This is part four of my series on Understanding the 21st Century Workforce, which was followed by the first and second part of Do's and Dont's. Let's jump right in on the third and final part of Do's and Dont's; I'll try not to make it overly long.

Do offer challenges and education for your employees

Metro Library and Archive
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A. Employees today want to learn more; give them the opportunity. Although there are a lot of people who think the educational standards have gone down, the truth is that today's kids are more focused on what they want to do and are as smart as ever. Instead of looking to dumb things down why not look to challenge them, or at least offer those who you feel are up to it more responsibility and knowledge?

B. Employees today want to participate in the process; let them as much as possible. Reinforcing ideas from the previous two articles, it pays to have people with knowledge in the job helping with their ideas on some of the processes, while remembering that the ultimate decision is still yours.

C. Set up at least one internal educational/motivational opportunity a year, and make sure every employee has an opportunity to get there. I'm big on motivation, even if it's only to get everyone together to make sure they all know what the mission of the company is and how it will benefit everyone, including themselves. If you can't spend at least 4 hours a year doing something like this you can consider your company and yourself too tightly wound, which means your employees probably are as well.

D. Sending someone to a seminar or workshop benefits your organization as much as the employee. I'm president of a medical billing organization and it's so strange to hear from people that those they report to don't think training or hearing from the very insurance companies they work with is important. Who among you has never benefited from being trained to do anything?

E. Make many of these issues incentives for employee progress. The organization I mentioned above is affiliated with a national organization that offers certification exams for different positions. In some states earning these certifications gets their employees a raise, and keeping them puts them on a track towards leadership.

Be consistent with everyone

A. Don't treat someone better than someone else, no matter the reason. In the previous article I mentioned that sometimes you just might grow closer to one person in the workplace, even someone who works for you. No matter what you have to treat everyone the same when it comes to work. That might make things more difficult but it's not about you the person but you the leader who's been entrusted to perform a duty that you get paid for.

B. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, if not equally. Let's look at degrees of this statement:

  1. You may have to treat some employees differently for physical reasons. This is why you have to be fair more than being equal. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to accommodate their disabled employees who are qualified to do certain work so they can perform it. This might mean extra large monitors or lowering counters for employees in wheelchairs or a host of other things.
  2. You may have to treat some employees differently for other reasons. Even in today's social media savvy world you'll find there are differences in computer skills between people. You'll also find some people who take to new terminology faster than others might, based on a difference in education.
  3. Don't overwork your best employee. Every once in awhile you find yourself with an employee that's miles above everyone else. Often managers make the mistake of unloading way more work on these employees than everyone else because they know that employee can do it. Without a financial bonus or a real shot at a leadership position, those employees will leave, and the last thing any organization wants to deal with is talent walking out the door because of mismanagement.
  4. Don't overwork any employee as punishment. Do you think work can be used like detention in school? You might get away with it once or twice but you risk having that employee leave or even worse, having charges filed against you for some reason. Follow your company's rules for dealing with employees who slip up or aren't up to standard.
  5. Set fair and attainable goals for employees to reach. Giving employees or departments goals that are unrealistic is a sure-fire way to cause dissention and worker malaise. When people know they can't reach an unattainable goal, they stop trying across the board. Be smart, give people an opportunity to show true success, and you'll be amazed at how well things will run.
  6. Set visible incentive goals for departments, not individuals. While every person should have their own set of goals, everyone should know what the goals of the department are as well, and those figures are sometimes different than the ones used for employee evaluation. Don't keep these things to yourself; if everyone knows where you're hoping to go, they're more likely to help you get there.

Always try to empathize with all employees,
not just the ones who report to you

A. How would you want to be treated in certain situations. I've never looked down on any employee in any position and I've never given anyone in a higher position more than what they have earned. Think of it this way; if your offices aren't cleaned well every night who does that reflect on when your clients come into the office? Sure, you can replace these people, but at what point will that get old if you're having to do it all the time?

B. What makes you comfortable and uncomfortable with people you don't really know well. This is a bit of self exploration you have to do and then get over. The reality; everyone's different, so live with it. If they've passed muster to be an employee, then they deserve to be respected and treated well.

C. Your work life and your personal life is separate; so are the lives of other employees. Be friendly, courteous and involved. Don't be nosey and don't get too personal and inappropriate. Even if you're trying to help some employees, unless they come to you they won't appreciate it and you'll be seen as overstepping your bounds.

D. Your demeanor should be the same at work as at home; only the topics are different. I've heard both "I'm different at work" or "I'm different at home". Stop doing that. Be the same person all the time, unless you're a jerk; then stop being a jerk and be the same person all the time. Trust me, it's much easier to maintain one persona than multiple ones.

That's it; next time, communications and growth.