Article (November-2016)


DIGITAL CULTURES - Magic of the Mind

Dr. Ganesh Shermon

Designation : -   Managing Partner

Organization : -  RiverForest Foundation, Canada


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Organizations substantially exist. So do cultures. And Leaders. They integrate to help influence cultures. As organizations grow so do cultures. Structures bind them together. Rewards drives behaviors. Yet growth in organization and development of a culture does not mean similarities or incongruent aspects of the culture. As organizations grows so do its people and more particularly so do its leaders. As time passes these leaders in turn begin to influence the organization culture. While it is possible that home grown leaders influence culture in a particular way so do direct mid-level hires who do their own influences. Effectively organizations, structures, behaviors, cultures and leaders co-exist. 

Any study would have to necessarily connected the way organizations, cultures and leaders connect and influence one another. Essentially that is the purpose of this study. And the focus is to identify cultures that exist, impact or is desirable in Digital Companies. To identify how does a leader influence culture in the context of specific types of organization and management models? The leader performs his/her role and while doing so is influencing and managing the culture. But is inevitably operating within a defined or a pre-determined organizational type - this could be a study focused on a knowledge company, an altruistic Voluntary School or a legendary institution that has passed through many tough times. But the assumption here continued to be new age institutions. Businesses that are now digital.

And in all of this the leader is performing to a situation and style that could vary from being an autocrat to a charismatic professional to that of a bureaucratic manager or simply a technocrat. To this we add the dimension of a culture that is either influencing the leader or is being influenced by the leader and that culture could vary from that of being operator like, engineering oriented. Or the human environment and all of it understood as we see cultural manifestation in what we observe, cognitively, intuitively, consciously or otherwise forms people and their behaviors.  Effectively the leader is now operating in a culture that is driven by the type of an organization and is acting in a particular leadership style as he/she has deemed it appropriate. We are seeing the possibility of an evolving culture in digital organization.

Arrival of Millennials - Millennials have gone from representing just over 10 per cent of its global sales force in 2005 to nearly a third now. Gen Y now makes up a third of new Canadian memberships. Amway has seen Gen Y shoot up 21 per cent in recruiting and 19 per cent in sales generated. The demographic trend is also reflected at cosmetics giant Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc., where just over 20 per cent of the 38,000-strong Canadian sales force is Gen Y, while half of the U.S. sales force is under 35. Significant changes have been noticed amongst the generational divide and tend to have real implications for how employers and employees work together in a global mobility context. For example, Baby boomers put a heavy focus on work as an anchor in their lives. Managing lives around work is central to the way they have lived. 

Baby boomers worked on the notion of learning based contribution, occurrence based delivery and task based performance. They demonstrated a high degree of consistency in performing high quality repetitive tasks that required concentration, focus and single mindedness to closure or achievement. Baby boomers who have reached leadership positions are likely to lead mature organizations in business or functional roles with very little difficulty. 

They possess an intrinsic capability to handle complex brick and mortar economy companies with ease.  Retaining this generation does not rest with the organization. The high degrees of self-motivation in this band of employees who have seen many economic down turns have a built in resilience to bounce back and manage their careers.

Diversity's Definition Has Changed, says Selena Rezvani in, "Five Trends Driving Workplace DiversityIn 2015" Forbes issue, "In addition to creating a workplace inclusive of race, gender, and sexual orientation (to name a few), many organizations are seeking value in something even simpler, diversity of thought. In some industries that are known for being insular - think law or high-tech companies - seeking out talent with different thinking and problem solving backgrounds in critical. Deloitte research underscores that diverse thinkers help guard against groupthink, a dynamic observed firsthand last year with a large corporate client. Partnering with the company just after they had experienced a major product failure, the CEO lamented that the failure resulted from too much blind agreement internally - something Deloitte's study calls "expert overconfidence." Future-thinking companies see the danger in this lack of diversity and often question their own hiring and retention practices-and even their everyday operating norms.

It's Less About Being a Good Corporate Citizen: The business case for diversity has never been more front and center than it is now…and why not? Basic economic theory suggests that consumers will correct for a company's lack of diversity by simply not spending money there-making slow-to-change organizations extinct. The same can be said of employees, who are constantly balancing the costs of working somewhere against the personal benefits they derive, including a match in values. Gains in employee engagement, effort and retention alone make for a compelling diversity proposition. Add to that customers who evangelize your diversity philosophy and products-and feel you have insight into who they actually are, and the diversity ROI is hard to ignore.  

