written by Mick Ukleja and Gabrielle Jackson

3 Reasons Why Millennials Crave Flat Leadership Structures…..

(And Why You Should To)

“Can’t I just say, ‘Because I said so?’”

This is how a manager reacted when asked how she would react to Millennial staff with questions.

But dismissing this generation and ignoring their questions, may be why they keep quitting. 83% of Millennials admit they would perform better in companies with less management levels.

In our research we observed a bias that prevent some managers from being open to change.

The bias of experience insists that the way we did it is still the blueprint for everyone else. This makes it difficult to ask questions like:

  • Why does their behavior bother me?
  • What are they threatening in the company?
  • How will I need to change?

Millennials, also known as Gen Y, have a need to know why. They are not being rebellious. They simply have a need for explanation. To some, this can sound like a threat to leadership. Others see it as an entry point to engagement.

Millennials will question why your organization is structured the way it is. For them, a more casual and flat work environment is the best way to be productive.

Here are 3 reasons why Millennials (and other generations), thrive in a flatter organization model.

  1. Everyone has something to contribute. 53% of Millennials have never read their employee handbook. 36% don’t even know where to find it.

Stacks of information won’t work with Millennials. They need more interpretation, not more information. They need context, not more material.

Millennials learn by doing. They are interactive and inquisitive. Include Millennials to engage them.

Companies are successfully retaining Millennials by ditching the employee manual and the PowerPoint onboarding process. Instead, they are creating cohort groups of new and young employees to discover together. They are developing feedback groups and are fostering a culture of feedback. This approach allows actual learning to take place in real time. Plus it invites Millennials to contribute, even as new hires.

Millennials were raised in democratic-based homes. They had input on all the family issues and activities.

At the workplace, a flat leadership model gets the most junior member of the team to give input to improve the organization’s structure and efficiency. This is not a matter of giving up leadership. This is the essence of effective leadership.

  1. Leaders aren’t always out in front. Millennials lead from the middle. They are a generation that doesn’t expect the person in charge to always be the face of the organization. They grew up on teams in school where the person with the most information for the specific project was the leader. And this could change from one situation to the next.

It’s the difference between formal power and informal power — positional power and personal power. If someone has more information or expertise in an area, that is powerful. Even if they don’t have a formal title or position. And they are just as comfortable presenting from their seat as standing in front of the room.

 Walk into a Millennial owned company. If you look for the CEO, they might not have their own office and may look (and act) younger than the other staff.

Millennials, more than previous generations, respect the collective voice and wisdom of the group. They prefer teamwork. They believe if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

We are not saying that titles and leadership roles are not important to Millennials. We are saying that Millennials are predisposed to collaboration. For Millennials, leadership means ownership.

  1. Access is everything. In his book, Management For The 21st Century , Peter Drucker prophetically predicted how information would change organizational structure.

 Here are two:

       – Knowledge workers will change the demands on managers and leaders.

       – Organizations of the future will be composed of many fewer layers of bureaucracy.

Fast forward to today. Millennials are Digital Natives, and they have access to information – constantly and instantly. They translate their “need to know” to networking and professional development. Therefore, having access to company leadership is important to them.

This generation has low trust in organizations, but high loyalty with their peer group. Three in four Millennials don’t trust the federal government to do the right thing. One in five have little trust in “organized” religion.

A company that is large, multi-layered and impersonal could be hiding something. However, an organization that is flat and friendly is open to change. And without change the organization will die.

Gatekeepers are a thing of the past. This generation is performing organizational by-pass surgery. They have by passed the traditional methods to access information, individuals, and innovation.

How is your organization capitalizing on and learning from these digital pioneers?

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10.27.2015

2 responses to “3 Reasons Why Millennials Crave Flat Leadership Structures…..”

  1. Sue Grafstrom says:

    Great Article

  2. Mick Ukleja says:

    Thanks Sue. We learn from one another.

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