Archive for the ‘Talent Management’ Category

What’s killing Employee Engagement and how to deal with it?

May 23, 2016

JFK once said « Things do not happen, they are made to happen » and Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle may have been thinking of JFK when he chose Employee Engagement as the topic for his address at the opening keynote session of Oracle HCM world in Chicago recently (see The Compelling Case for Employee Engagement).

Employee engagement deals of course with how deeply an employee connects with his/her company and how willing he/she is to « go the extra mile » to get the job done well.

make it happen text write on paperWhen employees are engaged, they think not just “what’s in it for me?” but “what’s in it for us?”.

Employee engagement is of course a “hot potato” for all organizations the world over as between 30% and 50% of employees declare themselves to be disengaged to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the Survey and the region.

So why did the CEO of a global High Tech company chose to handle such a “hot potato” in such a public way?

Engagement: a Productivity driver!

The reason is simple. Mark Hurd chose to discuss engagement, because he considers the topic as not just a noble gesture but a real « productivity » mechanism that contributes directly to the company’s bottom line. And Mark Hurd was ready to admit that increasing engagement from 70% to 80% at Oracle would deliver around 2 Billion USD in savings! That’s a huge impact!

«The team with the best help for their business model usually wins », Hurd continued and we all know that to win outside, you have to win inside. Of course, over the past few

Employee Engagement

years, due to the economic downturn, many companies have compensated for sluggish growth by cutting costs. But as Hurd reminded his audience, there is another way to cut expenses: “raise employees’ productivity and get more output for the same investment”. As Hurd said, “more highly engaged employees do more work, do better work, care more about your customers, they perform better and so does the whole entity”.

Not just a Millennial issue!

What’s more, it is not a generation thing with millennials being somehow more disengaged than Generation Xers or Baby Boomers. As Hurd pointed out, all generations seek more or less the same things, have more or less the same expectations and are more or less engaged.

So what drives Engagement?

So what do employees expect? What drives higher engagement and what can we do to influence these drivers positively?

Research on Employee Engagement identifies many key drivers of employee engagement. Below are a few of those key drivers and some suggestions on what we can do to live up to JFK’s words and make things really happen rather than wait for them to happen! Some of these actions may well be on the Oracle Engagement Action Plan!

1)Company Purpose

Not surprisingly, engagement is not only about money!

Today, employees want to be paid fairly but they also want to work towards a greater

Do work worth doing

purpose and to do work that really matters. At its core, a company’s purpose is a bold affirmation of its reason for being in business. It conveys what the organization stands for in historical, ethical, emotional and practical terms. No matter how it’s communicated to employees and customers, a company’s purpose is the driving force that enables a company to define its true brand and create its desired culture. Quite often however, companies don’t formulate their purpose very well and fail to communicate it from top to bottom of the organization.

More importantly, often, there may be a disconnect between the company’s Purpose and the behaviors demonstrated lower down in the organization. Action speaks louder than words and a bold company purpose has to be backed up by coherent behaviors within the organization. Not only Talk the talk. Walk the talk!

Some key suggestions:

  • Clearly formulate the Company Purpose and communicate it to the organization top down.
  • Start at the Top! Express the Purpose in terms of some key top-level business and management behaviors expected of senior leaders and encourage them to walk the talk!
  • Organizing round tables throughout the organization between managers and employees to define simple meaningful behaviors that express the Company Purpose at local level.
  • Include these behaviors in leadership and employee learning and development programs.
  • Build these behaviors into the annual appraisal process and indeed in the ongoing discussions between managers and employees.
  • Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate these behaviors in positive ways and share with the organization as a whole.

 

2) Company Strategy and Direction

If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be and most research shows that employees need to have a clear appreciation of where the company is going and how their own actions are contributing to business results.

This means cascading strategy in a simple, pragmatic way and ensuring that employees’ operational objectives are connected to overall strategy.

