People Are People
Every conference and event features sessions and seminars about them. Every trade publication, especially those covering human resources, learning and development, performance and so forth, runs stories about them from time to time. Not a week passes without a news item or article that draws our attention to them.
The "others." And how the heck to manage/work with/motivate/etc. them.
Who are these "others," you ask? Anyone who's not like you. Often, maybe even the majority of the time, the stories are focused on generalizations about generational differences. Baby boomers are this and that, while Gen X (rarely mentioned these days, or lumped in with the Gen Yers who, as a larger generational cohort, get most of the attention) is that and this. Gen Y is something different altogether.
Other times, the stories are about diversity, and how to manage a multicultural workforce. How to reward when you've got such a wide range of people taking part in your programs. How to motivate everyone from those superheroes in the company who have an innate and unstoppable drive to perform to those laggards who will do just what they need to do to get by.
While all of these stories focus on what makes everyone different—and often lead to an internal conversation about how you are or are not like this or that group—I'd like to take a moment to point out something I heard at the recent Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) Executive Summit in San Diego.
In the midst of a very animated—and entertaining—panel discussion about generational differences, Greg Canose, president of Award Marketing Services in Whitehouse, N.J., a panel member representing his own generation, happened to say this: "We're all people."
I wanted to jump up and applaud. Not because he was denying that there are generational differences—I believe, and I'm sure he believes, that these differences do exist. But over and above the things that make us all different are the things that make us the same.
People are individuals. Everyone is different. And it can be dangerous to generalize too much when describing those differences. At the same time, much of what makes us all tick is relatively simple to understand.
For example, I think most people, given the chance and the right environment, actually want to work hard and do good. (Go ahead and call me an optimist.) I also think that most people really appreciate it when someone notices that they're working hard and doing good.
This is one of the reasons why companies that take the time and make the effort to motivate, recognize and reward people for their hard work consistently outperform those that don't. That's the macro level.
I'd also be willing to bet that, on a more micro level, individual managers who take the time to get to know their employees, understand their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, and what really makes them tick, and reward them based on that knowledge have teams that outshine the rest.
It's all part of an ongoing evolution in the way people work together to get things done. No longer do we work a strict number of hours, performing rigidly defined duties for a boss we love to rant about. We work together, on teams, in roles that we can adapt to meet the needs of changing situations. We are more flexible. And, just as in any evolutionary chain, the most flexible—those who are most able to adapt to changing circumstances—are the winners in the game of survival.
This month, we've got a slew of stories that will hopefully keep you abreast of the changing circumstances in relation to incentives, motivation, recognition and rewards. From a story about how best to work with the upper echelon of your organization to garner their support for what you do (page 28) to a feature looking at the latest trends in incentive merchandise (page 44) to a story on the continuing evolution of wellness programs and the rewards that go along with them (page 52), we're looking at industry trends and trying to help you stay abreast of new developments. On page 20, Joe Zanone of Movado Group Inc. helps us understand how service awards are evolving from the 25-year rewards of the past to the more frequent, individualized recognition of present-day programs. And there's much more.
I hope, as you turn these pages, that you find something of value, something that hits home for you as an individual, and as a professional who knows the value of people to the companies they serve.