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Neil Belenkie: The workplace is a generation apart

Employers need new strategies to deal with a new generation of employees
We are entering an era of increased micromanagement, writes Neil Belenkie

For generations people admired the individuals credited with leading the growth of our economy. These leaders were celebrated for creating jobs and wealth for their employees, lifting neighbourhoods and industries and advancing health and wellness.

When successful people drove by in their expensive cars, kids watched in awe, dreaming one day of earning their own prestigious rides.

This is no longer the case.

Business owners and leaders now face challenges unimaginable to our grandparents and parents: a workforce with unrecognizable tenets and principles.

Real-world examples:

When hiring, it is now common for candidates not to show up for scheduled interviews. After accepting new roles, it is common for new employees not to show up for work on their first day. Without demonstrating success in their new roles, employees now demand raises and perks previously reserved for dedicated and experienced employees.

The sense of entitlement is profound and the lack of any sense of accountability is surreal. It may also present unexpected consequences for representatives of this new cultural phenomenon.

Lack of mutual trust and respect forces employers to tighten their monitoring systems. It also forces employers to slow the growth of their companies while they invest in infrastructure to manage the newfound risks associated with this cultural shift. Add the pressure to allow remote work and the perfect storm is brewing for hyper-micromanagement of employees.

A recent legal dispute made headlines when the usage-tracking software on a remote worker’s computer reported a discrepancy between her claimed work hours versus the computer’s actual usage. The employee claimed to have worked more hours than the computer had been used.

The employee argued she had printed her work and done it offline but her employer countered, referencing the tracking software that monitored her printer as well. The judge determined that the printer had not printed enough content to justify the hours claimed by the employee and the employee lost the case.

Technology is not the friend of someone who wants to hide poor behaviour and it will only become more and more difficult to shirk one’s responsibilities.

More examples:

Unbeknownst to some, Uber enables drivers to grade passengers at the same time passengers grade drivers. Imagine if Indeed or LinkedIn enabled employers to negatively score candidates who chose not to show up for their interview. What if past employers could attach proof of time theft to an employee’s profile? Background checks would uncover far more than legal outcomes.

QuickBooks Time is an example of another powerful technology for monitoring remote workers. GPS-verified location history is attached to the data tracking each employee’s daily start and finish time. Employees can no longer claim to be working when they are not at a work-friendly location.

On the other hand, employees can argue that they won’t work for companies who track their productivity during work hours. The problem is that these accountability systems will become industry standard. Little trust means employers have few options.

Assuming we are forced to accept that trust is no longer an integral part of the employer-employee relationship, let’s address next the newfound rise of employee entitlement.

Those who haven’t created unique value expect to earn as much as those who are exceptional.

Those who haven’t shown loyalty and commitment expect the same benefits as those who have proven themselves trustworthy.

Those who haven’t risked anything expect the same benefits earned by those who have risked everything.

Employers need new strategies to deal with new problems.

Include paid work in your interview process. It’s far better to pay someone to demonstrate potential than to hire without assessing how someone works and thinks. Investing a few days in your leading candidates can give you (and them) comfort that you are aligned in your expectations of each other.

Structure compensation around project outcomes, not hours worked. Set performance milestones with compensation attached to ensure that employees know exactly what is expected of them and exactly what they can expect in return.

Ignore references provided by candidates. Use online resources like LinkedIn and social media to uncover connections to your candidates. Contact these connections directly to gain unfiltered feedback.

Treat your trusted employees like they are the heroes you know them to be. Ensure they never feel the need to look for greener fields, and if they do leave, celebrate the time you had together. These “alumni” know you best and may refer some fantastic candidates to your company.

These strategies will help but the truth remains that companies can no longer be built upon the principles of past generations. The question is, can the companies who got us here keep us here?

 Neil Belenkie is the CEO of Ascent Drywall and Coatings, a serial entrepreneur, and former mayor of Belcarra.