Engaging employees like it’s 1974



Are your managers still sitting down with your employees once a year to review performance and set goals? Many of your employees have grown up in a “Facebook-Twitter-Instagram world” where immediate feedback is available.

Post a picture, get a like. Change your status, get a comment. If you thought social was all about someone, something or somewhere else, you are wrong. We live in a social world and companies who embrace rather than resist social are more successful and have lower levels of employee voluntary turnover.

The social era isn’t about more management responsibility. It’s about making feedback and recognition everyone’s responsibility, making it timely, and based on performance and behavior that align with company goals and mission.  Just showing up to get your five year service pin is a fail for both the business and employee.


The Millennial Search for Identity


“The fact of being who a person is”

When researching the topic of identity, I came upon this disappointing definition. I was hoping for something a little more specific, but soon realized that the concept of identity is not an easy one to explain as it can mean something different for everyone. “Who am I?” is a question humans have been asking themselves for centuries, and is one that can have many answers.

I remember going to a new school in the 4th grade. I was a shy kid, but eager to make new friends. Back then, the only social networking site available was the playground, where content of character was measured by how hard you went in the dirt. If you wanted to talk to or hang out with a friend outside of school, you memorized their phone number and walked to their house. If you were bored, you explored the neighborhood. It was a peaceful, private existence.

Fast forward 15 years. Everyone has smart phones, and Facebook rules the social media world. People have multiple online profiles where they can share life events, upload pictures, and connect with friends and strangers all over the world. There are endless ways to interact and communicate, whether through texting, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat, Voxer, or even online social games. Anyone that didn’t have a voice before now has a chance to be heard.

Though we are fortunate to have much more convenient means of communicating and reaching each other, it does not come without a price. Privacy is such an issue, that even with the availability of “privacy settings”, nothing you post online will ever truly be private. Plus, everyone (well at least everyone on your friends list) can see you, your pictures, what you’re doing, what you like, and nearly everything about you. As you are propelled into the spotlight, you might lose sight of yourself and who you really are. Are you the person you portray yourself to be online? Do you even know who you really are, offline, in person?

In an article published by Deseret News, Rachel Lowry explores this struggle and how it has particularly been affecting Generation Y.

“1 out of 4 Millennials say they can only be their true self when alone.”

Whether you are going to work, school, or just hanging out with friends, you put on a different face. The person you are at work, especially if you work in a very professional environment, can be much different than the person you are when you are with close friends or family. In addition to that, you may also have a separate online identity that doesn’t fully correspond to your other identities. With Facebook, for example, you can tell people what you want them to know, withhold what you don’t want them to know, and show them what you want them to see.

 “Only half of Millennials surveyed believed themselves to be authentic and real.”

Although some people may remain authentic and true to themselves, it is easy to get caught up with “likes” and building up a flattering image. No one wants to appear boring or uninteresting. As a result, it’s becoming more and more difficult to know who is telling the truth, and if people really are who they say they are. I know that I personally have talked to people online and when I met them in person, they didn’t turn out to be who I imagined them to be. Sometimes, they don’t even look how you thought they would look. It all becomes very confusing, so what do we do about it?

If you are a Millennial like me, I understand your hardship. As I described earlier, we never had any of this technology when we were young, and then were suddenly expected to change with the times.  Social networks have become like a drug to us as we constantly search for acceptance and inclusion. The popularity contests of high school have carried over into our adult lives.

“Perhaps we should lift our eyes from our screens more often and live the lives we are purporting.”

This is the best way to go about your journey of self-discovery. Do not just spend time talking about your hopes and dreams, go out and follow them! Instead of spending all of your time taking pictures and uploading them to Instagram and Facebook, experience what you are seeing and doing and embrace the feelings it gives you. It’s great to have memories, but work on accumulating memories that no one can see or feel but you. Memories that you can dig up from your mind and feel all over again because you were fully aware and present during those moments. Get out of your comfort zone and do something you have never done before. Open your mind to new possibilities. Then, after you’ve got that out of your system, feel free to share your experiences and newly acquired knowledge with friends.

Identity isn’t about trying to be who you wish you could be, but how you go about being the person that you are. Every action you take and every decision you make reflects on your character and your personality. In order to be satisfied with your identity, it is important to always stay true to your values and do what you think is right. Maintaining the right balance is not uncomplicated, but at those moments you do find it, hold on as long as you can. Never be afraid to be yourself and to take the less trodden path, you might never know what new things you might discover about yourself. As they say, life is what you make it.

Building a Company Culture: Live Your Values


With the emergence of the Information Revolution and significant advancements in technology, the 21st century arrived with exciting promises of new opportunities for intellectual as well as professional growth. Unlike previous generations, the wage earners of today, many of them Millennials, are more likely to switch careers rather than stay at one job as more rewarding prospects are presented. So what, then, motivates an employee to remain with a company? What provides more satisfaction than the promise of a fatter paycheck?

Jay Wilkinson, president of Firespring, offers an answer.

In the mid 1990’s, Wilkinson launched a company that developed websites, one of the first to do it at a commercial level since the invention of the Internet. Along with a few friends, he started from the bottom and climbed his way to the top, eventually receiving money that allowed him to improve the company and expand into ten more cities around the country. Unfortunately, as tensions arose from infighting and as the economy “tanked” after 9/11, Wilkinson was removed as CEO of his own company. After years of planning and “lean[ing] very very heavy” on the people in the company, he eventually regained control of the company. Now the company has upwards of 70 employees, 3,000 customers in 12 countries, and was named one of 2011 Inc. Magazine’s top 50 Small Company Workplaces. Wilkinson attributes all of this success and the company’s redemption to the way they have built their Company Culture.

What is a Company Culture, and why is it so important to the people working a company? A culture is defined as a set of values and principles shared by members of the group. Some companies have generic values, while others seek to exercise values that coincide with the interests of their employees. People like to be involved, to be recognized, and to feel that the work they are doing is worthwhile. Just offering free coffee and snacks is not enough to make someone feel appreciated. Employees like to feel like they are part of family, all striving towards unity in a goal that benefits everyone.

At Firespring, there are 3 steps they use to “design a sustainable company culture”.

  1. Define your values- Instead of coming up with a predictable list of values, think of values that really resonate with your employees. Get them involved and see what inspires them.
  2. Hire your values- You don’t want just anybody working for your company. You want the people who are passionate about the same values because it adds to the unity of the workplace; everyone working towards one goal. It is more beneficial to a company to hire someone who shares the same mindset as the rest of the crew rather than someone who just has a lot of skills. As Wilkinson says, “Don’t hire the haters”.
  3. Live your values- “Create fellowship” among staff. Show employee and peer recognition. Offer an environment for your employees to grow, work hard, and learn while also providing a fun culture. Being serious all the time was never fun for anyone.

It is evident from Wilkinson’s presentation that Firespring has become a tight-knit community of people who love what they do and love the people they work with because of the culture they have created. They work together, learn together, and have fun together. If you are a company struggling to compete in today’s fast-paced society, it is important to remember that it’s the people, the cogs in the machine, who make a company great.

Millennials At Work: Super Savers [Infographic]

I’m a baby boomer and I’m embarrassed by the debt we have left in the US for future generations to pay off.  Fortunately there is some hope with the new generation of workers who appear to be more fiscally responsible with their personal finances.

A new study out from Merrill Edge shows that Gen Y, defined by the study as those 18-34, is starting to save for retirement earlier than any other generation. This high savings rate reinforces data shared in the following infographic by Scarborough Research showing that 59% of Millennials are savers as opposed to spenders.

To me, the message is clear, if you want to attract Millennials you better make sure you have a good 401k program.

The 3 Key Forces Behind Motivation

It’s not about money.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, best-selling author Dan Pink reveals the 3 key principles that drive motivation  – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose.  The need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. In a interview with Harvard Business Review, Pink says  ”As for recognition, the diaries revealed that it does indeed motivate workers and lift their moods. So managers should celebrate progress, even the incremental sort”.  HBR adds, “recognition is a form of feedback which is essential to achieving mastery”.

If you have not seen this video by RSA Animate using Pink’s popular TED Talk, you need to.  Pink provides an undeniable case based on extensive research and studies including the work of Mihalyi Czentsmihaly on flow.

Do you work with people who have mastered an area, skill or characteristic?  If so, let them know with a public kudos and acknowledge their mastery and professional reputation on Linkedin and online.


How To Motivate: The Research Behind Recognition

What motivates us?

In his popular TED Talk (see the full video below) behavioral economist Dan Ariely recently discussed not only why we work, but what kind of behavior and environments increase productivity and help people thrive in the workplace.

