Listening to Tomorrow’s Leaders

The founders of Snapchat and Airbnb were aged 21 and 26 respectively when they launched their companies. This shows when it comes to disrupting a market − or creating entirely new ones − age is merely a number. What are corporates doing to capture the ideas of their outstanding young talent?

“We thought you could only get value from people after they’d been in the business for five to ten years, but we’re breaking down those perceptions,” says Dominic Samengo-Turner, CEO of Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) Asia, a subsidiary of the JLT Group.

Reflecting on the way the company changed its approach to career development 12 months ago, Dominic continues: “We take our quality graduates after a year and put them with senior executives as an executive assistant. Their thinking and observations then start to influence the business in a more informal way.”

The success of this now means the company is taking it to another level. “We [then] put that generation in junior management positions of influence. We’re creating new management roles that didn’t exist before so that they can add value to the business,” he says.

This is hugely valuable to JLT which, as a legacy business, has a number of employees whose length of service spans two to three decades. Dominic explains: “We don’t need [millennials] to have deep, technical competence – the older generations have that. We need to help facilitate the operational running of the business. We feel we’ll move much faster than originally thought.”
Seeking new perspectives 

Different voices, views and generations need to be heard at board level; this is something John Brisco, Senior Vice President, Chief Information Office and Chief Operations Officer at Manulife Asia, welcomes.

“Many boards today have a very traditional make-up of constituents who quite rightly have thorough industry and career experience. However, the pace of change driven by data and digital innovation… means there may be a requirement for the make-up of a modern board to have a new mix,” he says.

“There may have to be a wider dispersion of board constituents, that may involve millennials but it could also involve 35 to 40 year olds, who I would say aren’t represented on boards that well. I would ask: ‘How can boards expand their thinking, what type of skillsets do they need and how can they make sure that age isn’t a barrier?’”

In light of this, John is currently exploring the advantages of an advisory board – made up of a range of individuals from millennials to entrepreneurs – to support Manulife’s Asia-based leadership team.

“It will independently challenge us on our ideas. Some will come from an entrepreneurial mindset, others from a consumer background or technology mindset. That will create a healthy tension,” he says.

Connecting with the customer

The notion of millennials on the board may be a step too far for some, especially in the context of a regulated environment.

Romana Abdin, CEO at diversified healthcare company Simplyhealth, says: “The role of a director in the boardroom is to challenge, critique and support; I don’t think many millennials would possess the experience and gravitas to make that kind of contribution unless they are supported through coaching and mentoring. It is our responsibility to develop the outstanding leaders of the future.”

Yet Romana agrees that the onus is on the board to seek a fresh perspective. “Our board spent a day being customers by visiting different retailers and bringing those experiences back into our organisation,” she comments. “It’s about understanding the aspirations and behaviours of all generations, including millennials… It is only by understanding customers and their lives that we can be valued and valuable.”

According to Charlie Wagstaff, Managing Director at Criticaleye: “Boards, executives and HR functions need to think about how to blend talent of all ages.” Indeed, the belief that all the best concepts come from the top of the organisation is outdated.

“Leaders need to ensure a company’s employees reflect the diverse customer base it’s targeting and welcome the fact that ideas can come from anywhere within the business,” Charlie notes. “Each organisation will have its unique set of challenges, but diversity of thought is hugely important.”

There’s no doubt that there are some supremely talented millennials out there. Evan Spiegel, CEO of mobile app Snapchat – estimated at a net worth of $2.1 billion – is just one of them. He knocked it out of the park early in his career but there are others waiting to make their impact.

Most millennials can’t be expected to lead a complex legacy business today, but they are the leaders of tomorrow. By giving them a voice, you can harness perspectives that better represent your customer base, allow you to innovate and and look to the future.

How are you bringing up the best talent in your business? If you have thoughts to share on this topic, please email dawn@criticaleye.com

This was inspired by Charlie Wagstaff’s blog on millennials – read it here

Don’t miss next week’s Community Update on how to successfully lead complex change.  

Managing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Having grown up with broadband, social media and smartphones, millennials expect instant results and are often turned off by rigid corporate structures and siloes. As the proportion of millennials in the workforce grows, leaders are having to rethink traditional organisational design and management styles.

“Millennials expect a far more open, networked and flatter organisation. They are looking to collaborate across different areas and crowdsource ideas irrespective of hierarchy,” says Payal Vasudeva, Managing Director, Talent & Organisation Lead and Strategy People Lead for the UK&I at Accenture.

