The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same

Even Though Change Is Constant, Employee Motivation Is Basically The Same.

As I travel around North America, working with different companies and staying updated on the latest and greatest management trends, I am reminded that some things never change. When it comes to basic management skills, the same rules apply today that applied 30 years ago.

There has been a great deal written lately about the differences among the various generations when it comes to the workplace. Certainly, a great deal of that is true. Today’s employees tend to change jobs more frequently, for example. Even with the differences among generations, there are some things that, as a manager, you need to be doing, regardless of the generation you are dealing with.

Hold people accountable for results. Pay a lot of attention to setting challenging, yet achievable, goals with your employees. Make sure those goals include the key areas of performance – quality, quantity, cost, timeliness, customer service, etc.

People want scoreboards that are clear indicators of their progress toward meeting their goals. If you, as a manager, don’t create those scoreboards, your employees will create their own. The ones they create on their own may not align with your thinking, so invest the up-front time to work with your employees on metrics they can buy into.

Follow-up. Follow-up simply means that you pay attention to what your employees are doing. I see a lot of managers that set good goals with their people and then do not follow-up consistently. I do free workshops for college juniors and seniors who are about to enter the working world. One thing I tell them, to differentiate themselves, is to follow-up. The reason I tell them that is because so few people in business do it.

Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your people. I know that you are probably a working manager who is very busy. Regardless of how busy you are, your job as a manager is to follow-up to let your people know that what they are working on matters to you. Try not to be the micro-manager who watches every move employees make. Set regular, consistent follow-up meeting times and stick to that schedule. Your employees will appreciate it.

Communicate. For more than 30 years, the top issue for employees has been the lack of quality communication coming from their managers. What makes this fact even more interesting is that when I ask managers if they communicate enough to their employees, they typically say absolutely they do. Part of the issue with communication these days is the fact that so much of it comes through electronic means.

Communication research tells us that more than 90 percent of communication comes from non-verbals. When you communicate primarily through texting and emails, you are not giving employees the opportunity to fully understand your message. Before you hit the Enter key on your keyboard, think about the importance of what you are trying to communicate. The higher the importance, the more you should try to communicate in person. A good rule of thumb is that when you think you have communicated, do it again.

Pay attention to the good stuff. Early in my career I spent a great deal of time convincing managers that they should give pats on the back. I got a lot of pushback – “I pay them to do a good job”, “If I praise them, they will want more money”, “If I praise John, Mary will be mad”, etc. I have not gotten that pushback for a number of years. That tells me that the managers of today understand that employees want specific, sincere, timely, and appropriate positive feedback. That is true for all generations, Millennials and Baby Boomers alike.

Similar to communication, when I talk to managers, they say they give a lot of praise while employees say they get very little. My observations on how to close that gap are to make your praise as specific as your criticism and pay more attention to what is going right vs. what is going wrong.

Generational differences are real in many areas of work. As a leader, there are some fundamental rules of managing that apply to employees of all ages.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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