which translates into 12-hour workdays and stressful lives. They are innovative, and tend to challenge the rules. As managers, Boomers pay attention to relationship building and expect others to work the same long hours. Boomers look for new challenges that leverage their experience, and recognition for their contribution.

Matures: Ages 60 to 80

Matures were influenced by the Great Depression and World War II. As children, they were “seen and not heard.” Their values of hard work, honesty, and dedication became America’s values. They respect authority and seniority, and prefer a formal relationship with their manager. Matures are comfortable with hierarchy and a top-down management style. Matures desire to contribute and want respect for their experience.

Multi-Generational Workforce: Aligning the Generations

You can manage all four generations by recognizing and valuing differences and by creating a culture of inclusion in which every employee can thrive.

We have developed three action steps for greater engagement:

  1. Understand your workforce. Develop a deep understanding of your workforce-demographics, skill sets, personality traits, and perspectives on the culture.
  2. Build and maintain a balanced workforce. This requires recruiting strategies that appeal to diverse ages. Online job boards may have more appeal for Millennials than Matures. In contrast, newspaper ads that feature employees with 20-plus years of experience connect with Matures. Each generation expects and needs something different from work, and retention strategies should be tailored to those needs. For example, Gen-Xers may value a flextime program, while Baby Boomers will want recognition.
  3. Create an accepting culture. A culture that accepts and values each person can make a positive difference for everyone involved. Incorporating multi-generational workforce management into business goals is one effective way to develop an accepting culture. Facilitate interaction by including development programs geared to managers, leaders, and employees at other levels; mentoring and reverse mentoring; participation on committees; and informal social activities. Foster relationships among employees of all ages.

Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

A workforce comprised of all generations offers flexibility, a range of skill sets, different approaches to problem solving, and the ability to attract and retain high-performing people.

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