Orchestrating Humans

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The art of managing people today

By Jennifer Morrell

Several months ago, Think Patented gathered a group of employees together in its Dayton, Ohio, offices and had an honest discussion about the state of work today. The attendees were a multigenerational snapshot of its employee base, from younger workers to veterans, office staff to plant personnel, and everything in between. When the conversation shifted to opportunities for advancement within the state-of-the-art print company, the younger employees were more vocal about what happens when they hit the proverbial glass ceiling.

Kenneth O. McNerney, Think Patented’s CEO and Managing Partner, says the scenario is one all print companies face today. What happens when a younger employee gets to the point where there is no chance for advancement because of a staffer who has been there for say, 20 years? How do you promote that person who, in some instances, may be more driven and talented than the one who is there?

“You don’t want to find good people and then lose them because there is no place for them to go,” McNerney says. “Today’s younger employees are not interested in climbing the corporate ladder like the baby boomers were. They want to advance on their time. And they do not care who is in front of them.”

In today’s print landscape, where the search for the next generation of workers is at the top of every to-do list, understanding your employees’ wants and needs is more critical than ever before. The takeaway: If they do not get what they want from you, they will get it someplace else.

The numbers seem to bear that thought out. For example, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2019 “The Future of Jobs” report, 44% of workers say that changing work environments and flexible working arrangements is one of the biggest factors in their job search. Thanks to a slate of new technologies, today’s workplace is being transformed by remote working options, co-working spaces and teleconferencing. Organizations are likely to have an ever-smaller pool of core full-time employees for fixed functions, backed up by colleagues in other places, and external consultants and contractors for specific projects.

As the report implicitly states, the technological revolution is not a race between humans and machines, but rather an opportunity for work to truly become a channel through which people recognize their full potential. “The single biggest difference in the new workforce is employee motivation,” says Nicholas J. Webb, author of the best-selling book, “The Innovation Mandate.” “The new workforce is motivated by their quality of work life, the relevancy to their interests and personal priorities and, ultimately, the ability to move a mission forward they truly believe in.”

In fact, Webb goes as far as to say that there may not even be such a thing as a traditional employee anymore, but instead a range of personas that companies must learn to understand. “The old days of hierarchy management has transitioned to collaborative and servitude,” says Webb, also a partner at management consulting firm LeaderLogic. “Talented employees have many options, and they only choose the one where they feel they have a voice and can make an impact.”

“The new workforce is motivated by their quality of work life, the relevancy to their interests and personal priorities and, ultimately, the ability to move a mission forward they truly believe in.”
— Nicholas Webb, Partner, LeaderLogic

It is a point that companies like Think Patented have truly noted. The printer recently conducted a research report on how to retain millennials in the workplace, hoping to get a feel for what type of personas it was up against in today’s employee pool. The results opened eyes. Among some of the statistics it found were that 60% of millennials are currently looking for a new job, while 20% change jobs every year (Gallup). The one McNerney found most interesting was that 70% of employees do not believe their employers offer any professional growth opportunities (Cornerstone).

“It changes your whole approach to managing people and expectations,” he says. “Employees used to want long-term stability, benefits and pensions. Today they want frequent pay increases, flex time, professional development opportunities, time off as a reward and appreciation.”

Not your father’s leadership style

In his latest book, “Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others,” best-selling author Robert Glazer discussed a concept called “capacity building,” which speaks to why today’s businesses must invest in their employees holistically. On a personal and professional level, you must give them the tools and motivation they need.

“When an employee improves in one area, it will elevate their game in others,” says Glazer, who also is CEO of Acceleration Partners. “An important thing to know is that command and control leadership doesn’t work in today’s environment. You cannot order your employees around without giving any room for autonomy or feedback. They want to be respected and to have a chance to share their ideas.”

Glazer says it is important for managers to create an environment where employees feel psychologically safe and empowered to make decisions that adhere to company values and advance the business. If your culture is healthy and you are hiring the right people, you do not need to control their every decision and action.

“You cannot order your employees around without giving any room
for autonomy or feedback. They want to be respected and to have a chance to share their ideas.”
— Robert Glazer, CEO, Acceleration Partners

Troy Hall takes the concept to an even higher place, saying that managing people is out and leadership is in. “You need to motivate, influence and enable others to achieve success,” says Hall, Ph.D., a talent retention thought leader and Chief Strategy Officer for South Carolina Federal Credit Union. “With this mindset, leaders understand they have three fundamental activities that contribute to success: Effective leaders stimulate people into action; they mold the thinking of those they influence; and they provide resources and remove barriers.”

More than anything, employees want to feel like they belong and are part of something special. They want to feel valued for their individual and collective contributions toward common goals. “An organization’s leader can drive effectiveness with performance when he builds cohesive teams and it takes understanding the current workforce,” Hall says. “These characteristics transcend a generational label and can be applied, in concept, across all workers. Once they feel connected, they turn to find value in what they do.”

The thinking falls in line for what McNerney discovered in that Think Patented company meeting. If you can tie the jobs into employee goals, and focus on issues like training, advancement and incentives, you can build a culture of advancement and opportunity. “You want to create a leadership development program that gives everyone equal opportunity to learn and grow.”

An organization’s leader can drive effectiveness with performance when he builds
cohesive teams, and it takes understanding the current workforce.”
— Troy Hall, Chief Strategy Officer, South Carolina Federal Credit Union

As Webb says, some of the world’s best organizations are leveraging game mechanics and social engagement to drive higher levels of employee satisfaction and productivity. They are creating collaborative communities, internal digital innovation networks and strategic challenges that help improve employee productivity and happiness.

What does your plan look like?

10 ways to becoming a better manager

  1. Create Radical Candor culture — From Kim Scott’s book of the same name, your team should be built on respect, trust and motivation. (Glazer)
  2. Understand fit — There is no one-culture-fits-all mold. Allow everyone to know what the company’s expectations are. (Glazer)
  3. Treat people well — Don’t take your employees’ loyalty and engagement for granted. Make them feel valued and respected and they will give their all. (Glazer)
  4. Be vigilant in success — The best leaders keep their teams motivated and alert even when things are going well. (Glazer)
  5. Be clear and consistent — Clearly and consistently communicate your company’s core values. If you don’t, they won’t. (Glazer)
  6. Stop directing, start inspiring — Your employees want to be involved in a mission that matters and connects their uniqueness to their work. Reimagine and re-articulate goals and objectives in a way that inspires. (Webb)
  7. Recognize their work — By acknowledging great work, you are being authentic. When done properly, recognition can be transformative to organizational culture and quality of work life. (Webb)
  8. Provide wellness checks — Schedule monthly wellness checks with each employee to see how you can serve them better and improve their quality of life. (Webb)
  9. Engage, engage, engage — Use internal enterprise social networks and thoughtful branding to recognize each employee’s contribution to the team. (Webb)
  10. Check yourself — Give your employees a safe place to authentically rate you on how you inspire and lead them as their manager. (Webb)

Sources: Robert Glazer, CEO, Acceleration Partners; Nicholas J Webb, partner, LeaderLogic