Treat your workforce as one

Want to drive your business further? Get the right bums on the seats – a lot of them will belong to Gen-Y. MICHAEL PHILLIPS

Michael Phillips

By Michael Phillips

As far as I was aware, my mother and a few loyal friends would read my blog on the odd occasion just to make me feel good. Apparently not.

I seemed to have struck a chord (or nerve) with last week’s profound drivel that in order to manage a Gen-Y effectively you must start by throwing the ‘Gen-Y’ term (and the negative connotations that come with it) out the door. I thought it would be a good idea to further develop this point.

The key here is to drop the segmentation and treat your workforce as one. The best analogy I can come up with was shared with me when reading the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. He’s a learned fellow with extensive experience and a research team to match NASA, who has focused his talents towards analysing successful and not so successful companies.

For this particular book he undertook a research team of 12 and five years (it seems a short while when you see the work they undertook) researching the performance and culture of the best public companies in the US. In the end he narrows it down to about a dozen companies that have significantly outperformed the markets for 15 years or greater. Put simply, the companies went from “good” to “great”.

Of his findings, the most common was the element of a strong leader, a dynamic workforce and a “best in class” culture. It’s also where he developed his now famous analogy of “gettin’ the right people on the bus”, or in simple terms – getting the right leader (bus driver) and he/she would then get the best people into the organisation (bus) before steering it in the right direction.

This is the essence of his results and also proves to be the essence of the best organisations; and let’s be honest, it shouldn’t shock you. It was rarely about “the best product” or the most “gung-ho” leader, it was always about the “people”. His findings are now the staple diet of Harvard students looking to drive their own businesses.

The critical point being that the Great companies focused tirelessly on getting the right people and took as long as was required to do it. Their success never occurred overnight. For some companies it was a full decade before they started to really hum, but once they did they took off and left their opposition for dead.

But they all started the same way – appoint great leader (normally from within the organisation), “leader” then starts on a mass cull/recruitment drive, and then once that has commenced, they begin to get the company moving through its product/service and driving change.

The fact though is that it’s simple in theory, but can be a minefield in practice. Particularly in the current environment of low unemployment, wage rises and “needy” staff.

I know we are meant to be having a “credit crisis” but I haven’t seen this flow to the employment market as yet. But stay resilient! Know what you are looking for (and what you’re not looking for), get the right people and get the wheels on the bus slowly turning.

While you’re doing that, see if you can get a weekend away and do yourself a favour – if you want a refreshing read and want to spark creative thought in your over crowded mind, read Good to Great and I’m sure you will get at least one good idea for your business.


Michael Phillips is a 30-year old CPA managing a business full of Gen-Ys. He’s the Commercial Manager of Cremorne Group which wholesales and retail mens and womens apparel, including the Tommy Hilfiger, Blazer and Perri Cutten brands. He offers his experience as a pioneering Gen-Y managing Gen-Ys, covering issues such as how to recruit, retain and get the most out of Gen-Y – the notoriously difficult younger generation of employees aged 15 to 30.



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