Our culture – in its endeavor to be sure that everyone is recognized for their efforts and treated fairly – has traded excellence for equality, particularly in today’s workplace. Small employers face workers who have grown up in a world where excellence has become a relative term.

Excellence is put on the back burner once scoring a goal is not as important as having a good time. Productivity is put on hold while we wait for everyone to take a shot. Quality is at the back of the line when trophies are presented to everyone.

A nation of spending constituencies

We have become “a nation of spending constituencies” asSenator John Sununu recently wrote in Time Magazine’s “One Nation, on the Dole” (2011 August 4, p. 22). He observes that, as our population demographics have changed, so has our character. We have become a nation of retirees, students, veterans, teachers, and government workers. These powerful special interest groups have come to game the system, and it has come to serve no one well.

A community college instructor I know works in a heavily unionized environment. He is an excellent teacher with much evidence to prove it. However, in order for everyone to be treated equally, his performance evaluations rate his work as satisfactory – or not. There are no criteria for excellence, no measure of excellence, and no recognition for it.

If small employers they want productivity out of employees who have grown up in this world of shifting values, they need to get ahead of the curve.

  • Consider hiring interns: Partner with a local trade school or junior college to see if they can match your needs with earnest, responsible, and motivated workers. Pair the intern with a mentor who holds a short leash but also has the leadership skills to model performance issues in a sort of craftsperson – apprentice relationship.
  • Recruit service veterans: Contact the veterans’ support person at your local unemployment office. Where related experience is not a strong need of yours, you can collaborate with the veterans’ advisor to recruit the accountability and maturity you want. These advisors look on you as a customer, and they are likely to go out of their way to shape a recruit to your needs.

Solutions such as these require planning and follow through. However, increased productivity and quality are likely to cover any related costs. What’s your experience?


by Steven Schlagel