“In return they want investment in their capabilities, proactive learning and development opportunities that build their skills. They have longer-term aspirations and it’s a life of jobs, not a job for life.”

Mark Nichols, Director of Customer Support at Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, recognises that career progression is no longer viewed in a linear manner and notes there is now an inclination towards ‘serial learning’.

“At Skype and Microsoft, while there is a very robust hierarchy, people do move around a lot more and spend time in other divisions. It may not look like there is progression to the next level but there will be accrued learning,” he says. “I don’t think the formal model of ‘complete modules one, two, three and then you’re competent’ stacks up.”

As a result, the weighting in job interviews has changed with candidates expecting to be sold to just as much as they pitch themselves. And according to Mark, millennials want to see “under the covers” of an organisation before they commit.

They want a job where they can add real value to an organisation. Erica Smart, Vice President of Developments for Brazil at BG Group, says: “They want to be doing something useful and see the value in the role they’re playing. The best outcomes are when they have work that is intimately tied to the main objectives of the group.”
This point is echoed by Alison Mills, Relationship Manager at Criticaleye: “It’s important to provide meaningful roles from day one of employment, rather than to expect that a promise of success and status at a later date will provide sufficient motivation.”

The millennial mindset 
With an affinity for digital technology, millennials are the first generation to grasp a key business tool more so than some senior workers – it can give millennials the edge.

“We have certain leadership teams within our organisation that actually have millennials in them – really high-performing individuals,” Payal says. “It’s about making it truly collaborative.”

Mark recognises that a younger workforce can offer insight into your future customers, including what they expect from your products and services and how they might use them.

He gives his experience of how interns at Skype are providing considerable value: “Some millennials use Skype but only to communicate with their parents; it’s the only user case they have. That’s starting to give us a different perspective on some of the core basics.

“Having a handful of people in their late 30s and 40s who have served their time in customer service doesn’t really pay off when we’re trying to understand the global position on what live chat and in-app support really means.”

It’s true that a fresh perspective can open up possibilities in any industry. Laura Haynes, Chairman at brand and design consultancy Appetite, comments: “The needs of businesses are changing, there are new markets, new channels and there’s a call for innovation. We are doing things today we didn’t even know existed five or 10 years ago, so new thinking is essential.

“Companies need to be more agile, they should be creative. While experience is still valuable, there is a requirement to bring diversity of thought into the way we work and approach things. That’s creating new business models and changing thoughts about business structure.”

Whichever way organisations look to engage and integrate the younger workforce, there is much to be learned from these future leaders that could benefit the entire workforce. “Some of the things millennials are demanding are actually things that all of us would like,” says Payal “It’s all about creating the millennial mindset.”

These comments were taken from a recent Criticaleye Global Conference Call, Millennials: Reshaping the Workplace, held in association with Accenture Strategy. 

By Dawn Murden, Editor, Advisory

Do you have a view on this subject? If you have an opinion you’d like to share, please email Dawn at: dawn@criticaleye.com

https://twitter.com/criticaleyeuk

The Millennial Mindset

It’s not all hashtags and selfies when it comes to the millennial generation. Beyond their comfort and ease with new technology, those born between 1980 and the early 2000s think differently about the world of work. This is something boards need to understand as these digital natives inevitably replace older employees and, in the not too distant future, become the leaders of tomorrow.

It’s predicted this demographic will make up approximately 40-50 per cent of the workforce by 2020. Jo Whitfield, Vice President of Operations, eCommerce and Strategy for George at Asda, says: “Businesses are adapting but at a slower rate than customers and millennials expect… You’ve got to change your mindset and understand the world that millennials have grown up in is actually the world we are trading in.”

Being born into an environment of rapidly evolving consumer electronics – from laptops and MP3 players, to tablets and smartphones – means new technology has become second nature. “We have individuals who have grown up with technological advancement at a pace never seen before, with information at their fingertips,” comments Kris Webb, Senior Vice President of Pharma Europe and Emerging Markets, Asia Pacific & Japan at GlaxoSmithKline.

Payal Vasudeva, Managing Director for Accenture Strategy and UK & Ireland Talent & Organisation Lead, says: “The way they integrate with technology is more seamless and they expect to use the same devices at work as they do in their social lives, with the majority using two or three devices a day.

“They want greater flexibility, with better work/life integration… They are also less inclined to work within hierarchies and would rather form networks and communities to actively collaborate and problem solve.”