Some key suggestions:

  • Make Employee Engagement a strategic objective and define the key KPIs to measure improvements to employee engagement. Hold managers and HR accountable for reaching Engagement targets and monitor on a regular basis.
  • Of course, use all the classical methods to share and update the company strategy: Annual Kick Offs, monthly All Hands, newsletters, intranet, etc.
  • Use the annual appraisal process as a tool to translate the strategy into actionable SMART goals at operational level and to ensure employees connect what they are doing to overall strategy and goals with the help of their managers.

 

3) Leadership

Employees don’t leave companies. They leave managers!

Most research shows a clear and critical link between an employee’s level of engagement

Leadership diagram

and his/her relationship with his/her manager. The better the relationship, the higher the engagement. Employees expect today a positive, mentoring type relationship with their managers and more importantly, expect more autonomy, more opportunity to express their opinions and contribute to decision making more frequently and directly.

Some key suggestions for leaders:

  • Today, employees expect to have a voice! Empower your team members. Explain the strategy and how it translates for your unit in operational terms, encourage your team members to propose their own objectives and discuss with them as and when these objectives need to be aligned.
  • Employees expect regular feedback so meet your team members regularly. Discuss whatever needs to be discussed and position yourself as a coach who wants to help team members achieve their goals. Be hard on the issues, not on the people.
  • Employees need to feel trusted so be transparent and share wherever possible information that helps them understand the business.
  • Delegate and control: delegate responsibility but always control and hold team members accountable. More empowerment means more accountability.
  • Lead by example and walk the talk.
  • Seek first to understand before being understood!
  • Invite your team members to offer solutions and you will find they will have a lot of ideas.
  • Promote a no-blame, continuous improvement approach. If team members can express opinions, admit mistakes and seek to improve, they will be more confident and engage more readily.
  • Say thanks regularly and not necessarily with money.

 

4) Relationship with peers

Most research suggests that a positive work atmosphere and good relationship with peers is critical to employee engagement.

The better and stronger these relationships are, the higher the level of engagement. And the best way to promote great relationships is to develop great teamwork!

Some key suggestions:

  • Ensure clarity of purpose – Employees must know what they are trying to accomplish, why, how well, and with what priorities and constraints both as a team and individually and where the two intersect.
  • Ensure clarity of roles – Talent and responsibilities must be well-matched so employees feel challenged but with a fair shot at excellence.
  • Ensure clarity of process – Employees must understand how the game is played, know where things stand, know how they can best contribute, believe decision-TEAM - Together We Can Manage, acronym business conceptmakers are informed and fair, and believe they can influence the process if things are going awry.
  • Recruit eagles and teach them to fly in formation! On boarding is critical and engage with new starters as of day One!
  • Use the annual performance review as a way of updating on roles and responsibilities and on monitoring skills required to do the job on an ongoing basis.
  • Encourage Cooperation and not Competition. Reward cooperation as much as possible because effective teamwork delivers exponential results above anything star performers can do!
  • Keep things simple and put people first.
  • Defend your team in times of trouble. It’s a great way to build trust. All for one and one for all! When things go wrong, examine first the process and see how the team can improve together.

 

5) Continuous Improvement

Research consistently shows that engaged employees not only want to do a great job today but want to improve continuously and expect their organization to promote a continuous improvement culture.

One concrete way of promoting a continuous improvement mindset is by constantly seeking employee feedback and involving employees not only in identifying the problems but also in offering the solutions.

Some key suggestions:

  • Promote a culture positive to feedback. Deploy an annual survey of course but don’t wait for the once in the year audit results to find out what employees think. Seek feedback frequently and multiply the channels for obtaining feedback.
  • Feedback is a gift. Engaged employees want to contribute and care about what they are doing so accept the feedback, however critical it may seem. Don’t seek to punish or reprimand and don’t prejudge why employees respond the way they do. Take the feedback as it is.
  • Involve managers, team members and HR not only in analyzing the results but also in defining the action plans together so that all parties are part of the solution not the problem.
  • Recognize and reward teams for continuous improvement suggestions that are implemented successfully and share throughout the organization.

 

6) Career development

Engaged employees have high expectations with regard to how their careers are being developed and want to believe they can grow with the organization.

