Keys to Managing a Young, Multicultural Workforce for Brand-Building Performance

Keys to Managing a Young, Multicultural Workforce for Brand-Building Performance

This is actually just a short summary of a talk I did for Managers at Zalora last week. Chek Wee asked me to share them as a blog post…

The title is deliberately crowded with chunky concepts; in a different context I could have added “… in the De-Layered Organisation” or some other current issue. 

My basic point is that, important as these concepts are, most of this is red herring

  • all Performance needs to build Brand, which is always about creating a positive experience (for both Customers and Employees); 
  • managing should always be about organising the mission (mission: the overarching reason why we exist in the first place), not just organising the organisation (whoops); 
  • most regional or global companies are multicultural, but you need to examine your particular model of multicultural in order to understand the particular challenges your model presents; and
  • since sociologists and social anthropologists can’t seem to decide if millennials are narcissists with an entitlement complex or the most service oriented generation since the soldiers came home from WWII, all this probably tells us more about the observers, than the subjects, and we can instead focus our efforts on leveraging (or at least “not stuffing up”) the natural youthful energy a young workforce has.

Which means we can reduce the proposition to, “how do we make sure we are really clear on the mission, and then get the right people in place to execute the mission in a way that builds our business.” And saying, “… the right young people…” is great; they are, after all, the immediate future.

And the key to this? One word: Motivation

Now, if you still think that Motivation is somehow code for “pay”, uh-huh, no, non, rien de rien. Everyone needs to have a certain level of financial security, but all the evidence is that using money to try to incentivise (ouch) great performance is stupid and counterproductive. Still surprised how many people I meet who haven’t read Drive! by Dan Pink. Great book, in which Dan summarises research that has been in the public arena for at least 40+ years. Get a copy, or if you are too impatient, google 'Dan Pink Drive' and watch the animated short talk. And then think about what you have actually observed, whenever you have offered someone more money in return for asking them to work harder. At the very least, you have almost certainly seen less engagement and discretionary effort. 

So when I say Motivation, I am talking about what Dan Pink would call intrinsic motivators. In other words, the things in you that align with your role and the tasks in your role so strongly that you find yourself thinking things like “I was born for this”, or “I think I would keep doing this even if they forgot to pay me”.

(And if you are thinking, “Really? I have never had those kinds of thoughts…”, well, that probably tells you something.)

Here’s the thing: have you actually ever analysed any of the jobs you offer in these terms?

  • Regional Manager: “I love travel, working with lots of people and trying new things. “
  • Business Analyst: “I love numbers, getting to the bottom of things and balancing my cheque book for fun.” 
  • F&B Counter-staff: "I can talk to people all day long." 
  • Airline Cabin Crew: “I get a huge buzz out of meeting new people, fixing their problems and looking after them.”
  • Astronaut for 3 year mission to Mars: “I love staying in in the evening and reading or playing chess.” (That last one is from an actual, current, NASA profile; think about it!)

There is nothing superficial in the list above (I know you are thinking it is). Everything in that list is a key to staying engaged and energised in those roles, for the long-haul.

Or do you just assume you will know the right person when you read their Linkedin Profile and then interview them?

Which of course is the problem. We mostly never think about how to really validate what we read and what we see in the interview room. My whole professional life revolves around measuring this stuff accurately and objectively, so there really is no need to guess; the tools exist. But you can still do better - much better - than just watching what I call the “presentation layer”. Look for proxies that demonstrate the reality of motivation. A friend recruiting for call centres used to ask interviewees to bring their most recent itemised phone bill. Why? We want to hire people who are on the phone all the time because they love being on the phone. If you only made sixteen calls last month, that probably isn’t you*. 

Motivation is all there is? Job done? No, of course not. Get people who have the right motivation for your mission and for the role you have for them, within that mission, and you still have heaps of people problems. But those problems are soluble, because the people want this to work out too. The alternative is that you spend forever trying to fix some behavioural issue, and then realise the person is simply in the wrong job anyway.

So hire motivation for the mission, and then manage for that mission. The other stuff you can deal with.


*And why that matters is that their research showed that the bottom 10% of the staff in an average call centre caused so much financial and reputational damage with every single call they took, that the call centre operator would be better paying them to stay away from work. This is non-trivial stuff we are talking about.

Should Human Resources (HR) take on non HR related work

Should Human Resources (HR) take on non HR related work

HR made simple

HR made simple