Mon, Apr 2, 2012
In 1968, a blizzard dumped two feet of snow and six foot drifts on our small farm. After exiting our house through a second-story window, my father made his way to the barn where he discovered the shed door partly cleared away and open. Inside he found our elderly farm hand, Leo, feeding and watering the animals. How did you get here?” my father asked. Leo responded, “I walked along the railroad tracks.” He lived three miles away.
As a member of the Greatest Generation, Leo had a sense of work ethic, dedication, and loyalty seldom seen in today’s generation. Going the extra mile today might look like texting your boss that you weren’t going to show up.
In today’s vernacular, we would say that Leo was a highly engaged employee – although he would have said that he was just doing his job. Engaged employees take pride in themselves and their work. They are hearty and persist despite obstacles. President Kennedy’s immortal words: “Ask not what your county can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” rang true for them.
Motivated employees are motivated when there is something in it for them. They are driven by “carrots” — rewards beyond their paycheck. In fact, some employees feel entitled to such perks and bonuses. Getting paid to do one’s job is not enough. Today’s employees resonate with the phrase: “Ask not what you can do for your employer, but what your employer can do for you.”
In truth, it is difficult to blame this lack of commitment and loyalty solely on the employee. The 21st century has seen a shift away from “The Deal” in which employees worked hard and remained dedicated to their organization and their organization demonstrated a reciprocal commitment to them. Employees lack loyalty to their employers because employers lack loyalty to them. The New Deal is that there is No Deal.
Professional athletes are a prime example of those who lack loyalty when they jump ship based solely on getting a better deal. Unfortunately, they also serve as role models to our youth and send the message — “get what you can.” At the same time, many organizations disengage employees and create a lack of commitment by their lack of respect.
Without question, there are still Leos out there — just not enough to go around. Imagine what would be possible in your organization if even a modest percentage of your workforce started to exhibit such dedication. The good news is that while not every employee naturally has the work ethic of a Leo, there is much that can be done to elicit high levels of discretionary effort in your workforce. Organizations that thrive are those with a high percentage of engaged employees. Period.
Over the next several blog posts I will discuss exactly how we can take “Generation (fill in a letter from the end of the alphabet, e.g. X, Y, Z)” and turn them into more committed and dedicated employees who willingly give their discretionary effort. This is not a magic trick; in fact, it involves well-researched, concrete, and straightforward strategies that can be employed within any size organization in any industry. Stay tuned.