In March, we published a piece about what motivates employees from each generation. In today’s article, we’ll focus on management styles that lead to employee satisfaction. We’ll discuss why industrial-age management styles don’t always apply, what characterizes today’s workforce, what each generation tends to expect from managers, and then look at some effective managing strategies adopted by two of our own managers at Incentive Solutions: Scott Bedora, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Nichole Gunn, Director of Marketing.
Industrial-Age Management Styles
What are the qualities of industrial-age management?
- “Top-down,” meaning success and innovation begin with managers and are passed down to subordinates
- Formal hierarchies in which employees are assigned specific roles
- The organization is seen as a person whose “head” (i.e., managers) do the thinking and the “hands” (i.e., subordinates) do the work
As you might’ve guessed, these qualities don't work well for contemporary organizations. Today’s industries are diverse, multi-cultural, and must keep up with constant changes in technology and communication. More and more, people see the “head and hands” approach as tyrannical.
Employee Satisfaction in Today's Workplaces
So why is the industrial-age approach to management outdated? Because it’s inflexible and leaves no room for the fulfillment and growth that today’s employees crave. In today’s digital age, people are much busier, often connected to large networks of clients or associates and working farther from their jobs that they have in the past. They want to feel that they still have personal lives. Therefore, employee engagement is crucial in order for them to stay productive. Our hyper-connected and rapidly globalizing society has resulted in an increasing number of people experiencing blurred lines between their personal and professional lives. Because of these murky boundaries and growing number of work hours, happiness and fulfillment at work is becoming more important to employees. They are looking for meaning and experiences from their work, not just sustainable careers.
Flexible management styles are also necessary for today’s managers because workforces are more diverse. Today’s workforce includes four different generations of people who were all shaped by different cultural upbringings: Traditionals, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials. Each generation has different needs and expectations when it comes to management and leadership. The key to employee motivation and collaborative self-management is making every type of employee feel his/her voice is heard.
Here is a brief assessment of work needs and perspectives by generation:
The Traditional generation is the one most likely to be comfortable with industrial-age management styles. They respect seniority and abide by established rules. They expect hierarchy leadership, loyalty, fairness, and dedication in the workplace. Being that their goal is to establish a legacy, they appreciate recognition for their hard work and career longevity.
Baby Boomers grew up in a very unpredictable time and, as a result, are known for being adaptable. In the workplace, they value democratic leadership and clearly defined goals. They enjoy personal connections, visible recognition, and face-time with co-workers and clients.
This generation prefers a competence-based leadership system. Freedom, experience, and easily transportable skills in the workplace are usually more valuable to them than company loyalty or recognition. They’re known for being highly self-directed and cynical of authority.
Millennials are a highly communicative and collaborative bunch, very much indicative of the hyper-connected, social media age they grew up in. They flourish when working with others, sharing ideas, and receiving positive reinforcement.
Effectively Managing Today’s Workforce
Now that we know what today’s employees need, the next question is: What approaches should today’s managers take?
- Motivating, not micromanaging
- Inspiring, not supervising
- Collaborating, not dictating
- Recognizing and rewarding efforts, not just compensating
These qualities are rooted in employee engagement and motivation, not merely giving them directions. Today’s leaders have come to understand that motivating employees is a discovery process that must be led by the employees themselves. Leaders can encourage, recognize, and reward employees for their accomplishments; they can guide discussions and problem-solving. But the drive to excel must ultimately come from employees and the forces that motivate them. Managing is a company-wide endeavor and a manager plays only one role in the overall process.
Managing Styles at Incentive Solutions
We sat down with two managers at Incentive Solutions to understand more about how they apply new and flexible managing styles in their departments.
CFOScott Bedora, CFO at Incentive Solutions, has a small but diverse team to work with, including staff who represent the Traditional and Millennial generation. For this piece, he shared some thoughts about his management style. “We meet weekly to discuss what we need to do and whether anyone needs help on anything,” he said. “Touching base helps us make sure we’re meeting milestones. Recently, when we met about quarter one goals, we broke the quarter down into components, spelling out what is to be finished within each one.”
Bedora’s approach of meeting regularly to track goals appeals to Traditional preference for clear directives and respect for authority. It also appeals to Baby Boomers’ and Millennials’ love of communicating and sharing face-time with colleagues. “My team always fills in the gaps and works well together,” Bedora added. He trusts them to understand how to do their job and do it well. This ability to trust his subordinates and allow them to work independently aligns with the Generation X’s preference for working unsupervised, under the assumption that they are skilled and trustworthy employees.
Marketing DirectorNichole Gunn, Director of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, says that rewards and recognition have been excellent management tools. “I’ve found it’s important to thank employees for what they do day to day and also reward them for going over and above their job description."
Positive reinforcement is particularly effective for Millennials, but Gunn has found that employees across all generations love recognition when they give it a chance. “I’ve run into many Traditional or Baby Boomer managers who don’t practice the simple art of thanking employees for doing what they’re supposed to do, well. But I think it motivates people to know that the work that they do is important, especially when they do it well. It’s also important to reward employees for going the extra mile and not only to reinforce desirable behavior, but create an atmosphere where it recurs. When you recognize someone for going out of their way, other people think ‘Oh, I could’ve done that,’ and it becomes contagious.”
In conclusion, the “head and hands,” heavily supervised approach to management is outdated, and today’s employees have long outgrown it. Effectively managing contemporary employees requires understanding what they need and how their work approaches vary from generation to generation. Successful managers like Scott Bedora and Nichole Gunn have found that trusting employees, meeting regularly about department goals, and rewarding employees for their efforts help foster a productive and positive environment well-suited to the modern workplace.
Copywriter for The Incentive Solutions Group of companies:
- Incentive Solutions, Inc.
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