Madison Performance Group

A recent posting by Hay Group tackled the issue of multi-generational workforces and offered some sound advice on how to get employees on both ends of the spectrum to appreciate the unique talents each one brings to the table.

Specifically, the write-up suggested that companies “assess opportunities to establish age-diverse workgroups or project teams to enable mutual, intergenerational knowledge sharing.”

It went on to say “Younger staff can help older colleagues understand new technologies, while older staff can give Gen-Y’s the benefit of the experience, knowledge and skills they’ve built up over many years.”

Good stuff. But it’s not a new idea for me. I‘ve been calling opportunities for cross generational knowledge share “reverse mentoring” for some time now. It’s an approach that you can put into play within your recognition programs.

I’ll give you an example. As an extension of your service reward programs you can team up a younger worker with someone more senior who has recently been acknowledged. The plan is to let each feed off one another’s skills. One will have the wisdom; the other may know how the latest technology—including social networking media—functions best.  Along the way they both will learn a thing or two about each other and their generation’s unique perspective. Either way they will feel valued sharing their ideas and insight with each other. For the younger worker— this experience will also give them a real-world glimpse into what working for the company can mean for them over the long haul.

The “generation gap” was an expression used in the 60s to describe conflicting, age-related, points of view that were often at polar opposites of one another. While not as extreme as they were decades ago, competing generational values still exist in today’s workplace.  You can close those gaps—and build more productive workforces—by using recognition and the interpersonal communication opportunities it offers.

A recent write up on HBR’s blog said that companies—no matter how successful they have been garnering market share, streamlining operationsor freeing up cash flow—are about to face a significant resource deficit. A challenge, if not addressed properly, will stymie their growth plans and cripple expansion options.

The pending leadership shortage is the biggest issue facing businesses today. Over the next decade or so, older employees will be retiring in droves. As they walk out the door, they will be taking all of the knowledge, know-how and intra-company relationships that have made your business successful.

Don’t count on the next generation to fill their shoes. I’m not saying they are not up to the task (although that’s debatable). I am saying that there are nowhere near enough of them to fill the void. Look at the population in terms of sheer numbers. There are significantly less new workers coming into the workplace.

So what can you do to stem the pending shortage of future leaders?  How can you turn the tide of negative numbers around into your favor? By developing the employees you have now into the visionaries of tomorrow—a task that starts by rewarding and recognizing their work today.

Recognition programs help align your company’s mission with the efforts of your workers. Employees—especially younger ones—begin to see themselves as vital contributors to the firm’s vision. That connection does two things: it creates an environment that they believe in—and one they will want to stay at—and it reinforces their place in it. Those two things must occur before anyone makes the emotional transition between simply working for a company and seeing themselves as a big part of its future.

Have you heard about XLR8? No it’s not a vanity license plate it’s a book by John Kotter Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and a graduate of MIT. So trust me when I say he knows a few things about the challenges of organizational change and the impact it has on people and their productivity. I encourage you to give it a read.

Kotter quickly points out that organizations everywhere are struggling to keep up with the accelerated pace of change—let alone get ahead of it. So what impact does change have? Well I’m not the expert that he is but I can say from my experience that change rips us away from our way of doing things. It forces us to change both our methods and our mindsets. For most that’s very disconcerting, which is why our first reflex is to avoid it—either in its entirety or, more likely, in smaller but still destructive ways.  That personal pushback is why most change initiates fail. The bottom line here is that most companies fail to give the targeted constituency enough personal motivation to embrace—let alone make—the change and that omission leaves money on the table.

The book says companies should form a vision and strategy, communicate for buy-in, empower action, and celebrate short-term wins. Things that can be easily addressed within the core components of your employee recognition program.

Using the communication, goal setting and reward features at your disposal you can reinforce the importance of the change, explain how the employee (and not just the company) will benefit from it, socialize examples of success and reward those who have adopted the new methods.

Change is inevitable. It’s everywhere. So why aren’t you changing the way you manage it?

When planners of reward programs think generationally they often focus exclusively on millennials. While it’s important to think about younger workers, it’s also important to remember that they are just one of four workgroups in the workplace.

With such a wide range of ages in the workplace, recognition planners need to carefully consider each element of their message, goals and reward offerings. Multi-generational workforces require a nuanced approach to rewards and recognition. You need to carefully consider the motivational impact that your strategies and tactics will have on each.

Madison understands each group’s preferences, value sets and emotional triggers better than any other organization in our space. For example, we understand the attraction that all workers—especially millennials—have with social recognition type tools and actively feature them in every program we propose.  These tools expand the volume of peer-related recognition activity, allow geographically disbursed workers to maintain personal relationships and help all employees share a level of personal context within their work setting—attributes that often define workplace satisfaction among today’s millennials.

Again millennials are just part of the equation. We also have a deep insight into the “how” and “why” members of each generation like to be recognized. We use that expertise to guide both content and component planning accordingly. That vision into what motivates workers of all ages also pays dividends as you design program objectives and reward offerings.

Madison has the most flexible solution in the business. We utilize a proprietary and highly configurable tool so you can plan for and administer communication and reward components for each generation of workers without additional programming costs.  We think that type of flexibility and cost savings never gets old.

I just read a short piece that said having the right manager in place can improve a seller’s performance by 20%. Honestly, I think that number is a little low, but that’s not the issue. The problem is there are not many sales managers who even come close to doing who do so effectively.

Managers who are considered great coaches by their employees—and by that I mean being the type of person who can lead, inspire and create confidence—are in short supply.  Unfortunately, most sales managers are just not very effective at doing any of that.

Who’s to blame here? The manager who hasn’t bought into the idea that nurturing the talents and attitudes of the people around them is just as important as hitting their numbers? Or the executive who promoted that top sales rep into the management role?

Before you find fault with either, ask yourself a better question: What are you doing to overcome the inclination for managers to look past their responsibility to be better coaches?

Employees who feel their managers understand them, encourage their best efforts and recognize their outstanding work are almost twice as likely to be thoroughly committed to their work, company and managers.

With so much pressure on anyone who sells or manages people who do, why wouldn’t sale managers embrace the idea of being better coaches? One reason—and often the biggest—is that the companies they work for have not given them the tools and the resources they need to do so. By that act of omission they signal that coaching, rewarding and/or recognizing people is not a priority.

It’s time to fix that. It’s time to put a tool in place that will help your managers become better coaches.