Finding the right mix between encouraging learning and growth within an organization while still providing enough direction to keep the entity on course remains the biggest leadership challenge facing anyone seeking to harness the energy and enthusiasm of America’s youngest, largest and most diverse generation of workers. Although strategic direction will still come from the leaders of organizations in the future, new work processes and behaviors need to embrace the bottom-up approach to solving problems that Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, favor.
Part of the answer to this challenge is to design work environments that simultaneously reflect the vision and values of the organization’s leadership while aligning the organization’s purpose with the desire of Millennials to find ways of working together to change the world for the better. Implementing such a strategy, however, requires transforming the world of work from cubicles to creativity and from hierarchy to democracy.
Millennials: Work is Not A Place, But What You Do
Video from Mike & Morley
Unlike Generation X, Millennials aren’t interested in balancing
work and life. Work is just one thing to do among many
in their blended, seamless daily life.
In order to bring organizations in line with Millennials’ desire to work in a consensual, participative, collaborative culture, leaders will need to learn how to “coordinate and cultivate” their organizations, rather than “command and control” them.
Coordinating innovation requires a deep understanding of the role each person plays in generating value for the organization. Techniques, such as Value Network Analysis (VNA), can create visual maps of the interactions between co-workers, thereby identifying opportunities to enhance the exchange of value between them. Based on this analysis, social media technology and newly redesigned workspaces can be deployed to increase the quantity and quality of value exchanges, unlocking individual creativity and turbo-charging organizational innovation.
Cultivating creativity, by contrast, requires a shift in the style of leaders from the Baby Boomer era preference for charisma and dramatic personalities to one more in line with Millennials’ desire to be mentored and supported by their boss, similar to the way they were raised by their parents. Offices designed to reflect this leadership style should be furnished in ways that build transparency into the physical structure of the office itself by eliminating cubicles, using glass walls where needed, and providing teams the opportunity to work in spaces as welcoming as their family rooms at home. Those empowered by this type of leader to do the critical work of the organization, regardless of rank, should have environments bathed in outside light and natural furnishings that will encourage and reward their creativity.
As with any momentous change, creating this new world of work will require the same level of creativity and innovation on the part of an organization’s leaders as those leaders wish to inspire in their workforce. Those who learn how to coordinate innovation and cultivate creativity have the best chance of bringing those same values to the organization they lead and ensuring the success of everyone in it. Those leaders courageous enough to make this shift will establish a foundation of trust among their employees whose innovation and creativity will generate the level of customer loyalty needed for success in the marketplace as well.