Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Thanks Millennials! The Digital Revolution is Only Just Beginning



Guest post by Maddie Grant (@maddiegrant) author of the new book When Millennials Take Over,  exploring the digital mindset and the other three key capacities for recruiting, retaining and engaging Millennials

Think about this: the Millennial generation is the first generation to NEVER know a workplace without the internet. The rest of us remember the time we got our first email address, or that time we were irritated because we weren’t part of the lucky few that were allowed one of the two company email addresses. Some of us might even remember how the fax machine took a bite out of the courier business. But the Millennials don’t remember any of that. The grew up with the internet as part of the definition of normal. It’s normal for them to have any information they want at the tip of their fingers. It’s normal for them to have fast computers and new phones (that are really computers). They expect things to be upgraded and improved all the time–not because they are some kind of “entitled” generation, but because that’s all they’ve ever known.

And just a few years from now, the Millennials will be the largest segment of the workforce. They are the largest generation in the history of the United States, in fact. And as digital natives, they are going to usher in some big changes to how we lead and manage organizations.

This is one of the insights we drew from the research that went into our new book, When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business. We identified four key capacities that we found inside organizations with unusually strong organizational cultures that aligned with the approach of the Millennial generation to leadership and management:

– Digital

– Clear

– Fluid, and

– Fast.

We figured digital would be the least surprising of the four, but we like to draw attention to it, because it may not be what you’re thinking. Organizations embracing digital technology is not a new idea, of course, but the bar continues to be raised on this one. Millennials are not only expecting your organization to provide decent equipment and have a respectable presence on social media, they also expect you to be using the right tools for the right purpose. Don’t  email when you should be instant messaging. If that clunky content management system becomes frustrating for the team, don’t continue to use it just because you invested two years learning how to use it.

But the technology side is actually just the tip of the iceberg. To create a culture that really attracts the top talent from the millennial generation (and all generations, actually), your organization needs to embrace the digital mindset. In the digital world, the user is king. Everything is customized for the user’s experience, even though all those users want to use different devices on different platforms in different contexts. That’s harder work for the people designing the digital solutions, but it’s easier for the user, and that’s how the world works now. Everyone gets customized solutions now–meaning the middle of your market not just the high rollers–and innovation and improvement is continuous.

So is that how you design your organization and its culture? Look at your office layout. Was it designed with all the employees in mind, or is it really about making the most senior managers happy? The organizations that we found who truly embraced the digital mindset redesigned their office space to meet the needs of everyone, even though that was harder on the organization. They put senior staff (including CEOs) out in the office with everyone, because when the employees have that kind of access they get their work done more effectively. And it’s not just about office space. They do things like rewrite their job descriptions every year based on the unique career development trajectories of their employees. They care more about their employees, and they get surprisingly high levels of engagement and productivity in return.

In the end, being digital is not about catering to the needs of Millennials, or even trying to be more like them. It’s about embracing a trend that is accelerating so fast that we run the risk of falling too far behind to really catch up. It’s about creating organizations that tap into the power of true employee engagement. It’s about creating organizations that actually make innovation happen, rather than just talking about it. But it requires a digital mindset, and that means letting go of a lot of what we’ve been told are “best practices” in management for the last several decades.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock





4 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Thanks Millennials! The Digital Revolution is Only Just Beginning”

  1. Monica Michaela says:

    It is crazy to think about how the Millennials will never know a workplace without the internet!

    Being up to speed with the digital evolution is crucial for every company at this day and age. Specially when the Millennials are soon going to be the largest segment of the workforce.

    That’s why I fully agree with the 4 key capacities that you mentioned: Digital, Clear, Fluid and Fast – They are so on point and important to acknowledge!

  2. Joachim Wernersson says:

    I believe it’s so true that the millennials are more focused on the user experience. But isn’t crazy that it took this long to realise the importance of that? That before you considered the user unable to understand rather than realising YOU could do a better job explaining it?

    I think whoever has the most empathy for it’s users win in the long run.
    Millennials FTW!

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