Myths about Millennials - There is considerable evidence to start indicating the multiple types of perceptions on Millennials. From smart, innovative, entrepreneurial, freedom loving, getting things done generation to lazy, selfish, whimsical, convenient values and so on. "Our survey asked U.S. Millennials and non-Millennials which words best describe the Millennial generation. While Millennials' perceptions of themselves are generally favorable, non-Millennials tend to view them far less kindly, often referring to them as "spoiled," "lazy," or "entitled." 

These perceptions may be coloring how executives view the Millennial consumer, preventing companies from understanding and fully addressing the product and service needs of this generation-and establishing strong brand relationships. We found a generation engaged in consuming and influencing, one that embraces business and government and believes that such institutions can bring about global change, one that is generally optimistic, and one that has often-unexpected attitudes and behaviors". In, a BCG Research Report of 2012, "The Millennial Consumer Debunking Stereotypes" authors Christine Barton (BCG), Jeff Fromm (Share Like Buy), Chris Egan (Service Management Group), continue, "Those companies that truly "get" the Millennials and engage with them appropriately have an opportunity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and forge long-term relationships with their customers. Our research did confirm one stereotype: U.S. Millennials are extremely comfortable with technology". In fact, there is a school of thought from psychologists on a Freudian relook at the development of personalities in the context of this digital age. 

If an entire generation is growing up in the social world how have their personalities evolved in comparison to baby boomers and gen X where on line virtual reality world, simply did not exist. "They are "digital natives," meaning that they've largely grown up with technology and social media, using these new tools as a natural, integral part of life and work. 

Millennials consider themselves fast adopters of new technologies and applications, and they are far more likely than non-Millennials to be the very first or among the first to try a new technology. They also tend to own multiple devices such as smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems. More U.S. Millennials than non-Millennials reported using MP3 players (72 percent versus 44 percent), gaming platforms (67 percent versus 41 percent), and smartphones (59 percent versus 33 percent), while more non-Millennials reported using desktop computers at home (80 percent versus 63 percent) and basic cell phones (66 percent versus 46 percent). As a result, U.S. Millennials are much more likely to multitask while online, constantly moving across platforms-mobile, social, PC, and gaming. Both groups spend roughly the same amount of time online, but Millennials are more likely to use the Internet as a platform", Facebook as a communication tool, Pinterest as self-help tool, Twitter as a 140 Character point of view, or Instagram as reflection of our projection, "to broadcast their thoughts and experiences and to contribute user-generated content. They are far more engaged in activities such as rating products and services (60 percent versus 46 percent of non-Millennials) and uploading videos, images, and blog entries to the Web (60 percent versus 29 percent). It's no surprise that U.S. Millennials spend less time reading printed books and watching TV. Only 26 percent watch TV for 20 hours or more per week (compared with 49 percent of non-Millennials), and when they do watch, they're more likely to do so on their computers through services such as Hulu (42 percent versus 18 percent)."

Millennials Move On - Welcome Founders - All Hail 'The Founders' in at long last, a name for the generation after Millennials in "The Atlantic" - David Sims, Dec 2, 2015, "With civilization in flames and popular culture disrupted beyond recognition, the world is looking to a new generation to rebuild it. Enter "The Founders." According to a new nationwide survey conducted by MTV, the children of the new millennium will rescue the world from the sins of the past, and befitting this worthy mission, they get maybe the most self-important name imaginable. Yes, the spirit of MTV's new project is well-meaning and intended to capture the diversity of the country's youngsters. But the report goes a step further to paint a bleak picture of the present, and saddles the next generation with the task of "founding the new world." No pressure, kids. Most Millennials Reject the Term 'Millennial'. The name "The Founders" comes from the kids themselves, according to MTV's survey of more than 1,000 respondents born after the year 2000. America is still reckoning with Millennials (loosely classified as those born from the mid-1980s to the late-'90s) one think piece at a time, but according to this survey, their fate is already sealed. 

As the children of indulgent baby boomers, Millennials are classified as "dreamers" who live to disrupt and challenge established norms. The Founders, by contrast, are "pragmatists" who will navigate a tougher world defined by 9/11, the financial crisis, and gender fluidity. Previous generations had to worry about getting into college and finding a job, but the next one is tasked with cleaning up their mess. One thing "The Founders" have in common with other generations? They're reacting to those who came before. 

The terms "Baby Boomer," "Generation X-er," and "Millennial" have all become pejoratives, though the MTV survey's description of the latter is particularly rough. Millennials' celebrity icon? Miley Cyrus, who "pushed back against Disney's model" of fame. Their defining movie? High School Musical, which "disrupted the model of cliques" (a phenomenon previously unseen on screen, apparently). What's more, Millennials are defined by the video game The Sims, building houses "within the templates" of society. The Founders, meanwhile, live in the world of Minecraft, where regular laws of physics don't apply and all the building has to be done by hand. The implication being that they're going to make a different society, cube by pixilated cube. Their pop-culture heroes are YouTube stars and Vine comedians, ordinary folk finding fame in the democratic moray of the world wide web".