Some key suggestions:

  • Use the Annual Performance Appraisal as a Career Plan for each employee and to discuss strengths and development needs, roles and responsibilities, how to stretch the employee in his/her current role, what roles the employee can target as a career step and what skills are needed to succeed the move. Set loose career goals with each employee and discuss progress year on year.
  • Promote a learning and development culture. The annual performance review is the best place to set some SMART learning objectives for each team member to help him/her progress on his/her career plan.
  • Learning doesn’t only need to be classroom based and can also involve coaching, new assignments and responsibilities, special projects, etc.

 

7) Compensation & Benefits

Most research shows that employees expect to be treated fairly compared to their

Equity theory business diagram illustration

colleagues in terms of compensation and benefits and expect decisions concerning compensation and benefits to be taken as objectively as possible.

However, research also suggests that while compensation is a contributing factor in employee disengagement, it is rarely a critical factor, especially when it comes to deciding whether to go or stay!

Some key suggestions:

  • Be transparent on the process. Explain the rules upfront to all employees concerning how compensation & benefits plans are built, how salary increases and bonus awards are decided, by whom and with whom, when and where and give employees the opportunity to share their expectations early with their managers before decisions are finalized.
  • Train managers of course in the fundamentals of Comp & Ben and how to discuss with employees the salary review process.
  • Promote a “Total Compensation” approach which highlights all the different components of the employee’s compensation and not just base and variable.
  • Don’t forget other Benefits because Base pay is not everything and research often shows that employees are ready to forego a raise for a good perk such as a health plan or retirement plan! Research also shows that for most employees, pay and benefits do not pay a significant role in decisions to change job. Culture and values, career opportunities and senior leadership have a more direct impact on employee satisfaction and therefore on employee retention! Food for thought.

So lots to do and great challenges indeed to reinforce employee engagement from a leadership and organizational point of view.

Of course, employees have their own part to play in developing their engagement levels and we’ll discuss in a later blog.

Like the painting of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a never-ending battle but one that is worth the effort and investment!

What do you think?

Grow your top performers in house – don’t buy them from the outside

February 19, 2011

Talent management is a very hot topic for many businesses today. A lot of time, effort and investment is being dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing key talent for key organizational roles. Quite a lot of companies are tempted to fill key roles by recruiting “stars” with proven track records from other firms, the logic being that success is guaranteed and results will come more quickly by bringing in someone from the outside with the specific skills required to do the job.

Such a policy can have a strong impact on workforce morale. Many employees may often feel they are neglected or passed over as the company seems to give a clear signal that it doesn’t have the skills internally to deliver the desired results and this in turn can lead to disengagement of good performers.

However, research recently performed by Professor Boris Groysberg from Harvard Business School indicates that it is not always such a good idea to “buy in” talent from the outside. Indeed, quite often, “stars” who have performed successfully in one environment do not necessarily succeed in their new environment and their “talent” does not necessarily transfer over into the new organisation. Why?

Boris Groysberg points out some very simple but fundamental reasons why talent is not automatically “transferable” from one environment to another.  Talent is not simply a question of “individual qualities” or “expertise” held by the person but depends also on the system which surrounds and supports that individual: the company culture, the team, the “talented” person’s  direct manager, the IT systems, etc. Talent is therefore also a product of the organization and the individual loses this when he/she moves elsewhere.

Above all, High Performance is a question of trust and depends on relationships with others. Even highly talented individuals need to build trusting relationships with the world around them and building such trust takes time.

When a “talented” individual leaves one organization for another one, building the trust network takes a lot of time and therefore the individual’s performance is likely to dip significantly in the short to medium term in the new organization while he/she is busy building such relationships.

In other words, companies may buy in the “talent” but they can’t buy the trust and that’s why  many individuals who have been successful in one organization fail to replicate their success in their new organization. Indeed, some individuals may fall victim to the “talent paradox“. A company recruits a talented individual to deliver immediate, short term  results but his/her ability to perform depends on relationships of trust which take time to build and so he/she is caught between the short-term requirement to deliver results and the long-term need to generate trust within the organization.

