Incentives and the Odyssey Years

Posted by Alex Palmer on February 11, 2008

There's been a lot of discussion about how there are four distinct generations in today's workplace and how the newest and youngest are the "Millennials" (which is much catchier than the derivative "Generation Y" or "Echo Boomers"). The Millennials are a group notable for their positives (optimism, confidence, social consciousnes, and ambition), as well as not-so-positives (generally more high-maintenance, bordering on needy, than any previous generation, both in what they expect their leaders to offer them, and the jobs they choose to do).

As one straddling the border between Generation X and the Millenials (I'm either on or just slightly below the cutoff, depending on who's dates you use), I read these examiniations with the same ambivalence as my horoscope: "wow, that's exactly right!," "Hmm, that's kind of stretch." Some descriptions, like that many Millennials bring their mothers with them to job interviews, seem totally unbelievable to me and my peers, seeming to just take a basic truth to its logical extreme. But many of the other points seem to be just about right, and bring to mind my own work experiences or those of my friends.

The_odyssey_of_homer On this end is one of the most interesting pieces I've seen on the topic, David Brooks' column from last year about the new life phase of the Odyssey Years, that has recently appeared, between Adolescence and Adulthood. Besides pointing to the higher tendency for 20-somethings to return home for a few years, or to generally move through the world with what appears (to their parents at least) as no clear plan for the future, he also describes the fluidity and individuality these Millennials look for in the workplace, when they finally settle on a job:

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Money Isn't Everything

Posted by Leo Jakobson on January 10, 2008

When Incentive's February issue comes out in a few weeks, you'll see a case study I wrote about The Weitz Company, a general contracting firm specializing in large construction projects.

In an industry where qualified employees are getting harder to find —the U.S. has been turning out fewer engineers for decades, and there is a broad trend of fewer young Americans going into the construction trades in general—Weitz puts a lot of thought into retaining the employees it has and motivating the Boomers looking at retirement to share their expertise with the next generation.

One of the company’s main strategies in this regard is to empower employees to make decisions and reward and recognize them when they get it right. Says Weitz Chairman Glen De Stigter: “That fits into a basic need to add value and contribute,” he says. “Most people want to make a difference.”

I though of this policy earlier this week while reading a story in the New York Times about large law firms, which are bleeding 20 percent or more of their young staff lawyers a year.

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IRS Double Dips

Posted by Leo Jakobson on October 27, 2006

Our sister magazine, Business Travel News reports in its Oct. 23 issue that the Internal Revenue Service will impose a $35 to $50 annual fee on companies that wish to obtain the forms necessary to recover value-added taxes (VAT) imposed by foreign governments on goods or services purchased by American firms while abroad.

Seeing as incentive travel often involves using more, and more expensive, luxury goods and services than regular business travel—and thus can lead to payment of a great deal of VAT that American firms can legally recover—BTN’s article is definitely worth reading.

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Happy, Happy, TSA

Posted by A.E. Smith on August 07, 2006

Tsa_logo_1In January, I reported on a study about employee satisfaction at various government agencies, which found that the least motivated workers reigned at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Among the figures of discontent: 39 percent were dissatisfied with the recognition received for doing a good job and just 19 percent believed that personnel decisions were based on merit. All this despite the fact that the vast majority of employees felt the work they did was important and meaningful.

Last Thursday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a division of DHS that has undergone a great deal of stress and strain since its founding in 2001, released a 2006 Organization Satisfaction Survey that showed an improved outlook. Overall job satisfaction increased 24 percent and improvement was most notable in areas like work environment and teamwork. TSA attributes some of this success to its having set up an official performance management system and career advancement program as well as by eliciting more feedback from workers.

If any group of employees needs to be motivated to do their best work, it is the people who are hired to lessen the risks most of us try to ignore when we travel. This is a situation where attending to employee satisfaction may just make the world a little safer.

"Steak Knives" Managers

Posted by Leo Jakobson on August 02, 2006

Earlier today, a co-worker e-mailed me an MSN article (originally from the Wall Street Journal) titled “Three Tips for Coping with a Nightmare Boss” that reminded me of something incentive planners tend to mention a lot but not discuss too much: the foundation required for a motivation program to succeed.

Beyond a competitive pay and benefits package, without which an incentive or loyalty program isn’t likely to be of much use, there is a need for the company’s mid-level and frontline managers to agree that it is worth while. While many corporate mandates can be fulfilled by managers who simply know what is required of them, I would think that a motivation program needs at least a little enthusiasm about the idea of making people eager to work harder using the carrot not the stick.

After all, Alec Baldwin’s famous pep talk in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” in which he tells an office full of shady real estate salespeople that the top seller next month will get a new car, the number two seller a set of “steak knives,” and the number three will be fired, is undeniably a motivational speech. But it is the kind that would only work on the no-option losers of that film. Anyone else would be updating their resume that night.

Ultimately, a company where the sales manager fires an electric stun gun in the sales meeting, or orders a subordinate to formally reprimand an employee who left work without permission upon hearing his wife was trapped in a fire that would kill her—both examples from the Nightmare Bosses article—is one that doesn’t really need a motivational program so much as some new managers.