World Series of Poker

February 20th, 2012   •   Comments Off   

World Series of Poker and Your Employees

By John Bishop

What can a championship poker tournament teach you about your employees?  Everything!

In short, it is a microcosm of today’s young employees.   Young people under 25 years of age feel they are entitled to representation at the final table at World Series of Poker (WSOP) championship, and in the executive suite at your company.  Based on the recent WSOP finals they might be right.

 The World Series of Poker is the largest poker tournament in the world.  For the last four years it has been won by someone under twenty-five (25) years of age. Where were all the Baby Boomers? Gen X and Gen Y entrants? Poker Hall of Fame players? The winner was a 22 years old college dropout who bet $64.7 million on an Ace – Queen high hand and nothing else.  Would you have had the courage to make that bet at twenty-two?

Almost seven thousand contestants entered this year’s tournament hoping to win the $8.7MM grand prize. They each paid $10,000 to play Texas-Hold’em poker for five months to determine the winner.  Visually, the final table can tell us a lot about your rapidly changing world.  The table had only one person over 45, a 36 year old, and seven contestants less than 26 years of age.  The twenty-two year old winner learned how to play poker over the Internet, but he beat at least ten past WSOP champions and Hall of Fame poker players.

At the WSOP Final Table the young players earned the respect of the poker world by their overwhelming numbers (78%) and their aggressive play.  They can be disrespectful, cocky, self-centered, tattooed and have body piercing in places you don’t want to know.  But, they can also be talented, focused, intelligent, and ready to meet new challenges.   You may not be hiring high risk-high reward employees like these poker players, but don’t miss the point that today’s new employees are bringing different tools to the workplace.  They are ready to challenge their WSOP elders, and they are ready to do the same in your company.

The I’m a Good Judge of Character management style and the That’s the Way We Have Always Done It style may not be dead, but they are on life support.  Communication and decision making in the future will harness the power of we.  There will always be a need for leaders and decision makers, but how we gather, review, communicate and act upon information is changing dramatically.

We can’t stop change, but we can formulate a plan to deal with it.  By breaking old fashioned stereotypes in poker and in business, today’s youth are becoming change leaders.  They are forcing change.  If you doubt their effect look at the changing fortunes in the book publishing, news gathering, marketing and public relations businesses.  Young employees may not fit your preconceived notion of what a new employee should look like, and they may be frustrating at times, but they are very talented and capable.

The goal is to incorporate your company’s current formula for success with new ways of thinking about your business model, your industry and your customer base.  This means developing a comprehensive talent management and communications plan with realistic action steps and timetables.  This means putting the right people in the right jobs, breaking down internal business unit silos, minimizing managerial ego and position status constraints on effective communications.  It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Fearless twenty-somethings are entering the workforce.  Are your managers ready to identify, select, train, and motivate these new young employees?  Are your multi-generational employees communicating effectively?

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