That’s why Boris Groysberg recommends developing talent in-house as you will then be able to lever the trust network built up by those key individuals whom you gradually grow to become  your organizational “stars”. In other words, companies  need to “make their own stars”  and effective talent management therefore requires systematic long term planning and investment, training, coaching and mentoring of key individuals from beginning to end.

In this interview, Boris Groysberg addresses many other key talent management issues such as:

  • should you inform your key people that they are considered stars?
  • do you increase the risk of losing your key people if you inform them they are considered key talents
  • Why do key talents end up leaving your organization?

Check out Boris Groysberg discussing Talent Development by viewing the video below.

Leading clever people: some useful tips for talent managers

April 4, 2010

All organizations have clever people who produce exceptional results. Talent managers and management in general spend a lot of time and effort identifying who these clever people are and where they are in the organization. The challenge is of course not only to know where they are but to ensure that the organization manages them well so that their talents are optimized.

To do so, the first step is to know what makes a clever person “tick” and what motivates him or her to perform. As with all other team members, knowing what makes a high performer tick is critical for the leader tasked with managing that resource and getting the most out of the skills that person brings to the organization.

So what are some of the key characteristics of a clever individual?

According to Bob Goffee and Gareth Jones of the London Business School, Here are some of their key traits:

1)    Clever people have a high sense of their own worth; they have skills that are not easily reproduced in the organization and they know it.

2)   Clever people ask difficult questions and are ready to challenge the status quo.

3) They know their way round the organization better than most and their roots run deeper.

4)   They are not impressed by corporate hierarchy and don’t respect rank.

5)   They expect instant access to decision makers and senior management.

6)   They are well connected outside the organization.

7)   Their passion is for what they do and not for who they work for.

8)   Even if you lead them well, they won’t thank you.

In a nutshell, clever individuals can be difficult to handle and can demonstrate behaviors which may be perceived to be rough, hard-edged and abrasive.

So what can a talent manager do to manage such profiles and get the most out of these key contributors?

Here are some tips Bob Goffee and Gareth Jones propose:

1)   Explain and persuade: you can’t tell clever people what to do. Telling them what to do undermines their self-esteem because they believe they shouldn’t have to be told what to do in the first place.

2)   Use knowledge and expertise, not hierarchy as a management lever. Clever people don’t respond well to rank or hierarchy. They do respond to knowledge and expertise.

3)   Don’t tell them how to do something, tell them what needs to be done. Clever people rise to a challenge and need to feel stretched. Give them an objective and a sense of direction but don’t tell them how to get there.

4)   Provide limits.  Clever people need space. They also need structure and discipline. Talent managers and leaders need to walk a fine line between ensuring the rules are followed and allowing the clever individuals the space to be creative. Impose the rules blindly and they will dry up. Leave them alone and they will get lost in the maze of their own ideas.

5)   Allow them to question. Clever people need to feel they make a contribution and will readily challenge the status quo. Talent managers and leaders should recognize this and engage directly with them directly rather than avoid confrontation. Clever people will feel undervalued if they are not listened to and indeed, if they can’t express their own ideas even if these ideas seem to contradict the “party line”.

6)   Give recognition and amplify achievements. Clever people are motivated by what they do and recognizing their achievements is vital. Moreover, they tend to value recognition from their peers and customers outside the organization most of all.  So it’s important to ensure they get recognition from the right sources. As they work on tasks which may often be long-term or with difficult outcomes, you don’t necessarily need to give them frequent recognition but you do need to do it. Allowing them to represent the organization to customers is only one key way of such recognition.

7)   Be tolerant of failure. Organizations can’t afford failure and invest heavily in training to reduce risk of failure. However, as clever people have already achieved a high level of expertise, they need to be stretched further and this may mean giving them high-risk projects with uncertain outcomes. Clever people respond well to difficult tasks but this means of course more exposure to failure. Organizations need to be able to provide them with such projects and provide them with more support to ensure that they learn as they go. And if they do make mistakes, talent managers need to ensure they learn from the experience without being burdened with the blame of coming up short.

