A recent feature story on "60 Minutes" really caught my attention: the new breed of American workers, the "millennials," the 80 million people born in the United States between 1980 and 1995 who are entering the workforce.
The point was the attitude shift American employers will deal with as they hire these bright young minds. Are they smart enough? Sure. Are they ready? Maybe. Are they up to business as usual? No.
This is a generation that, according to Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal, has been told they are "special" by everyone from doting parents to Mister Rogers. They weren't allowed to be winners or losers -- everyone got a trophy for participating. They take only "yes" for an answer. Before pointing fingers, remember: If you are a parent over 50, chances are you helped create this situation.
These young people are tech-savvy, which virtually every business needs, but they're not necessarily ready for a demanding workplace. They'll soon own the job market, because there are more jobs than young people to fill them.
Human-resources departments are finding more and more résumés noting multiple jobs in a year because the applicants keep looking for the perfect fit. So where does this leave the manager who needs to hire, train and retain?
A smart boss will focus more on coaching than bossing. As "60 Minutes" put it, today's manager must be half shrink, half diplomat. That will require a major attitude adjustment for most of us who paid our dues the old-fashioned way. These workers, however, put friends and family above work. They know that if one employer doesn't value them enough, there's probably a better one waiting for them -- on their terms.
Bob Nelson, a motivational consultant known as the "guru of thank you," suggests that the littlest rewards can reap big dividends: awards, plaques, any kind of reward for a job well done, above and beyond a paycheck. Perhaps it's just a continuation of the participation trophy from their childhoods, but if it helps you keep a good employee on the payroll, it's probably worth looking into if you aren't already doing it.
There is nothing wrong with a happy workplace, but we're all going to have to turn the rewards up a notch as we compete not just for customers but also for employees.
I have faith that this intelligent generation will find better and faster ways to get the job done, just like earlier generations. My only concern is how its members will deal with failure, as we haven't really taught them how. Maybe the most important lesson a good manager can teach is that sometimes the greatest successes come from the greatest failures.
Mackay's Moral: The best coaches keep changing the playbook to match the strengths of the players.