Leading through the Swamp, a guest post by Joe Baker

With America’s current economic struggles, the workplace has become much more competitive than in the past. Many people are taking advantage of these hard times to finish their schooling or go for advanced degrees, and the Baby Boomers are starting to retire as a new generation—the Millennial Generation—is entering the workplace. Many employers have traditionally relied on time-tested workplace practices, such as 9-to-5 days and cubicle office space, but times are changing; it’s important for leading businesses to consider changing some of these strategies to motivate a new breed of employees to work their hardest.
Many older employees are used to working independently and can forge their way through the workday with little to no direction. The same cannot always be said for Generation Y employees. Generation Y was raised in a time when parents were deeply involved in every aspect of their lives, and this need for supervision has likely followed them into the workplace. Rather than roll your eyes or become discouraged at this seeming lack of direction, why not use it to your benefit?
By creating clear guidelines about what is expected for each position and maintaining open, fluent lines of communication, your workplace will be more efficient and your employees will feel like a cohesive whole, rather than 30 individuals punching the clock and sitting at their respective desks. This communication can be done through the use of social media like Twitter, or through Skype or text messages. However, it’s also important to engage younger employees in face-to-face discussions where pertinent questions are asked and solutions to any problems are discussed.
Additionally, when clarifying employee expectations, it’s likely that you will find other ways to streamline your business. Many tasks that once required manpower—like time and attendance recordkeeping and payroll—can now be done online , thus freeing your employees to do the tasks that are expected of them. By simplifying individual job requirements, your employees will feel less micromanaged, and will be able to do their job more effectively and with more exuberance.
Another idea for making your workplace more inclusive and encouraging would be to implement a mentor program in which long-term employees take one or two new employees under their wing and show them the ropes. This will not only ensure that your new hires are comfortable and knowledgeable, but it will also show older employees that their successors are willing and able to learn everything that is required of them.
One of the tried-and-true methods that are still effective is creating an incentive-based reward system for your employees. Whether the incentive is a gift card or simple praise, demonstrating that employees are appreciated and are doing a good job will do wonders for office morale and individual performance. While this may make your employees more competitive with one another, this friendly competition can be used to stimulate productivity and reinforce teamwork within your staff.
Most of these techniques may seem like common sense to many seasoned managers, but common sense is, in fact, the cornerstone of successful personnel management. Being a manager is not about being bossy or telling people what to do. Rather, it is about guiding people in the direction you would like for them to go and setting a good example of how you would like for them to achieve their objectives. By leading, rather than dominating, you can guide your underlings into the future.

Joe Baker can be reached directly at Joseph625@suitsandladders.co.uk

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