There are many implications of the millennials for the workplace. However, one definitive imperative that they bring is for teamwork and a strategy that enables a teaming culture to ensure that organizations fully connect and engage with this generation. Millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, now account for approximately 40% of the workforce and by 2025 will account for 75% of the workforce. Baby boomers and Generation X – take note.

Millennials have a very different disposition and approach to work than preceding generations. In my view, this can only be met through a teaming culture. They are in a state of ascendancy and will soon become the majority leaders of our organizations, superseding those generations before them. They are already the biggest proportion of the workforce. They will wreak havoc on the traditional hierarchy and means of organization in the minds of many baby boomers or, as the millennials see it, they will make for a better, more streamlined and sensible approach to the world of work. The millennial mindset is very different to that of the baby boomers. Already they are driving change and the baby boomers are struggling to accommodate them. The ‘rise of teams’ and the network of teams (the new organization of tomorrow) is as much to do with millennials and their demands for a changed workplace as it is being driven by market forces and a demand for an agile workforce.

Older generations perceive their world through the traditional hierarchy. They value money, status, individual work, power and the hierarchy. The traditional hierarchy and all that goes with it is no longer an efficient or effective means of organizational structure. Command and control, chain of command, vertical upward flows of power, perceptions that staff are there to serve the manager and do what they are told, silo management and censured communication, rigid rules and an overall environment of, “Do as I say, not as I do,” from the top are what characterize the traditional hierarchy. Some organizations have managed to break this; many more claim to but, in reality, often fall short of their espoused position. The baby boomers, in control for today, really cannot see how things could work otherwise, predominantly because of their values.

Millennials, on the other hand, see the world very differently, often in complete contrast with the baby boomers.

Millennials reject the traditional hierarchy and crave flexibility and collaboration. They are not concerned with titles and status and admire those with experience and knowledge rather than those with position and power. They do not have the same level or need for loyalty of preceding generations, with many expecting to move from organization to organization every two to three years. They want new jobs and assignments every 12 to 24 months and will not wait three to five years for a promotion. They thrive on innovation and change and get bored quickly with the same old, same old. They are drawn to projects that connect to their strengths and abilities and offer learning opportunities. They are constantly seeking new skills to enhance their capability to move from project to project.

They seek as much to enhance their own brand as they do the employer brand, to enable themselves to have the flexibility and capacity to move between projects and organizations. This drives a very different expectation of the manager/subordinate relationship.

They want coaching and not supervision, peer structures and opportunities to interact with various peers and leaders rather than being limited to a single leader or traditional small team. This is very much at odds with baby boomers, who see their roles associated with power and position and the vertical upward power of the traditional hierarchy. Millennials are less concerned with trying to fit in with a culture and more interested in expanded communication, collaboration and flexibility.

Millennials seek not just collaboration in projects but also collaborative open work spaces, to facilitate communication and the sharing of ideas and skills. They want a leader working within the group setting, rather than instructing from a distance.

They are focused on achieving, through personal networks and technology, and not through hierarchies.

Millennials are without question the single biggest influence on organizational design today. Every organization must find the most appropriate means to accommodate them. The old days of vertical upward power structures are gone. There is only one way to meet the requirements of millennials and that is through teaming and teamwork. Organizations must now accept the inevitable and begin the process of delivering truly team-based organizations. In doing so, they will connect and engage with this generation. Remember, this generation will soon take over and drive the change anyway. Those that initiate the change now will create competitive advantage, attract and retain the better talent, and derive the innovation and productivity that are unleashed by a team-based culture. 

The preceding is adapted from Wake Up And Smell The Coffee – The Imperative Of Teams by Simon Mac Rory ©2018 and published with permission of LID Publishing.

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