There is a ton of advice about how to motivate the Millennials and Digital Natives coming on board and interacting with potentially three other generations — but our bias is to try a different approach. Rather than focusing on PowerPoint presentations outlining the characteristics of each group, followed by bullet lists of actions to motivate them, why not try this:
Get to know your employees as people, and discover what works best with each one! And if you really want to build a culture conducive to engagement at all levels, here’s a hot tip: Call in your Organizational Treasures!
Here’s what we mean:
- Spend some quality time with retired managers and staff people.
- Pick up the phone and call them.
- Invite them back to interact with your team. Organize an Organizational Treasures panel that allows them to share past history and what they learned, and provides an opportunity for a Q&A with current employees.
- Buy them lunch, and thank them for years of commitment—for hanging in there during tough times—for sharing their laughter and tears.
- Ask for their forgiveness for any slights (intentional or otherwise) that may have passed their way.
- Remember the good times … the heroic times. Reminisce. Recollect. Remember their achievements … their selfless contributions … Celebrate their willingness to go the extra mile.
- Listen! Genuinely listen. Have an in-depth conversation: Seek their wisdom and advice. Pick their brain. Ask their opinion on a pressing business issue. Update them on the latest acquisitions and technologies. Get their seasoned insights on managing people; the right organizational climate; what works; what didn’t work so well; sales and marketing savvy; dilemmas of managing participation, decentralization, profitability, responsibility, employee engagement, accountability, creativity, globalization of economies, industrial growth, manufacturing inefficiencies, discipline, missed opportunities, extraordinary successes.
- Ask for their thoughts on the capacity of the organization to satisfy customer needs using whatever resources happen to be available. Include a question on retirement benefits. Inquire about the legitimacy of training and development activities. Personnel. Human Resources. Quality assurance. Talk about organizational communication. Turfism. Staff meetings. Project teams. Employee involvement. Management support. Effective leadership. Service pathologies. Product failures. Quality of work life.
- Schedule an informal get-together with the Organizational Treasures and your current team. Include spouses and make it a family affair. Allow their families and your employees’ families to mix and mingle. (This does not need to be an expensive affair. A simple on-site mix and mingle with coffee/tea/soda will work. The focus is on creating space and time for people to connect and talk together.)
This Employee Engagement activity serves several purposes:
- It demonstrates respect for loyalty and longevity. People want to feel appreciated. Needed. Valued. The evidence keeps coming in—learn from people who have been there.
- It validates the feeling of community and sense of family, which builds a strong emotional connection between the organization and your employees. According to the research, “engaged employees care about the future of the company and are willing to invest discretionary effort. Engaged employees feel a strong emotional bond to the organization that employs them which results in higher retention levels and productivity levels, and lower absenteeism” (Crim, Dan and Gerard H. Seijts (2006). “What Engages Employees the Most or, The Ten C’s of Employee Engagement,”Ivey Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-01-24).
- It creates a continuity that employees want to be a part of. Once your folks recognize that “old-timers” are valued and respected, they will want to be a part of that chain of treasure.
- It builds teamwork and an esprit de corps that pays huge dividends in enhanced communication among your current team, and facilitates incredible transfer and sharing of ideas and knowledge. (According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, the loss of business intelligence and corporate knowledge, especially in R&D-focused organizations, could amount to billions of dollars in lost intellectual capital.”
- You will actually learn something! When people retire, they take with them an incredible storehouse of history, creativity, experience, and knowledge. This activity creates a natural setting for “Knowledge Management” that captures critical information and passes it on among generations.
What we’re suggesting here is hardly a new idea. It’s been around a while. It’s just not done, that’s all. The bias seems to be “turn ‘em out to pasture. Let the new blood in.”
How much better to learn from these Organization Treasures. Listen. Absorb their wisdom. Apply what you can. The curative powers are enormous. The difference it’ll make in your managerial growth will astound you. Deepen you. Polish you. You’ll stand taller. You’ll walk with a bounce in your step. Your team will be revitalized and more engaged, ready to contribute at a higher level. And your Organizational Treasures will feel honored and acknowledged, and want to give back more! And the cycle of giving and receiving has been initiated!