8)   Protect them from red tape. Clever people don’t like red tape and feel under-utilized when they have to dedicate time to mundane administrative tasks.  Leading clever people means stepping in where necessary to clear the administrative obstacles that prevent the clever people from doing what they do best.

9)   Talk straight. Clever people know when they are being dealt “corporate speak”. Don’t try to lead them up the garden path, tell it as it is. They will appreciate it all the more.

10) Provide realworld challenges with constraints. Leaders may be tempted to motivate team members by saying that everything is possible. Clever people don’t react well to this. They prefer to take on difficult challenges with uncertain outcomes.  Tell them this and they will more than likely respond well to the challenge. They are at their most effective when they have real challenges to meet with real constraints.

11)  Help them build a network.  Some leaders may be tempted to hide away their key contributors, for fear of losing them.  However, the real leadership task is to connect the clever people up together so that they set the standards collectively for the organization to follow.

12)  Don’t hog the limelight. Some leaders feel threatened by clever individuals in their teams and take every opportunity to show who is boss. This will seriously impact the productivity of your clever people. Leaders of clever people need to get out of the way and allow them perform.

As a lot of research shows, clever people don’t necessarily want to manage others. They want to feel that their particular skills are being utilized to the full. The role of the leader of such individuals is therefore to recognize their particular needs and adapt his leadership style to meet their particular requirements.  So leaders need to look beyond the abrasiveness and hard edge and adapt their leadership style to get the most out of these key resources.  What leading clever people shows is that leaders need constantly to understand the key “motivational characteristics” of the people they lead and adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

More easily said than done but critical for all organizations. Even more critical for talent managers and for organizations alike is the need to  look beyond the behaviors to understand the drivers of those behaviors. The temptation may be to categorize those clever individuals as not conforming to the behavioral standards espoused by the organization (respect for authority, team work, discipline, etc.) and therefore more trouble than they are worth. However, the “dark side” is part and parcel of their nature and needs to be managed correctly rather than stamped out; otherwise, the organization risks killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Check out the article “Here come the clevers” by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones in the April 2010 edition of Talent Management magazine.

http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/mediatec/tm0410/index.php?startid=24#/26

Transform your managers into leaders if you want to transform your organization effectively

October 17, 2009

The current economic crisis has accelerated the need for companies to transform their organizations radically and urgently  and many organizations have embarked on significant transformation programs in order to become more flexible, leaner, more proactive, more cost effective, etc.

Quite often, organizations might be tempted to consider their workforce as the obstacles to successful transformation and frequently one hears or witnesses managers complaining how the workforce is not willing or able to transform itself to meet the challenges of moving to a new business model.

But what if the obstacle is not the workforce but the style of management which is the true blocker?

This is where understanding the difference between leadership and management is key to understanding what may be the true cause of any blockage to successful transformation.

When you set out the differences between management an leadership, you understand that to transform your organization, you have to move from a model centred on “managing” people to a model centred on “leading” people”. This is especially the case if your organization employs significant numbers of “knowledge workers” who have high expectations in terms of understanding the vision and goals of the organization, how they can contribute to these goals, what responsibility they have to drive these goals, how they can develop their skills and continue to learn to be able to meet the new challenges that a continuously changing environment.

This is not to say that leadership should replace management. Both go hand in hand. The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate. However, it is important to understand the difference because this is a first necessary step in being able to adopt the most effective approach when leading transformational change. You can’t manage transformation, you must lead transformation.

Here are some other key differences between management and leadership:

  1. The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  2. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original
  3. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
  4. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
  5. The manager has a short-term view, the leader has a long-range perspective
  6. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
  7. The manager has his or her eye on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon
  8. The manager imitates; the leader originates
  9. The manager  accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
  10. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person
  11. the manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

In the classical Taylorian world of work, there were many managers and few leaders and the difference between the two was easy to make. A team leader on the production line didn’t need to give too much time or thought to what he had to do or how he had to manage the people producing the parts on the production line. His job was to follow orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the tasks, coordinate the results and ensure the job done done. In other words, he focused on being efficient.

