Posts Tagged ‘Rewarding Employees’

A highly creative team can make or break a company and they require special care and feeding (literally).  The complaints coming from creative people we have worked with through the years fall into three buckets of “frustrations”:  mundane, daily frustrations; professional frustrations, and management-induced frustrations.  Let’s look at each one and see how we can prevent it.

  1. Mundane, daily frustrations – These include heavy traffic lengthening the daily commute, difficulty finding a parking spot, and not having change for the soft drink machine.  So managers, allow people to work from home one day each week.  Also encourage carpooling to ease the parking challenge and reward carpoolers with gas money.  Lastly, put healthy drinks in the machines and let the company pay for them (select the “coinless” setting in the machines or buy your own machines).  One firm we know did this and also keeps a large kitchen fully stocked with instant soups and other fast foods, all free to employees.
  2. Professional frustrations – Engineers never seem to have requirements that they can use.  They always want better requirements.  And your engineers do deserve the most solid requirements you can generate, blessed by the end users of the system.  So make that happen.  Visit multiple users and get the system specification, contract and the requirements aligned.  Also, scientists always seem to need better tools and equipment.  This gets expensive fast but you should meet their needs whenever it makes good business sense.  But do two things here:
    • tie new tools to higher output, faster analyses/studies, etc. and
    • require the scientists to triage their needs so you work on filling the most crucial needs first.
  3. Management-induced frustrations – and here there are several:
    • Mismatched expectations, when management thinks they have asked for one thing and the staff provides something different.  Usually this is caused by management thinking they have hired mind readers.  Managers, be overly thorough in your assignments and get confirmation by asking “Now, what are you going to go do, and why?”  You’ll sometimes be amazed at the answer you get!
    • Great inventions and technologies get embedded in technologies and systems, but the project gets cancelled.  Technical/creative types understandably want to see their ideas take wing and launch!  So have an ‘idea greenhouse” where orphaned ideas can await a new home.  And reward people for planting wild ideas there (a year’s membership in the World Futures Society at www.wfs.org or a trip to a super science symposium or a great museum).  Let people know you value great ideas, even (especially?) those ideas that are ahead of their time!  And to prevent premature death of a project, design your projects as carefully as you design your systems (learn to do this in the Project Dominance course offered at Solid Thinking)
    • Hidden assumptions or unvoiced expectations cause the end user to reject the system.  Usually this is because management failed to get user buy-in during the design and development of the system.  Remember that just meeting the specifications is not enough – – – management must seek out representative users and get their vocal support for the system as it is being conceived, developed, built and fielded.  Anything less is risky.

Lastly, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for leaders managing creative teams:

  • Don’t accept problems brought to you by staffers, unless each problem comes with options and a recommendation.  This is how you build creative thinkers (and a replacement for yourself).
  • Don’t belittle noble failures.  Instead, celebrate them with luncheons and rewards (a half-day off, a dinner at a nice restaurant, etc.)  Make it a fun thing.  Build an accepting environment for new ideas, whether they find a home or not.
  • Don’t overlook talent you have within your organization(s).  You may have mission expertise in your organization that you know nothing about.  One of our clients has a “Mission Experience Library” of people with military experience.  If they need someone familiar with aircraft maintenance, for instance, they can query the database and find that ex-sergeant wrench-turner who can provide input on the new automated technical order system being contemplated.

“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the jobs.” (source unknown)

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

If your company is hiring Gen-Ys (aka Millennials) fresh out of college, you will be eager to get them folded into your operation and feeling part of the team.  But you will need to handle this cohort of youngsters differently than any other generations entering the Western workforce.  At first glance, you might ask “So what is different?  After all, Gen-Ys are doing the same thing other generations have done before them: Leaving college friends and lovers, settling into new job and meeting new people.”  And that is true and the typical corporate socialization techniques designed to ease the transition of new employees from college to work – – –  social mixers, assignment of mentors, integrated product teams, etc. – – – will also be useful for incorporating Gen-Ys into your organization… OR one could get really creative with ideas such as these, to bridge this gap.

But it will not be enough because there are other, much more complex dynamics at work in the recently-employed Gen Y community.   We know this because we teach courses in Project Management and we have had some eye-popping, private conversations with Gen Y attendees about their job environment, their stress levels, their egos, expectations and fears.

Gen-Ys have an additional layer of issues affecting their mindsets and, hence, their job performance.  More than any previous generation, Gen-Ys:

  • Have grown up with iPods and near-constant music.  This is the first 100% iPod ™ generation and music has been a near-constant companion for them while driving, walking, jogging and even while studying or working.
  • Are accustomed to very frequent social contact with friends via texting, IM and Skype.  Boomers snicker at the typical Gen-Y texting with friends every few minutes and are amazed when they first see Gen-Ys on their phones while watching movies and sporting events.   Tweeting their remote friends about the movie or ballgame, and even Tweeting with friends right there in the crowd with them, is commonplace for Gen Ys.
  • Believe in a “flat” equalitarian culture, where levels of organization do not exist.  As a freshman in college a Gen Y could email (or call or visit) the President of the university, on almost any subject, and the President would discuss the subject, and thank the student for being straightforward and for bringing the problem to light.  “Chain of Command” is usually an alien concept to any Gen Ys who are at their first jobs and who lack military experience.
  • Have developed comparatively fragile egos and rely on frequent feedback on how they are doing in each class and with their friendships.

So the next time a Gen Y, new to your workplace, behaves strangely or does something you as a Gen-X or Baby Boomer might consider odd put yourself in their shoes:

  • The comfortable, predictable college world they have known for 4+ years is completely gone.  Professors with whom they could negotiate grades and arrange for “extra credit” work when needed have been replaced by a boss who is part of an entirely different culture, and embedded in a more rigid hierarchy of departments/divisions run by anonymous bureaucrats.
  • The social fabric that held their lives together is missing.  The face-to-face contact with college friends and professors is gone; only a poor electronic substitute is now available to them remotely through texts, Facebook, Twitter and cell phone calls.
  • A music-rich college world has been replaced at work by endless meetings, discussions and conference calls.  Colleagues and bosses constantly pop by the cubicle for chats, causing the iPod ™ ear buds to be constantly popping in and out as well.
  • They are functioning in this new world very much “in the blind”, without the comfort of frequent homework assignment and class quizzes to confirm their understanding of a subject and their comparative standing among peers.  Now there is no paper graded “B” to show the Gen-Y where they can improve performance.  In a new job, just when they desperately seek feedback, they get little or none from their bosses until a scheduled performance review occurs (once or twice a year, quarterly if they are lucky).

There are some simple things we can do to fix this disconnect between realities of the workplace and the expectations of our Gen Y colleagues.

In the next post we’ll learn what bosses, and Gen-y workers themselves, can do to ease the college-to-work transition.   And we’ll recommend a new frame of mind for Gen-X and Boomers to help fold-in the Gen-Ys who, if the rest of us are ever going to retire, must take their place in the workforce.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation