HR Advice at the Water Cooler

Dishing out the HR news for the week ending February 8th, 2013:

Does Age Matter?

There’s a constant hubbub about Millennials and their work ethic. Older managers and HR professionals seem stymied by how to motivate and give constructive criticism to a generation often labeled as highly sensitive (they did, after all, receive trophies just for participating in childhood activities). As it turns out, all they really need is a little appreciation.

This week, TLNT reported on a recent survey that concluded Millennials want what most workers want: meaningful, engaging work. Like all workers everywhere, they want to know that their hard work and effort is appreciated. They’re willing to ask for frequent feedback and recognition, but as the author points out, that’s a good thing. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for a job well done—millennials are less willing to suffer in silence about it. To tap into their full potential, managers should make a concerted effort to give positive feedback whenever its warranted. They’ll find it makes for motivated, engaged employees—no matter their age.

No Digging for Gold

gold mine water cooler

Gold: It’s not what motivates your team… Unless you operate a gold mine.

TLNT also has another piece of valuable advice when it comes to employee engagement:  it’s not all about the money. There’s been little extra in the budgets for cost of living increases, bonuses or pay raises. But that only matters so much: cash is compensation, not motivation. The most effective motivation comes from consistent public praise. Workers expect to be compensated for their work. That is, after all, the central bargain in having a job. But praise isn’t inherent to holding a job, so in some ways, it can be more meaningful.

It’s also important that everyone chip in when it comes to passing out the kudos, not just managers and higher-ups. Recognition by all for all creates the kind of positive, open environment likely to keep employees working hard. This is a subject TribeHR has covered as well. Take a look at our blog post on why recognition can be more valuable than rewards.

Faking It

When your employees aren’t engaged or happy, should you insist they fake it? After all, most consumers expect cheerful service when they visit a restaurant or shop. Inc. has an interesting riff on the idea of “forced happiness,” inspired by a recent New Republic article on the restaurant chain Pret-a-Manger. The restaurant mandates all employees put on a happy face, and sends in “mystery shoppers” just to check.

While forced cheer doesn’t sound like any fun for employees, it may also be hurting their employers in the long run. Acting happy when you’re not, says Inc., creates “emotional dissonance,” leading to poor job satisfaction. Paying employees for fake emotion can also diminish an employee’s value of his or her job—it lowers genuine compassion to “required labor,” often causing the opposite of the intended effect.

Get Better With Laughter

Other people who aren’t laughing at the task at hand? Leaders—at least those engaged in improvisation (or improv) training. Chief Learning Officer reports that business schools such as Duke, MIT and UCLA have invested in improv training to help build the kinds of skills that can help with communication, influence, engagement, listening, relationship-building and awareness. The lessons aren’t about learning to be funnier or improving those acting skills. No one is hoping to come out of the training exercises with an Oscar. Improv training is about learning to become better listeners and influencers—soft skills that leaders benefit from in the current collaboration-driven organizational cultures.

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