Generational Conflict - Lorrie Lykins, in AMA 2013 is making a business case for Millennials. in OMG: "The Time to Invest in Millennials Is Now, the author says, Generational conflict-friction between two generations in the workplace-is a well-worn story. Even in the current era of three or even four generations in the workplace, making the dynamic more complicated, it's nothing new. And if the past informs the future, we know that after some jostling and adjusting, the new kids figure out who's in charge (that would be the older folks), settle in, and everyone gets back to work. So the Millennial generation (those born between 1977 and 1997) should be no exception, right? 

Not so much. Millennials, who will account for 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020, require more than their predecessors did in terms of investment in development on the part of their employers. Why perpetuate this annoying idea that Millennials are somehow exceptional and require special consideration and treatment? Because it's true. The argument that Millennials and the generation following them should be integrated into the workforce like all generations before them is illogical-if we take emotion out of it, this becomes clear. While some may be immovable in their disagreement with the notion that the Millennial generation is unique, there's no argument that their circumstances indeed are. The dominant factor setting Millennials apart, of course, is technology and their relationship with it. Sure, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) encountered new technologies in the smoke-filled workplace of the 1980s. It came in the forms of the IBM Selectric III, word processors, and dot matrix printers. Technology didn't dominate our lives. Stress was also a factor, but not relentlessly so".

Depleting Skills & Competencies - Competition for skills and talent is increasing. More importantly, this competition for skills is expected to intensify and become even more competitive when the Baby Boomers begin to retire (2012). Another issue is a mismatch between the skills and education young people are acquiring in their postsecondary educations and what's needed in the work force. The search for talent has become increasingly competitive over the past several years. Talent plays a significant role in leading organizations. A talent mindset is the deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you out perform your competitors. It is gained by identifying talent who fit in effectively with an organizational knowledge needs built around a capability profile that sustains its competitiveness and is definitely not driven by hiring a critical mass to meet with a quarter to quarter wall street analysts thirst for valuation information.

Generation Millennial Determining Digital Revolution - "Millennials have grown up in the digital age. They show greater familiarity than previous generations with communication, media, and digital technologies. Because they are more "wired," this gives Millennials a competitive advantage and makes them an asset when it comes to working with new technologies. Tolbzie (2008), however, also points out that, "they are also sometimes called the "Trophy Generation" or "Trophy Kids" based on the emerging trend in sports and competition to reward everyone for participation, rather than for winning" (p.12). Because of this experience they have been said to reject in-house competition and politics. 

Furthermore, because many watched their parents be adversely affected by the dot-com bubble burst and high rates of divorce and layoffs, millennials are thought to be skeptical of long-term commitments, and are said to desire greater flexibility in their career. In A Multi-Generational Workforce: Managing and Understanding Millennials, researchers, Belal A. Kaifi, Wageeh A. Nafei, Nile M. Khanfar & Maryam M. Kaifi (International Journal of Business and Management - 2012) further say, "One research study described millennials as "opinionated" and they "[expect] to be heard" (Hartman & McCambridge, 2011). So if these are their traits as individuals, what are their traits as leaders? 

A study conducted by Gibson, Green, and Murphy (2010) identified the differences in management values between the generations, showed that the top five values for managers of Gen Y were: family security, health, freedom, self-respect, and true friendship. This study also concluded that the management styles and values of the generations were more alike than different. 

A study by Hartman and McCambridge (2011) revealed that academic and business researchers concluded that the development and use of effective communication strategies is a critical skill set for all managers. These skills have been directly linked to both individual effectiveness (e.g., opportunities for promotion, special assignments, team effectiveness) and to organizational effectiveness and bottom line performance. Their study focused on university students of the millennial generation, which showed that although Millennials have been characterized as being technologically sophisticated and capable of multitasking, they are deficient in oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills. Thus, it becomes imperative to understand more about this generation who will be leading organizations of the future".  

The Age of the Intellect - Easy to Deal, Speed, Flexibility, Courage, Character, Perpetuity, Freedom, Savvy, Multi-Tasking, Work Ethic, Know-How, Intellectual Arrogance, Socially Conscious, Change Friendly, Individual & Team, I & We, Tech Dependent are some words you would associate with these Millennials. 

Freedom loving smart talent. Because of their deep know how with technology, they believe they can work flexibly anytime, anyplace, and that they should be evaluated on work product, not on how, when, or where they got it done.  The real revolution is a decrease in career ambition in favor of more family time, less travel and less personal pressure.  However, this group consists of a large mass that may appear to lack consistency in their outlook towards work life. We are still trying to see patterns amongst millennials. 