This point is echoed by Susan Pointer, Senior Director for Public Policy & Government Relations across Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa & Russia at Google: “Millennials expect straight-talking openness; interesting, meaningful and impactful work and flexible work conditions – measured by quality of output, rather than by strictly managed hours of input. There is little time for unnecessary hierarchy and the expectation is that they will be empowered to contribute to the maximum of their ability regardless of level or title.”

Digital on the inside

Businesses have been busy creating a seamless multichannel experience externally for customers, but it’s time leaders turn their focus inside the organisation. Clodagh Murphy, Managing Director of technology services provider Eclipse Internet says senior executives need to “embrace technology and think: How can I use it to make our organisation a better place to work so that I can attract and retain the best talent?”

Payal agrees: “We need to challenge our thinking on the talent lifecycle in order to foster a culture of knowledge sharing, innovation and engagement, with processes and tools that truly enable this.”

This should start at recruitment and go right through to daily operations. “A number of companies use app-based recruitment which attracts those with a ‘millennial mindset’ by putting the experience in the palm of the candidate’s hand,” adds Payal. “Workplace content sharing is on the rise, catering to how employees engage with an organisation, consume information and problem solve… Gamification of learning on-the-go appeals to the consumer in all of us and is transforming how we develop skills and capabilities.”

Mike Tye, CEO at hospitality concern Spirit Pub Company, says: “Our online training is designed to deliver bite-sized, fun, interactive learning – using the principles of gamification. This is most suitable to younger generations… but hopefully older people are used to mobile devices [as well].

“We have a closed Facebook group with around 6,000 members, which is very much run by employees for recognition, questions and support. We have also recently given all staff access to the company intranet.”

It’s about empowering staff through technology. “Engagement will not be sufficient to deliver top-class results,” adds Mike. “For that to be the case there needs to be more: a true commitment from employees to the ambition of the organisation and a belief that they can make a difference.”

Susan from Google says: “Collaboration should be as wide as possible… consciously embracing the fact that the best ideas do not always emerge from the most obvious places – and that’s OK.”

Board’s eye view  

It’s imperative that the board take the issue of talent seriously in order to bring in the right mixture of skills. “One of the most important things that a company needs to drive future value is good talent,” says Iain Ferguson, Chairman of employment services company Optionis Group and information management firm EDM Group. “It is a very competitive market, and so it’s an important board level requirement to make sure that we’re competitive and attracting the best talent, no matter what age they are…

“I’m interested in who they are, what they bring to the company and how we can help them perform better.”

Susan comments: “Businesses should focus on attracting the best talent for their current and future needs, regardless of age. Build a great organisation and people will want to come – the best talent will always be attracted to exciting and impactful organisations.”

The point is that executive and non-executive directors must have a clear line of sight when it comes to the different needs and expectations of a diverse, multigenerational workforce. Payal says: “Boards needs to ensure they are building inclusive environments that all of their employees… thrive in by creating a more customised value proposition.”

Jo says: “A diverse workforce is important. We do business in a diverse world and you need to reflect the diversity of your customer base.

“Leaders need to understand… the differences that exist between generations, and use that to create value. It’s finding the knit between your current culture for all employees.”

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

https://twitter.com/criticaleyeUK

The Future of the Workplace

Comm update_10 September1

Ideas on what constitutes a fulfilling and productive working environment are shifting rapidly. They’re raising questions about mobility of talent and what it means to be an effective leader as the way in which knowledge is transferred, both within and outside an organisation, becomes more dynamic. Indeed, a perfect storm of new technology, globalisation and changing demographics is blowing away assumptions about how we work.

Lynda Gratton, Criticaleye Thought Leader and Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, suggests that the formal link between ‘work’ and ‘place’ is beginning to soften: “We are already seeing the rise of flexible and remote working arrangements as well as creative hubs where people use workspace as and when they need to.

“It seems to me that as working lives become more of a marathon than a sprint, we are going to see more emphasis on work that excites and inspires people and helps them to grow…These concepts are not just about employee well-being, they are… crucial to the competitive advantage of a company.”

It’s incumbent on leadership teams to get a grip on what is already underway. Stuart Steele, Partner for Human Capital Consulting at professional services firm EY, comments: “There is always competition for good talent and an inability to predict what the work environment will look like in three or four years’ time, I think, can put an organisation at a disadvantage.”

Let’s get digital

From the mills and factories of the industrial revolution to assembly-line car production at the turn of the 20th century, technology has reshaped working practices by reinventing notions of efficiency and productivity.

