Many years ago, I watched a corporate video with interest. As our companies look for ways to get back to normal from this protracted economic downturn, some lessons from this video and other management resources might be worth a review. After all, can your company succeed without good people?

Many years ago, I watched a corporate video with interest. It was called “You are what you were when you were gut-level trained.” As our companies look for ways to get back to normal from this protracted economic downturn, some lessons from this video and other management resources might be worth a review. After all, can your company succeed without good people?

The video would no longer apply because it discussed a workforce populated by the youngest employees called baby boomers. It provided “older” managers some insights into the younger generations. Boomers now occupy the highest levels of most organizations – including the presidency of the U.S. for the past 17 years. Today, boomers need to know how to assimilate employees from other generations into the workforce. Let’s take a look at some of the generational expectations and find out what the recent polls say.

A recent survey by SnagA-Job indicates that 61% of small business owners will do some kind of hiring in the next 12 months. For those people looking for work, these business owners want to know that you want to learn and help the business to be successful. You should understand that these companies are investing more than a paycheck into you. You represent an investment of time and energy, and your payback is hard work.

One of the things I have regularly heard over my many years of management experience is that communication is a problem in companies. Employees often feel kept in the dark, and owners/managers need to understand this to make every effort to communicate effectively. Our management blogger, Jack Marino, agrees. In an Aug. 17, 2009 post addressing morale, Jack encourages companies to share their operating data with employees so that they are kept in the loop and have a sense of when things are taking a turn for the better. He also mentions the importance of recognizing good work.

Along those lines, I received a well-thought-out letter from a 26-year-old who expressed his disillusionment with manufacturing positions. More than once I have encouraged the youth to consider positions in manufacturing (such as welding, machining, heat treating, etc.), and this individual communicated that manufacturing jobs often do not utilize acquired training in a meaningful way. His final line said, “To attract young people into the world of manufacturing, employers need to present more than just a ‘safe’ job and a healthy paycheck, but a job that gets people involved, which helps people grow intellectually and through career opportunities.” What can you do to engage your employees so that their work is less toil and more challenge?

An interesting word I have run across several times when focusing on leadership is “love.” Mr. Marino mentioned it in the blog from Dec. 21 when discussing Rudy Giuliani. He said that love helps us look beyond what’s best for ourselves and focus on what’s best for others. Giuliani added, “Love – not duty – is what makes a firefighter run into a flaming building to save someone he or she has never met.”

Many years ago, the management guru Ken Blanchard was quoted as saying, “While accomplishing our goals and being a profitable company remains important to us, it means nothing unless our employees and customers view Blanchard Training and Development as a loving, caring organization. We hope that we will always manage from a sense of love rather than a sense of fear.”

Author, consultant and poet James Autry said that “leadership requires love.” He went on to define what you deserve from your work. “Whether you are the CEO or the mailroom clerk, whether you are driven in a limousine or are the driver, you deserve dignity, nobility, meaning and purpose.” He said there were three vital elements needed to create a place where people can do good work. They are honesty, trust and special treatment (managing people one at a time).

It’s in our DNA to work. We are created that way. We are not created to toil, however, in meaningless efforts for which we are not recognized and where the bottom line is the only goal. The nature of manufacturing may disconnect people from the ultimate goal in the process. Why is it important that this widget has the correct heat-treated properties? Let’s help our employees understand why their efforts are meaningful to the big picture, and we may motivate them, naturally, to do a better job.

If we reflect on the experts’ advice, our young friend’s observations of manufacturing might be right on the money. How does your organization measure up? What can you do now to be the place people want to work when you need to hire new employees?

Maybe it’s not that young people run away from manufacturing. Maybe manufacturing isn’t giving them anything to run toward. IH