In our new, crisis-driven, knowledge based economy, where value creation depends on the knowledge people have and how they mobilize that knowledge, contributors are no longer simple cogs in a machine. In such  a world, management and leadership are not so easily separated. Individual contributors look to their managers not just to assign them a task but to give them a purpose. To get the best out of their people, managers must not only maximize efficiency but develop skills, talent and inspire results. Managers must not only seek to do things right but seek to do the right things right and this can only be achieved if knowledge workers are empowered, have a sense of ownership for their job and can contribute to decisions in an appropriate way.

As Peter Drucker explains so clearly in his book “The effective executive“, the advent of the knowledge worker means that you no longer “manage” people. Your job is to “lead” people. Your job is not to squeeze people like lemons until they can produce no more but to make them more productive and effective so that they continue to grow in their jobs, learn new skills and knowledge and continuously adapt to their changing environment.

Transforming an organization is an enormous challenge because it means:

  • innovating and creating new ways of doing things and working together
  • building the road as you go and supporting people to follow you on the journey
  • trusting your people because trust generates commitment and loyalty
  • building a long term perspective, looking to the horizon and ensuring followers key their eye on the horizon
  • Being constantly able to explain what and why because meaning is key to motivation
  • Building from scratch which is always harder than doing things as they have always been done
  • Challenging the status quo and rocking the boat
  • Moving from requiring simple execution to inviting contribution and commitment
  • Delegating effectively because you can’t control everything, you can’t manage everything and you need others to take responsibility
  • Team work horizontally and vertically
  • Negotiating win-win
  • Less rules, more self-regulation
  • Lead by example and walk the talk
  • Taking risk and accepting failure
  • Developing a no-blame culture

You cannot achieve all of these by simply managing people and requiring them simply to execute. To get all of these, your management model has also to transform itself.

As Albert Einstein said, you can’t solve a problem using the logic that caused the problem in the first place and many of the problems blocking effective organizational change today such as poor commitment by employees, lack of skills, lack of responsibility, disengagement, organizational inertia, poor team work, etc. are caused by a failure to realize that the management model continues to be  “management-centric” when it should be “leadership-centric“.

To summarize, it may be  a platitude to say so but if you want to transform your organization, you must first transform your managers and help them move from “managing people” to “managing and leading” people and that if they will continue to manage, they must above all become leaders.

When you do this, you will have your transformation champions capable of leading transformation effectively in your organization.

Some leadership quotes

20 behaviours which increase your risk of derailing as a leader

July 18, 2009

A lot of research has been done on the reasons why talented leaders derail. Organizations such as the Centre for Creative Leadership and leadership experts such as Lombardo and Eichinger have studied in depth the drivers which cause leaders to go off the track. Here are some of the causes below.

Leaders derail if they :

– don’t develop subordinates.
– don’t deal with conflict among or with subordinates
– delegate poorly – like to go it alone
– Get irritated easily, especially with those seen as less able
– Have trouble in new situations- rely too much on their core strengths and don’t step out of their comfort zone
– Are hands-on managers and don’t demonstrate trust in subordinates
– Don’t pay attention to essential detail
– Allow things slip through the cracks too often
– Become involved in too many activities and don’t focus on core objectives
– Are perceived as too ambitious – too interested in their next move
– Are abrasive to subordinates or colleagues
– Make others feel stupid or diminished
– Are volatile under pressure
– Don’t get the most out of people
– Are not dependable and fail to respect their commitments to others
– Stay with the same boss too long
– Don’t sell well
– Have to win and are never prepared to make concessions
– have trouble adapting to different styles within their team

This list is a very useful tool in assessing whether one is at risk of derailing. If you answer yes to 4 or more of the above questions, it’s time to implement an action plan.

