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Here Come the Millennials: Business Get Ready for an Upheaval

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I've had a chance to review the latest book, When Millennials Take Over by Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter. I was a fan of these authors' first book Humanize where they introduced this notion of a more transparent organization and developing a culture of trust.

I often write about the Future of Work. In my more recent post: How the Consumer will Force Business to Change, I write about the environmental, cultural and consumer drivers that will be inherent in the evolution of business.

What's significant in all this is how technology has enabled, not one generation, but all generations to change. For millennials, in particular, technology has been a part of their DNA. It's what they know and it is their second skin. Culturally and globally, it's clear that mobile access is driving significant behaviour. In Europe, Asia and many parts of the developing world, mobile access is mainstay. In fact, by 2020, Pew has predicted that mobile will be the primary internet device globally.

According to PEW Research (US Stats):

By 2015 Millennials will increase in size to 75.3 million and become the biggest group. With immigration adding more numbers to its group than any other, the Millennial population is projected to peak in 2036 at 81.1 million. By 2050 there will be a projected 79.2 million Millennials.


By comparison, Baby Boomers have always had an outsized presence compared with other generations. They were the largest generation and peaked at 78.8 million in 1999.
There were a projected 75.4 million Boomers in 2014. By midcentury, the Boomer population will dwindle to 16.6 million.

It's clear that by mid-century the Boomer influence will have waned. It's also clear that Millennials' influence will have increasing impact as they age and as their numbers multiply. As the authors assert:

In 2020 Millennials will be the largest segment of the workforce, just as they are ascending into management positions.

What Notter and Grant introduce is an emerging group that has experienced first-hand the economic and cultural impacts on their jobs, their livelihoods, their values and most importantly, their outlook. How Millennials communicate, who they trust and how they consume information are also factors that, whether businesses are ready or not, are already impacting organizations and how they currently function.

The social internet has given rise to a more powerful customer that continues to wield control over business. This is not going to change. The growth of Millennials will only accelerate this trend, which will largely mean that business transformation will need to function in a more agile manner.

Transparency is a trait that consumers demand more of organizations, giving rise to defending and managing the organization's reputation. Everything a business does is now open to scrutiny. No longer can can organizations hide things. No one will have the luxury of selective disclosure.

The strength of the individual voice -- the individual complaints, or the fist-shaking social discourse -- need to be properly resourced within organizations. Managing expectations and responding appropriately means building for scalability and efficiency. I recently wrote that everyone in the organization will be responsible for the customer. Inherent changes need to happen and sometimes that means creating an upheaval that allows the organization to change culture, mindset and eventually practices.

Those that understand this inevitability need to start now... especially if that means the values of the organization need considerable revamping.

The Four Organizational Capacities
From their research, Grant and Notter outline 4 "organizational capacities" they believe will help prepare business for the inevitable changes and be successful.

1. Digital If the customer is the focus then tools and technology will require organizations to be more proactive at understanding these customers. This includes the employee as well. As more Millennials enter the work force, they will expect constant and consistent improvement in organizational capabilities using technology to facilitate productivity.

2. Clear As organizations evolve, so should the flow of information and knowledge. No longer should individuals and groups be subject to information on only a need-to-know basis. The expectation from consumers to be more transparent should be a practice that becomes baked within an organization. Increased clarity allows employees to understand and take ownership of their respective contributions. Overall, better decisions and results are produced.

3. Fluid For me, this is the crux of a strong organization. Agility and the ability of an organization to move and morph with the market demand is integral. Dave Gray, Author of Connected Company coined a term, "accountability at the edges", a model that resists a centralized raise-it-up-the-flagpole approach. In order for an organization to respond to the demands of the market, fluidity means individuals become the decision-makers and take responsibility for the outcomes. The organization will need to give up some of that control and build systems, processes and guidelines to empower employees to take on this responsibility.

4. Fast This is synonymous with fluidity. Organizations that embrace agility understand that no longer will the customer wait to be serviced. These days loyalty is fleeting and the customer expectations are stronger than ever. The hours of service are now 24/7. This always-on economy will put more pressure on business to increase productivity while "not increasing risk to the business".

The New Normal
Where the Millennial generation will take business will certainly be a drastic change from where it has been in the last 2 decades. I am a GenXer and Marketer, and I have witnessed the changes in the economy, in technology, in the way people consume information and how all this has impacted not only companies, but also individuals who have chosen to remain complacent.

The new normal in the age of technology and mobile means innovation and constant change. For these organizations employee retention will be just as important as customer retention. And perhaps the panacea is the strength of the dynamic and inclusive organization. I, for one, would love to see this come to fruition.

You don't need to be a change-agent to understand this. Organizations will need to evolve and Notter and Grant provide you with the ammunition to make it happen.