According to Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data released in May 2015, more than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34). As of 2015, Millennials surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce.
Additionally, as many businesses are discovering, more baby boomers are leaving the workforce. Thus, not only are we experiencing a smaller, younger pool of talent, but an overall reshaping of the business landscape.
Studies reveal that 80 percent of today’s workforce does not want to manage, make decisions, be responsible for others or for results, be accountable, sign-off on budgets, write performance reviews, reprimand direct reports, or even own a business. Sure, today’s younger workers want you to give them opportunities, train and develop them, but very few appear willing to put “skin” in the game—at least that’s my observation (and what I hear routinely from clients).
Today’s workers want to be seen as special and unique. They want to be treated as “heroes.” It’s how they’ve been raised, and they believe it’s your responsibility to continue providing the level of “love and affection” they desire and know.
Heroes in the workplace are great on an occasion, but they can create more problems than success. Heroes thrive on public acknowledgement, and they often need to be reminded they are part of a team. Some heroes might even create the chaotic situations they solve. You know who these people are. Being the hero makes them feel good about themselves and adds to their sense of worth.
Heroes should not be the focus of all of your affection at the expense of reliable, everyday players. Heroes — and the attention they demand — often foster resentment between co-workers and can even lead to workplace sabotage. No one wants that.
Luckily, when people come to work every day, execute their responsibilities, stand accountable, meet their objectives and goals, and act as good team players, everyone works at a higher level and the need for heroes decreases. For business leaders, the message is plain and simple: your focus and energy needs to be directed at optimizing these everyday players.
But what’s a business leader to do when the workplace is about to be dominated by individuals who always have been told they are special, the brightest and the best? (Keep in mind, these are the same people who received awards, trophies, and accolades just for showing up. They are used to every little league baseball player receiving a trophy, not only members of the first-place team, and teachers who refused to use red marks on homework because of the “negative” impact it could have on children.) Leaders need to ensure those working for them are doing their jobs as required each and every day, and doing it optimally, rather than kowtowing to heroes who show up with greatness only periodically when their need for attention and adulation arises.
Here are three subtle shifts in approach business leaders can adopt right away to focus organizational energy on maximizing the workforce:
- Consider who you are and lead by example. How you behave sets the tone for the organization. If you are a yeller, you give employees the right to yell. If you leave early, you give them permission to leave early. If you work hard… (you get the picture).
- Let the people you hired do their work. Your direct reports want to be fulfilled. If you are constantly doing the work for them, they will work below expectations, become dissatisfied and leave. What’s preferable: the distractions of recruiting and rebuilding or increased productivity and profitability?
- Learn to trust employees so you don’t create a culture of skepticism.When you trust employees, they feel free to try new and creative approaches to solving problems, rather than always looking over their shoulders. Their minds will be on job enhancement and enrichment instead of job preservation. Morale will increase and so will production and profitability.
By giving employees the lion’s share of attention, you just might get more from them as a result. Begin to see “heroes” in your every day players and they will deliver in kind.
The choice is yours!
Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary who guides organizations through cultural shifts. He promotes environments that inspire collaboration, transparency in the pursuit of strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires. Reach Stuart via email: firstname.lastname@example.org