Much has been written about the rise of the millennials and how their attitudes, preferences and behaviors are permeating today’s workplace. But what about the impact they are having on management itself — both the physical and metaphysical aspects of business management? Influence can be a two-way street and we’re starting to see the millennial generation’s influence play out in some profound ways.
1. Change Is Normal, Expected and Should Be Inclusive
Resistance to change is a common challenge for any organizational transformation. Baby Boomers and Generation Xers have historically adhered to or been a part of a more top-down corporate structure. In these structures, sponsored change management efforts usually begin with recognized leaders (e.g., C-Level stakeholders) and flow downward via the engagement of champions to end users.
A top-down flow is considered to be outdated and inefficient to millennials. Instead, millennials are advocating for collaboration tools that invite a two-way medium.
2. Organizational Communication Doesn’t Have to Be Linear
Similarly, traditional change management communications have corresponded with the top-down approach. While millennials are not opposed to communications from leadership, they are also eager to let their thoughts be known. This is impacting the methods and tools organizations use to communicate around change.
Millennials today receive and access information on mobile devices more than any other medium. According to research published by TNS, millennials spend 22.4 hours per week on their smartphones; that’s almost an entire day. As a result, organizations are increasingly forgoing the lengthy and overly detailed emails, instead making them short, to the point and actionable.
Five out of six millennials in the United States connect with companies via social networks. In addition, many organizations have incorporated internal social networks. These in turn serve as effective platforms to disseminate information about a change, and encourage internal dialogue. Additionally, millennials in leadership positions are more accepting of telecommuting. As such, communicating with dispersed teams via social medial tools promotes seamless communications.
Tools that help build collaboration to innovate, problem solve, and encourage open dialogue are highly valued by millennials. While these tools may break down longstanding barriers that older workers find familiar and perhaps to some extent comfortable, new collaboration tools help foster ways to build and maintain relationships and the option to think creatively. Furthermore, as millennials have moved into leadership positions, they have shown a propensity for efficient meetings.
3. Where You Work Isn’t as Important as How You Work
Millennials in leadership are not interested in the number of hours their staff members are spending behind a desk. Rather, they will give workers as much flexibility as they can as long as they do their job.
This means more organizations are having to introduce more flexible working schedules where staff have the freedom to work whenever and wherever they prefer. This environment poses a challenge to change management practices. Those who are involved in organizational transformations need to take into consideration a significant part of a company’s workforce working virtually.
With Millennials embracing the ability to work anywhere, this will likely impact traditional hierarchies. As author James M. Kerr states, “Millennials will demand a shift away from ‘command and control’ reporting lines to more cooperative-based leadership models that provide greater autonomy and freedom of choice in how work is performed.”
Any organizational transformation presents challenges as stakeholders adjust from one process, technology, organizational structure etc., to something different. With the growing presence of millennials in the workforce, these challenges are becoming less severe with millennials’ increased tolerance for change and fluidity. Fluidity demands real-time collaboration, planning and decision-making. Organizations need to provide millennials with the collaboration, communication, and virtual capabilities that will help them thrive — so their businesses will, too.
Many of today's "Millennials" are tomorrow's "Boomers" in that as they age their preferences and attitudes change. That's a fact of life. Marketers who base most of their decisions on data culled from studies of "Millennials" should take a long, hard look at how the results break down within the broad Millennial base by age subsets. What they will often discover is a progressive shift, with the 18-24s being the most "radical" in their demands to the 30-34s being very much like the 35-39s, etc.