May 2, 2005
Excerpts: Getting Them To Give a Damn - Part II
Valuesquake: The Shift in Work Ethic
Us versus Them. Now versus Then. I can just imagine what youre thinking: Hey! Ive got a business to run! When I entered the workforce as a teen, I wasnt exactly like my parents, either. I may not have been an Opie, but I knew how to get ahead. I had to clean up, listen up, and suck up. It was sink or swim. And if I wanted to keep my job and keep my parents off my back, I had to learn to do what I was told, work hard, and not miss a day, or Id be out on my ear. Now that Im a manager, youre telling me to throw out my rulebook and reinvent my entire business, just to cater to a bunch of whiney, spoiled-rotten prima donnas? Forget it!
Slow down, Speed Racer. No ones suggesting that you throw out anything. All we have to agree on at this point are the following three assertions:
- The employment picture for 16- to 24-year-olds has changed since you were in this age range.
- The 16- to 24-year-olds you encounter in the workplace today have a different set of attitudes, values, and beliefs than young people of days gone by.
- Todays kidployees cant be recruited, trained, managed, and motivated the same way you were as a kidployee.
In theory, statement three is easy to agree with but very hard to act on. It could make you feel even more conflicted. To take a different course of action would mean accepting that a better one existsor worse, that youre doing something wrong in your present course. Because youre used to doing things a certain way, to change goes against the grain. Nobody likes changeexcept for a wet baby.
When I accepted my first teaching assignment back in 1979, the principal began the school year by having the teachers arrive a day before the students. After coffee and donuts, we went to the band room to listen to a motivational speaker. This first exposure to a professional speaker impressed me. His clever one-liners and stories were designed to rally the troops and get our hearts ready for the challenge of a new year. Looking back, I forget most of what he said, but I do remember one powerful axiom he left with us that day. He said:
If you do what youve always done, you will get what youve always gotten.
That sounded so cool and seemed so logical that I wrote it down on my lesson plan book and internalized it. It became a basic tenant in the way I led my life and approached my daily activities. Twenty-five years later, I still believe its true . . . for plumbers and tree surgeons, that is.
You see, over time, pipes and trees havent changed muchbut people have. Just as an earthquake occurs due to a shift in the ground beneath us, there a valuesquake has happened because of a major shift in societal values and norms beneath us. There is no arguing that those shifts are clearly reflected in the attitudes and beliefs of our children. So the axiom I wrote on my lesson plan book in 1979 has been proven false. In fact, today I believe the following axiom is much more accurate:
If you do what youve always done, you are out of business.
You simply cant successfully manage todays kidployees using yesterdays management methodologies. The employment picture has changed, and so have they. The emerging workforce isnt motivated by the same things; they cannot be communicated with, compensated, motivated, and disciplined with old-school techniques.
Business strategist and bestselling author Dr. Tony Alessandra has said that the Golden RuleDo unto others as you would have them do unto youhas been trumped by the Platinum RuleDo unto others as they would have you do unto them. The Golden Rule implies that other people would like to be treated the way that you would like to be treated. The Platinum Rule encourages us to treat others the way they want to be treated.
Leading managers realize that, to get the most out of their workforce, they must first determine who the workers are and what they want done unto them. For kidployees, its important to understand what their attitudes and beliefs really are. How are they wired?
This chapter examines four primary differences between you and your front-line workforce. You know these differences exist, but perhaps youve never understood why. Nothing happens overnight, yet in the past decade, a monumental shiftor valuesquakehas occurred, dramatically impacting the mindset of the new workforce. Lets dissect four of these shifts to see how they have quaked the attitudes and beliefs that kidployees bring to the job, forming a base for addressing strategies and tactics in future chapters. They are:
- A shift toward digital thinking
- A shift in the importance of self-expression
- A shift in the way the game is played
- A shift from a traditional work ethic
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.