To be effective in any organization today, research shows that leaders need to demonstrate the following positive behaviours:

– Be available to others: always keep the door open
– Collaborate and always seek win-win relationships
– Behave ethically: lead by example and demonstrate consistency
– Listen well: seek first to understand before being understood
– Be honest : admit mistakes
– Do not be dogmatic or authoritarian: accept there are other points of view and other ways of doing things
– Share responsibility but don’t avoid responsibility when things go wrong
– Be straightforward: say it as it is
– Support others’ ideas: encourage others to be creative and proactive
– Seek to work effectively in a team: help others to reach their goals
– Be trustworthy and respect commitments: say what you do and do what you say

When one reviews this list, it is easy to see that these positive traits apply not only to leaders but to all employees in organizations who want to succeed and progress. If you want to progress your career as a leader, constantly evaluate how you’re doing on each of these items and make sure your action plan helps you progress on all of these items.

Simple!

Generation Y: are we preparing leaders to deal with new workers’ expectations?

May 17, 2009

Things are not how they used to be. Employee expectations have definitely changed with regard to work. Leaders can no longer ignore these new expectations nor refuse to adapt their leadership style and methods to deal with these new expectations.

For the baby-boomer generation (1945-late 60s), optimism was the key mood. The ethos was hard work and focus was on serving your time and proving your loyalty to your organization. Baby-boomers were happy to stay in the same company doing the same job and were not particularly demanding in terms of careers, mobility, promotion, etc.

For generation X (70s-80s), the approaching end of the cold war brought uncertainty, counterbalanced by strong political leadership. Workers continued to demonstrate commitment to work and demonstrate strong work ethos.

With generation Y, the nineties generation, this has all changed. This generation no longer demonstrates blind faith in authority and is ready to challenge and be outspoken. This generation is used to being praised and encouraged every day. They expect to be recognized and rewarded more frequently than their predecessors (Generation Y is called by some the Trophy Generation). Furthermore, they’re now probably better equipped with the same or even better tools than work can provide them. So providing them with the basic tools such as a laptop and a mobile phone is not a bonus but merely basic. Generation Y are more autonomous, seek greater control over their work, are ready to be more accountable and are looking to make an impact on the bottom line. They’re loyal to their skill and not to their company. They no longer believe in hard work nor in working long hours.

According to research, generation Y workers have 4 key expectations:

1) Global collaboration : they expect to collaborate with colleagues globally and not be confined to a small network of contacts within their specific area;
2) Direct and instant access to management: They expect more direct and more frequent communication with managers. The hierarchical distance the baby boomer generation accepted is not acceptable to Generation Y.
3) Co-creation: They expect to co-create and work transversally to solve real business issues. Executing tasks or parts of a system or process will frustrate them greatly.
4) Control/personalized work: they expect to have more control over their work and be able to personalize their work to suit their personal routine.

What does this mean for leaders today who probably belong to the baby boomer or X generations?

Some suggestions for leaders managing in a generation Y environment:

1) Be available and accessible : practice an open door policy. People work for people so leaders need to get out from behind their desks
2) Focus more on empowering workers rather than adopting directive management styles
3) Develop innovative and diversified reward and recognition policies to recognize employee contributions more frequently
4) Include workers in the decision making process more often
5) Communicate constantly to workers not only what to do but why they should do it
6) Build collaborative teams which encourage team work and co-construction of solutions. Work in project management mode and allow team members to extend their network of connections
7) Be flexible in how work is organized and delegate real responsabilities and not simply tasks
8) Focus not only on the short term but also the long term: develop employees by offering them more structured career paths and internal mobility

Leaders today are facing a critical challenge: how to adapt their leadership practices and style to get the best out of Generation Y employees. They can’t do so alone. Organizations have a responsability to help managers understand how workers’ expectations have changed and how they can adapt their leadership style to these new conditions. More importantly, organizations needs to provide leaders with the tools and processes which allow leaders to reward and recognize, train and develop, empower generation Y employees more effectively.

View this video which presents the issues in a very concise way.

How are leaders dealing with the new work paradigm?


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