Bob Miano's Blog

An Executive journal

Even the Snow Was Whiter in My Day

Ever notice how the older generation always feels that yesterday was far better than today. “People were more sensible then, they took care of things and had better taste in music and clothes. People behaved better back then and, of course, they worked much harder.”

For those of us in the people business, we are forever interested in how we can increase productivity, especially among the younger generation. Many business leaders and managers of the Baby Boom and World War II generations are frustrated by generational workplace differences. They feel that GenX and GenY employees are less dedicated and don’t work as hard as they did.

Here is a question: Is it our standards and expectations that are off? Or, is the work ethic of today’s younger generations not where it should be? Do we properly assess and align performance expectations to results? Do we really have a handle on worker productivity or what an employee does or does not do at work?

These all may be relevant questions to ask, but the answer I am looking for is bigger. I search for a proven formula, the master key, a secret sauce or whatever magic potion it will take to make today’s workers “go the extra mile.”

I too wonder at times if all the professors of the “better in my day” theory are right. Was there something in the past that motivated younger workers, which is now long gone? For the majority of the working class many years ago motivation was simpler: the need to put food on the table and a roof over heads.

In today’s world, professionals can easily achieve and surpass the goal of supporting a family. In fact, opportunities abound to achieve increasing levels of affluence. Given our market economy, it is much easier to identify and realize the lures of affluence, and it is getting more so every day. From what I see, GenX and GenY workers clearly want the luxuries that come with achievement, but the challenge is getting them to extend the effort necessary to earn these rewards..

While no panacea to underperformance, what has worked for me in recent years is to model the capitalistic market economy within the workplace. I find out what incentives, needs and challenges truly motivate my staff, such as competition, recognition, compensation, etc. I then set their workplace goals beyond current expectations and provide mechanisms that can help people to achieve established goals and receive well-earned rewards and benefits.

Just as our market economy and capitalism have proven to be the model that works best on a macro level, many of its principles apply on a micro-individual level. I believe managers who are able to create “demand” for achievement and success within the workplace will be able to push performance higher among workers of all generations.

However, if you do know of a cure-all for motivational lows (among any and all generations), feel free to call me directly.