John Lewis, Chief Operating Officer for communication services provider Airwave Solutions, says: “Mobile working or process improvements are absolutely there for the taking. There are lots of different examples that I’ve seen, such as the creation of collaboration zones and the use of tools for collaborative working.”

How best to take full advantage of this flexibility is open to debate. Susanna Dinnage, EVP and MD for Discovery Networks UK & Ireland, explains: “A great deal of people working on their own, possibly at home, may benefit individuals in terms of family commitments and reduced time spent travelling… I understand that, we have busy lives… but what you lose is the alchemy of teams working together.”

John notes that organisations must be careful not to underestimate peoples’ appetite for interaction. “That can be the biggest challenge,” he comments. “How do you get over the fact that people just sometimes need to spend a bit of time gossiping or just having a reaction with others in their team to help process what’s going on?”

The hierarchy that traditionally existed in organisations is being broken down by the volume of information now available at employees’ fingertips. This is causing leaders to rethink how they engage with employees, encourage collaboration and make decisions.
Julian Birkinshaw, Criticaleye Thought Leader and Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School, says: “Think back to the traditional role of the leader. Back in the industrial era, he was responsible for squeezing as much value out of his resources – money, people – as possible.

“In the knowledge era, he or she has become used to being an expert… They were also the conduit of information, the person who accesses and then disseminates information across the organisation. But if this information is now widely available, and if there are experts at all levels, the leader of the future has to think about what their value-added role is.”

According to Julian, leadership in this context will entail a more interpersonal role, helping other people to make decisions and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the volume of data available: “Good leadership… [will] be action-oriented; that is, following through with people to ensure they deliver on their commitments. One of the risks of ubiquitous information is that it causes analysis paralysis – there is always an opportunity to collect more.”

Melting pot

A more age-diverse workforce will certainly throw up some new challenges. Susanna says: “I am observing a new generation that is very smart. I look at our interns – they are engaged, they have plans and they have expectations. They don’t come here to stuff envelopes.

“They are not afraid to ask for half an hour in your diary to understand how you got your job – that’s fantastic. I love this confidence they have… [as] they step forward and… are contributing.”

There is a sense that the expectations held by millennials in the workplace are, in some respects, higher than of generations gone by. Stuart explains: “There have always been career-focused individuals, with an appetite for rapid progression, however, looking at groups, if you’re 25, your aspirations for broad opportunity and rapid progression in an organisation are typically a lot greater than what a 50-year old person’s was when they were that age.

“Where an older employee may have taken 20 years to progress three-quarters of the way up the organisation, the 25-year old wants to get to that same position in five years or less. How do you balance that? How do you meet their aspirations of rapid progression while not disenfranchising this person, who has delivered good service for the last 20 or so years?”

These are the types of questions which senior leadership teams need to be thinking about and addressing. Stuart adds: “As organisations’ demands for skills and capability change over time, the intrinsic value of the employees with 20 or so years of experience – those with real depth and breadth – changes from a position where one could arguably describe them as a commodity, to a situation where they have become ‘key retains’ focused both on delivery and the development of our younger workforce.”

It calls for a closer awareness of how to bring the best out of a diverse mix of talent. Lynda comments: “It’s clear that encouraging different age groups to work productively and harmoniously with each other can be tough. Those who have made it work often put job design and collaboration at the centre.

“Those that design jobs in an inflexible, linear way have found that they cannot be responsive to a person’s life stage and aspirations…. Right now, companies are struggling with this inflexibility – for example, not knowing how to handle mid-career hires because their processes are all geared towards hiring graduates.”

A multigenerational workforce will require organisations to consider different career paths and job designs simultaneously, rather than opt for a cookie-cutter approach. Specialisation, limited contracts and partnerships are expected to become the norm.

Julian comments: “The workplace of the future I would like to see is one in which people are given a lot of freedom to pursue the work that interests them, with a lot more bottom-up accountability, and far fewer formal bureaucratic systems for co-ordinating our activities. This is the model we see in many start-up companies, but once they go above 100 people or so they often lose this vitality.”

The impact of what is happening in the workplace will be genuinely game-changing and that’s why it’s something boards must take the time to try and understand. Unless they’re thinking about what it means for an organisation’s future, they won’t be able to turn what’s occurring into a tangible competitive advantage.

I hope to see you soon.

Matthew

www.twitter.com/criticaleyeuk