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The Key to Staff Morale and Motivation
by Nancy Ahlrichs

Why is it so hard to motivate and retain top talent today? Is there really a solution that will positively affect productivity and the bottom line? There are five reasons—and one solution. Really.

Here are five drivers for managing differently:

1. Demographics and diversity continue to change.

We have more immigrants today than we had as a percentage of total population in the 1920’s. Also, 51% of the employed population is under the age of 40. Literally, you are now—or very shortly will be—attracting, interviewing, hiring, assimilating, training, motivating and promoting staffers who are not like you. They were born elsewhere, grew up differently, see themselves differently, and are motivated differently. They want to work hard and succeed. They want to support their families and send their kids to the best schools available. They are the “best of the best” in so many ways--but they are not like you. Whether they are members of a different generation, different ethnic group, different race or religion—because they are not YOU—bringing out their best performance will require something different than what you needed at the same stage of your career.

2. Every employee has job—and career—choices.

If the rallying cry of today’s 30-40 year old Gen Xers was “three jobs by thirty,” when they graduated, their younger counterparts—Gen Y—expects to have at least three CAREERS. Actually, many plan to have four or five separate careers with separate educations. They are attending four-year colleges to get basic business skills and then attending HVAC training or community colleges to get additional specific skills. About half are graduating from college with serious business plans tucked under their arms. It is their way to be “unemployment-proof.” Think about your recent hires: were any from non-agribusiness environments? Have you lost anyone to a non-agribusiness employer or to self-employment?

3. Employment brands matter.

The word, “brand” conjures up the words such as “reputation” and “customer experience.” An employment brand is very similar: it is the word on the street about your employees’ experience at your organization. Do you develop your employees? Is it “sink or swim”? The better your employees’ experience, the better they are able to deliver a high quality customer experience—your product or service brand.

4. Customers continuously raise the bar.

Would you go to a doctor who proudly practices 1980s style medicine? Your customers don’t want a 1980s experience either. Nor do they want a 1990s experience. Their needs have evolved. America has a culture of customization—without extra charges. Just as you don’t want to pay a fee to substitute items on a restaurant menu, your customers expect to pay what they have always paid—but they want quality, efficiency, and innovation. It takes motivated, engaged employees to find ways to deliver products and services within those parameters.

5. People management is the new core competency.

People management—not paper management, budget management, or project management—is what sets one employer apart from the others. It is also what determines profitability today because the best managers hire the best employees who willingly keep their skills current, listen to the customer and provide high quality experiences through your products or services. This means that by selecting, developing, rewarding and recognizing your best people managers you will positively impact your bottom line.

The solution

We must manage better than anyone ever managed us. We must make time to select the best managers because they are the gatekeepers of quality talent coming into the organization. Nothing substitutes for quality talent. If you need a racehorse, no amount of training will enable a mule to win the race. Hold out for the best people managers. They hire the best, and bring out the best in their hires. That’s the bottom line.

Nancy Ahlrichs’ two books, Manager of Choice: 5 Competencies for Cultivating Top Talent, and Competing for Talent: Key Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Becoming an Employer of Choice, may be found in large bookstores and on www.amazon.com. Visit her website, www.eocstrategies.com.

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