I’m often confronted with the question of ownership, engagement, and accountability in today’s workforce. Some challenge, mostly those from earlier generations, predominantly Baby Boomers (1946-1964), whether or not our younger generations like Generation X (1965-1979) and MIllennials (also known as Generation Y, 1980-2000) have the drive to be engaged at work, let alone, become “owners of work” and be accountable for what they produce. While I acknowledge engaging employees can often be difficult, I can’t help but wonder at the same time, if it hasn’t always been a challenge?
Maybe things are more the same today than we want to acknowledge. Certainly Baby Boomers can’t forget their own rebellious nature violating the traditions of their parents in unified outcry against war, civil injustices, dress and hair standards, sex, and drugs. Certainly we witnessed shifts in social norms in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. And, certainly there were rebellious tendencies among those young rebels of the 80’s and 90’s.
As parents and grandparents of the now developing Generation Z, do we not have complaints about these children? Do we not complain about how they dress, talk, and act? Are we not worried with their addictions to technology? Are we not concerned about their future and whether or not they will ever rise to the occasion to become contributing members of society and develop as leaders.
The fact is, those who complain about younger generations forget the complaints of their parents. I don’t remember all of the complaints of my parents but I know they were there. Surely, among their worries were my developing work habits and concerns as to how I was going to turn out.
Workplace leaders today, as always, are faced with the challenge of finding ways to motivate and inspire workers. Those who complain are quick to identify flaws of character in those they manage without acknowledging their own inadequacies to move and inspire others.
Be a Part of Something Great
I believe every generation, from decades long gone to those most recent, want to be part of something meaningful, significant, and worthwhile. I believe every generation needs to be part of something that we can brag about to our children, our spouses and significant others, our parents, and our grandparents.
Certainly every generation has become bored with previous generations and those workplace leaders who experienced the greatest successes throughout all generations of the human experience were able to find ways to bridge generational gaps in order to engage individuals, to motivate and inspire them to become owners of what they do and rise to the highest degrees of accountability and productivity.
I believe in this rising generation. I’m in touch with them, I mingle and rub shoulders with them daily. I’m inspired by them, their talents and abilities, their interests and passions. You shouldn’t be astonished to know that they are motivated with their own dreams and goals.
Maybe the disconnect is a workplace leader’s inability to effectively communicate how today’s success connects with future opportunities.
The 5 Keys to Ownership and Engagement
Maybe the problem is more common than we think and actually is the reality that connects one generation to all others. Here are five steps we have learned to help workplace leaders engage their employees to become owners of work and accountable for performance and productivity:
- Sell the job. Every job is important and no job, worth pay, is without value. Sell the job; it’s importance, it’s role in making other things work and how it fits into the bigger picture. Convince your employees that without this job, everything else fails because it is that important.
- Praise. Demonstrate with valid evidence how individual contributions are essential to organizational outcome. We all need solid, frequent evidence that what we contribute is important. I don’t care who you are, if you are not reinforced consistently that you are important and what you do is important, you will forget and you will get bored and become disillusioned and disinterested. Some get there faster than others. Some, start out there. Workplace leaders are responsible for providing constant evidence of value to outcome.
- Promote. Every new job (even if it’s repetitive) needs be the result of past competence and contribution. All of us need to be going somewhere. Stagnation is damnation. We don’t always need new titles or bigger paychecks to feel like we are going somewhere but we always need to feel like we are growing somewhere. Provide opportunities to grow.
- Delegate. Increase responsibility whenever you can. Even when workers complain about increasing responsibilities, there is intrinsic value with increasing trust. While we need to be careful not to overload employees, making them feel important is essential to positive, long-term relationships.
- Create environments of inclusion. Allow employees to become owners of outcome by including them in the decision making process. I’m always amazed how workplace leaders complain about employees who won’t own their work or be accountable for their contributions at the same time they stifle and limit participation. They don’t need to be equals in title or compensation to be considered equals at work. Once again, if the job isn’t essential, get rid of it and if it is essential, we are all equal contributors in that respect.
Brett is the founder of Champions at Work, a consulting company dedicated to improving Ownership, Engagement, and Accountability for business owners and employees. For more information, contact Brett Simms at BrettLSimms@gmail.com.