Ariely points out that there are examples all around us that show people are motivated by things beyond a paycheck, crossing a finish line or meeting a goal:

  • Mountain climbers face enormous challenges and setbacks on the way to climbing to the top of the mountain.
  • An employee worked on a project day and night for over 2 weeks when it was cancelled the day before the due date, leaving the worker, who said he felt quite happy while working on the project, feeling depressed when he realized that no one would see his work.

We want to receive recognition for the “fruits of our labor”, says Ariely, and know that our work has meaning. He conducted two experiments to explore this notion.

In a study using Legos, two groups of people were paid to build multiple Lego kits. In one group, the completed pieces would be disassembled at the end of the experiment; in the second, each person saw their first creation taken apart as they built a second.

Outside observers predicted that the first group – where their work had been acknowledged – would build more Lego kits, but thought the difference would be negligible.

  • In fact, the group whose work was valued showed over 63% more productivity compared to the group whose work was disregarded.

This dynamic is at play in the working world. At one company, 200 workers spent two years working on a project that was suddenly shut down. The employees reported feeling depressed and unmotivated and their behavior at work changed. They started:

  • Showing up for work later
  • Leaving work earlier
  • Possibly ‘fudging’ expense report items

When asked what could have made them feel that their work efforts were not wasted and drive employee engagement, they suggested:

  • Internal presentation of the project to the company
  • Analyze what aspects of their project could be incorporated into other aspects of the company

In  Ariely’s “Shredder” experiment, people were asked to complete a written puzzle, and then each paper was placed in one of three groups, where 1) someone looked at it quickly, uttered a quick “Uh-huh” and put it on a pile; 2) no one looked at the paper and it went into in a pile; or 3) the papers went directly into a shredder.

There’s good news and bad news coming out of this “Shredder” study:

  • Ignoring people’s  performance is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of them, but
  • Minimal recognition can dramatically improve a worker’s motivation

The act of recognition provides acknowledgement and is the best source of motivation .  You don’t have to sit around and wait for this to happen, you can kick start a culture of recognition by starting with a simple thanks to a co-worker.

[ted id=1706]


Make Work Better: Hire Millennials [Infographic]

As the baby boomers to hit retirement age, they will be replaced by “Generation Y” or “Millennials,” who number almost 80 million.  This talented and diverse group of employees  want to learn and grow with their company.  Millennials are motivated by having a sense of accomplishment.   As this infographic shows, 80% of Millennials prefer on the on the spot recognition and real-time feedback.  You can now go online and instantly thank a co-worker with the new way to give kudos.  Millennials are tech-savvy social media enthusiasts.  You don’t have to friend them on Facebook or follow on Twitter, but at the minimum, connect with them on Linkedin and build out your own professional network of fresh talent.


 Infographic by UNC

Related Post and Infographic: Millennials are super-savers

HR Roundup: Praise Goes Far to Motivate Gen Y

Today’s HR Roundup post is pulled from the archives.  This post went live back in 2007, but it is still more relevant than ever in determining how to motivate generation Y and, more importantly, how to continue to think about recognition as a means to motivate your workforce in general.

The post comes from SHRM’s site and covers a study from Leadership IQ regarding a survey of over 11,000 respondents.  The key finding that the post describes is that of workers age 21-30, just 39% say they are recognized sufficiently by their manager and only 30% would recommend their workplace to their friends.  Mark Murphy, the head of Leadership IQ attributes this discontent with the level of recognition and praise they’re receiving at the office, saying that 6 out of 10 of the respondents are losing motivation because they aren’t receiving enough praise from their bosses.  The same questions posed to those between 61-70 found that 47% would recommend their workplace to a friend.  That considerable jump likely isn’t the workplace itself, its about the practices of management within those workplaces in how they manage and motivate different generations of workers.

The blog post goes on to say that it isn’t simply a lack of recognition in the workforce that is the problem, its that the expectation of recognition has changed generationally – the level of praise that was sufficient 10 years ago is insufficient with the new workforce.  Managers need to understand each generation is motivated by something different.  Luckily, for Gen Y workers, often times that is a simple “Thank You” or “Good Job” either privately or in front of their colleauges – and that fix is not only quick, but its free too!

Read the full post “Praise Goes Far To Motivate Gen Y” over at SHRM