Leveraging the Happiest Generation at Work
Have you noticed? Older workers are happier with their jobs than younger workers. This news comes to us fromThe Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which is studying the impact of the large number of those 50+ in the workforce. This trend is important and gets continuing coverage in Eye on the Workforce. Demographics is destiny in your projects.
The key to happiness for those over 50 seems to be security and respect. In general, they have climbed the career ladder and attained a comfortable salary level. They are asked for advice more often by coworkers, giving them prestige that comes from experience.
Good for them, but how do you use this information as a project manager?
First of all, don't try to set your expectations too high for making the youngest workers satisfied with their jobs. Over 40 years of the survey, young adults have reported the lowest percentage being deeply satisfied with their jobs.
But don’t give up on younger workers! Give younger workers respect and ask them for input. For example:
Sometimes generational differences cause friction in the workplace, but this is an example where differences provide opportunities. Consider using one of these options – or one inspired by them – to leverage the happier older workers in your project to improve performance as a whole.
Make Conflict Work for the Team
Conflict is something you can’t eliminate. Avoiding conflict, while an easy short term fix, is not a real solution. Differences of opinions, objectives, principle, and experiences cannot help but lead to conflict and you need those differences to build better team decisions and performance.
Don’t avoid conflict just because you lack tactics to make it work for you. This Harvard Business Review article has information we can use to devise tactics to make conflict easier to manage.
Initiate Conflict-Based Discussions
Transform Unconstructive Conflict
Let’s say you see a team in conflict: personal attacks, broadcasting their opinions without working together for a team solution, not talking to each other, complaining, the team getting stuck and not being able to continue. Seize the opportunity stop immediately and facilitate the group to constructive conflict.
You might try a white board or other media for a four-quadrant discussion. Again, set this up by saying it’s just the way the team should work. Not evn team processes you set up are sacred Follow this order:
The point is that teams can fall into conflict, but you can pull them out. Use techniques to support positive dispruption.
Two Candidate Characteristics to Verify AFTER They Start Work
In your projects, you may bring in contingency workers to "try before you buy" before making them full-time employees. The question is do you know what to look for during this period? It's worth taking the time to plan to get this right because it is costly and frustrating to make an error in hiring, as has been covered in the Eye before.
Taking a step back for a second, think about the interview process. You ask questions to check whether the candidate fits the position. But can every characteristic be clearly verified in the interview process? No. There are certainly factors that are verifiable during an interview and others that are very difficult to judge during an interview.
It would be helpful now to have a practical way to categorize characteristics being sought in candidates. CEO of oDesk Gary Swart did just that recently here (login may be needed). He uses four categories:
In my estimation, the top two are easier to verify during the interview. The bottom two are more difficult, making them better for verifying during actual working time. Here are tips for doing that.
You know it is difficult to judge a person’s motivation fully in an interview, but weeks or months of working with that person in the heat of a project battle will reveal the truth. Does the worker show evidence of being
Monitoring Personal Characteristics
It will help to use a few of examples from Gary Swart’s list of personal characteristics: integrity, passion and judgment. We’d all like to know that these characteristics are displayed in ways that are constructive and productive. So while the contingency worker completes tasks and interacts with the project team and stakeholders, monitor behavior so that you can see whether the worker
With this practical way to categorize characteristics and evaluate a candidate, you can create a more sophisticated selection process that extends into the working period and does a better job of finding and hiring that high performer you desperately need.
Putting together an effective message to motivate project workers is difficult. In the last post I showed how you can simplify your messaging by targeting individuals in one of two groups: Promotion-focused and prevention-focused. (Recall that these tips are based on this webinarby Heidi Grant Halvorson provided by the Harvard Business Review. Check it out.)
You should use different points and phrasing strategies for each group. Here are tips on how to motivate (and de-motivate) each group.
How to Motivate Promotion-focused Individuals
How to Motivate Prevention-focused Individuals
You might think now that these groups should be in separate meetings so that you can use correct language for each and discuss success factors for each. Do this if you can! Separate out those who are trying to acheive more goals from legal specilaists and maintainers. Unfortunately, that might be impractical, so it may be better for you to have distinct language for each group to show you care about their priorities.
For example, you are making a presentation to a broad project workforce, including promotion-focused creatives and prevention-focused compliance specialists. In this case you can have one slide or section of your presentation talking optimistically to the promotion-focused about achieving results by the deadline. Next, you transition by saying something like “None of this means that we are going to sacrifice security or compliance! We will institute best practice controls to make sure we avoid a wide range of problems when operational. Here’s more about our controls.”
Using these tips, getting your motivational message across can be more effective.
The Most Important Lesson in Motivation
You have to motivate workers to be successful at project management, but how good are you at doing this? Answer this question: Which of the following are good motivational strategies? You may choose more than one.
There’s not really one leadership style that will win every day in every situation. You have to be flexible while working from your strengths. Individuals are motivated in different ways. The best leaders will understand the motivation of an individual and use that to influence the individual appropriately.
This may not come naturally, of course, so it will be useful to get some tips based on this webinar by Heidi Grant Halvorson provided by the Harvard Business Review. She works in motivational science. You probably didn’t even know there was such a thing, but they have been doing some great work that we all need to learn. According to the summary, the webinar “explains how to identify a person's motivational focus, how to change this focus, and how to use it in the right way to get results.”
How do you avoid making the mistake of attempting to motivate someone by using the wrong tactic? Ms. Halvorson groups people into a couple of easy-to-remember motivational focus groups. People tend to be dominant as
Right now, categorize yourself in one of these focus groups. Next, think of someone you work with who is motivated the other way.
Each focus area has strengths and weaknesses, but you’ll have to check out the webinar for those details or buy Halvorson’ book Focus. Suffice it to say now that both focuses are needed to make your teams successful. Your job is to identify which of the two focuses motivates the person you are trying to motivate and use tactics appropriate to that focus area.
These tactics will be the subject of the next post, but you can get started by looking at the question that started this post. The top two answers are motivators for promotion-focused individuals. The bottom two answers are motivators for prevention-focused individuals. Notice how you don’t understand what motivates the other type of person. It may even de-motivate you!
And that, my friend, may be the most important lesson in motivation.
Advance your career with the motivational tips in my next post.
Bonus activity: Find statements made in this post that clearly motivate one or the other focus group!