While their expectations from employer's match with generic trends their work ethic to support such an expectation falls way behind. For example, this generation would sail through college without studying for a single day, or would not think twice if there is a commercial opportunity which could mean a speed of response that may include many sacrifices. 

They have perhaps a distaste for what they perceive as menial work given their love for technology. They may just avoid "difficult people" instead of engaging with them constructively. But as we have seen, these are more myths than reality. Members of this generation are described as preferring collective action, working in teams, wanting work that really matters to them, and being civic-minded, eco-aware, confident, conventional, optimistic, and socially conscious. And they don't come with the baggage of the past, arrogance of their positions, or their extended identity through qualifications, wealth and connections of the traditionalists or the baby boomers. 

"Flexible work arrangements and the opportunity to give back to society trump the sheer size of the pay package, and Millennials truly have some unique factors. For example-
Portrait of Gen Y - To satisfy your Gen Y employees as they become a large proportion of the labor pool, you'll need to address what makes them tick. Here are five facets of their inner workings.

Ambition - 84% profess to be very ambitious - These are go-getters: About as many Gen Ys who call themselves very ambitious say they are willing to go the extra mile for their company's success.

Loyalty vs. Quest - 45% expect to work for their current employer for their entire career - Gen Y employees fully hope to remain faithful to a workplace, but the clear majority say they also want work to bring a range of new experiences and challenges. They may be more susceptible to wanderlust than they realize.

Multicultural Ease - 78% are comfortable working with people from different ethnicities and cultures - Gen Ys are clearly at ease with diversity, whereas only 27% of Boomers have such a comfort level. Even when it comes to networking, Gen Ys excel at diversity: More than a quarter network primarily with people of a different ethnicity.

Healing the Planet - 86% say it's important that their work make a positive impact on the world,Gen Y workers want an employer who shares their eco-awareness and social consciousness, even down to the details of office energy use. Nearly one quarter say it's very important to work in a green, environmentally conscious workplace, Networking by Nature, 48% say having a network of friends at work is very important,working in teams is a top motivator for Gen Y employees. They love to connect with others and enjoy working in offices that are open and conducive to socializing. They want people, even bosses, to be readily accessible." writes, "In, How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda, Hewlett, S. A., Sherbin, L., & Sumberg, K, 2009". 

Social impact initiatives are also helping create talent beacons in the market as employees become more socially conscious. "Sound HR and business strategies should consider the expectations of talent and consumer pools as a whole, and with a particular focus on Millennials. There has been a convergence between "social impact" and "innovation," largely driven by Millennials, who account for $1 trillion of current US consumer spending. 

As widely reported, Millennials' decision-making processes are often influenced by a desire to have a larger purpose in life. This has made corporate social responsibility (CSR) an imperative and not an option in", 2016 Deloitte study of the Social Impact Practices", authors Marcus Shingles, Bill Briggs, & Jerry O'Dwyerwrite. They further add, Millennials respond with increased trust and loyalty, and are more likelyto buy those companies' products.8 Even more pointedly, in a recent survey of Millennials, more than 50 percent of 13- to 25-year-old respondents said they would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation”.

On balance this generation seeks more from minimal/but well thought through effort given their knowledge of technological processes, social collaboration, playing with Xbox, Pokémon, UTube, Jabber, Chatter, Slack, Yammer, Facebook @ Work, Jive, Confluence, HipChat, Podio, posting pictures on Instagram or exploring music through Spotify, wide networks, device friendly, but find it difficult to work hard (prefer to work smart) but seek advanced knowledge or work based skills to advance their careers or employability. 

Maximization of returns based on their current usage of knowledge is their competitive spirit for the present. And employees with these traits present a management challenge. Retention of this segment is a tough one. And it does not start with retention. It starts with attracting only the right kind to hire for leadership roles and the masses for short term contribution. Planning to retain large masses of Millennial without a planned process to develop their capabilities would lead to substantive grief. "Gen Ys are usually the offspring of Boomers-and a famously doted-upon set of children. 

Perhaps that's why these two generations seek each other out in the workplace. Boomers delight in taking Ys under their wing: 65% say that members of the younger cohort look to them for advice and guidance. Generation Y's motto, meanwhile, seems to be "Trust those over 50." Most Ys (58%) say they look to Boomers, rather than Xers, for professional advice, and over three-quarters say they enjoy working with Boomers. The fact that 42% of Ys go to Boomers for mentoring is also remarkable, given the layers that typically separate them in a corporate hierarchy", concludes Hewlett, Sylvia Ann.