Mediocrity and the T-Ball Generation

This past weekend I was reading an article in our local paper about an issue about this year’s high school graduating seniors in our community.  It seems that four years ago the school board made some changes in the requirements for graduating high school.  Instead of implementing them immediately, they gave fair warning to the incoming freshman class that this would apply to their graduation four years later.  It is now four years later and many are upset because they are going to fall short of the requirements and they won’t get to walk down the aisle with their fellow seniors.  They want the rules changed to allow them to at least walk down the aisle.

Unfortunately, this is typical for the millennial generation, which I tend to call the T-Ball Generation.  Many of them have grown up all their lives being given as many tries as it takes to hit the ball, never being called “out.”  The games they grew up on had only winners and no losers.  The best won awards, and so did the worst.  You didn’t finish a school project; well, that’s ok, because we’ll still give you credit for trying.  As they become young adults they show up late for interviews, and even take cell phone calls in the middle of their interviews.  Some even show up with their parents in tow (or is that the other way around?).

Of course, this isn’t the real world.  100 people compete for a job, and only one person wins it.  You are often only given one shot to succeed, and if you don’t then you don’t get a second try.  Some businesses are successful, and others go bankrupt.  And if you don’t finish a project on time then there will be consequences, such as losing a client or even being sued for breach of contract.  Real life isn’t at all like they were brought up.

It isn’t their fault, of course.  It was the adults in their lives that created the rules for the games that they played, and lobbied the school boards for the policies that teachers taught by.  The same people who now complain about the lack of work ethic in the millennial generation are the same ones who created it.  They are the ones who encouraged mediocrity so that things were fair for everyone.

But as I shared in a previous article (see Faith in the Future), not all members of the T-Ball Generation are this way.  There are a lot who are exceptional in their own right.  They hold down jobs while attending high school and/or college and perform well at both.  They take on personal responsibility and relish it.  They get involved in their communities and abroad to make their world a better place.  And these young people are looking for a great place to work.  A place where they feel connected and appreciated.

There is a lot of talk in management and HR circles about how to adapt your organization to deal with this new generation of employees.  This is fine if you are looking for the typical, mediocre employee.  It isn’t a good practice if you are looking for those few millennials who are above average and are exceptional. If you are an exceptional organization, or are striving to be one, then you already have or are putting into place practices that will unleash the potential in any employee, no matter their age group.

It doesn’t matter how old an employee is, all exceptional employees want some key things.  They want a good work environment that is safe and provides fair compensation for their work; these are the basics.  They also want to feel trusted.  They want to know that their work is important.  They want to be able to do a good job and have recognition for a job well done.  And they want to be able to have some control over their work.  These four things are the things that engage employees of all ages.

If you create this kind of work environment, then you will attract the best employees, no matter what age they are.  You don’t have to do something special for a younger generation, and you don’t have to settle for the mediocrity of the masses.  Instead of looking at a whole lot of 5’s and 6’s on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, you should be seeking out 8’s, 9’s and 10’s.  These are the kinds of people who will fit best into your organization.  Keep in mind that if you are an exceptional organization, then when you look at the distribution of your employees’ performance that you will not have a normal bell curve that is smoothly flowing with a huge grouping around 4, 5, and 6.  The more your organization is above normal the more your distribution curve shifts to the right, with very, very few people, if any, who will be falling in the 1 through 4 range.

In fact, that part of the curve should be skewed to the point that it is very small.  After all, exceptional organizations only have about 7% of their employees in the 1 through 4 range; 26% of their employees in the 5 to 7 range; and the remainder, 67%, falling in the 8 to 10 range.  This puts the average employee in your exceptional organization being somewhere around an 8, not a 5, like the average, mediocre organization.

Yes, finding these exceptional employees are a challenge, and remains so no matter what the economy is, or how high or low the unemployment rate is.  But keep in mind that if you provide the kind of environment where employees can be exceptional; you provide the training so that they can become masters at what they do; place trust in them and don’t violate that trust, yourself; then you might be surprised at just how quickly some of your mediocre employees become engaged and become exceptional employees.  The more you expect of employees, not because you are a miser and want to get every last penny out of them, but because you truly have faith and believe in their capability because you trust them, then the more they will tend to deliver for you.

Make a Great Day!