One day I’m going to start a blog — or maybe, in keeping with the times, a Twitter feed — called “Overheard at Panera.” It’s a place I often frequent for lunch; it has decent food and reliable WiFi. And, because I’m usually by myself typing away on my laptop, it’s pretty much impossible not to pick up on some of the conversations.
The other day, I heard quite a doozy. The couple at the table next to me was in a tizzy over something. When they called the manager over, I was somewhat concerned — until I learned what the “problem” was. It seemed a gnat was “buzzing all around their food.”
Yes, a gnat.
Apparently it had flown dangerously close to the woman’s sandwich. It may have even made contact. And so, naturally, she required a freshly made meal. On the house.
I tried to hide my incredulous expression, then stifled a laugh when the person sitting at a nearby table quietly quipped, “Should we alert the Board of Health?” He probably figured I’d get the joke, as we looked to be around the same age. He was correct.
You see, the couple in crisis were millennials who played right into one of the stereotypes that (sometimes unfairly) characterizes their generation: “Something didn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to! Someone fix it!”
I used to work with a young woman who was constantly on the phone complaining about an injustice (usually concerning her breakfast delivery) and demanding reparations. I remember thinking that if she applied the same ambition and drive to her career, it would pay more dividends than a few comped sandwiches.
I thought about my former coworker — and the couple involved in “gnat-gate” — when I came across an interesting article about how workers today are demanding more kudos. They want to be “praised in more timely and engaging ways,” it stated.
Cue the eye roll from the Gen-Xer (I turn 44 tomorrow, which means I’m far more seasoned than those youngsters, right?). As I read the piece, I waited for the obligatory comments from others my age and older about how millennials are destroying our society, one avocado toast at a time, with their constant need for validation.
But it didn’t happen.
Instead, most of the comments were very supportive of the idea.
“Huh,” I thought.
I decided to go back and actually read the article, this time without the veil of judgement, and found that I agreed with the premise — to some extent. Basically, it asked leaders to do some soul searching when it comes to how praise is offered, and whether it is effective.
“Companies need to be investing in the right kind of recognition and reward programs that fit both the employees and company’s goals,” said Doug Butler, CEO of Reward Gateway. “What employees want is continuous, instant and impactful recognition which reflects the ‘always-on’ workplace culture and the ‘always connected’ personal life many now have.”
There was, of course, data to back up his sentiments. According to Reward Gateway, 23 percent of employees prefer being recognized during specific instances, and around two-thirds believe their managers can improve their approach by giving in-the-moment praise. Most importantly, 75 percent claim employee morale would increase if companies praised good work more often.
To me, that makes perfect sense. It’s a reflection of the evolution we’re seeing in career development. If you want high performers (read more about this concept in our recent interview with Good Samaritan CIO Danny Scott), you need to communicate with people. You need to let them know how they’re doing — not with obligatory comments at annual reviews, but through meaningful feedback. This can help improve engagement, which of course is critical, particularly in healthcare.
“Put simply, when your employees are engaged, they care about your hospital, their team and their patients,” according to a Forbes piece. “When employees are engaged — when they care — they give discretionary effort.”
That’s tangible, and it’s critical, particularly in an industry where talent is at a premium. This isn’t about participation trophies or unwarranted validation. This is about being the type of leader organizations need; someone who’s willing to take the time to help develop people, and help grow future leaders.
It’s something we all need to take a swat at.