There is a changing of the guard that is taking place in businesses around the globe. I’m not talking about CEO succession planning, nor voting in a new board. It is happening in the rank and file of organizations and it is fundamentally changing how they operate internally. A glaring disconnect has developed and it is challenging how we understand all of these changes.
Regardless of how Millennials are viewed – creative or entitled – they are causing a ruckus and it’s not going to go away. There are more people in the Millennial generation than were in the Baby Boomers. As the Boomers retire, and the older Millennials get into positions of authority, this difference will become more pronounced (Millennials entered the workforce 10 years ago).
The global vox that is screaming “Think globally, act locally” is gaining momentum. It is forcing businesses to re-invent and re-position themselves in how they add value to their customers. There is a demand to be socially involved and responsible, treat people with dignity and respect – internally & externally – and continue to be a fiscally sound organization that is profitable.
This significant shift in dynamics flies in the face of what has been developed over the past 30-40 years in business. So much time has been spent picking apart how the organization functions and developing metrics to manage it, that this shift threatens it on some level. The anxiety around it is understandable.
Don’t misunderstand me; metrics are vital. The quality and premise of our relationship with metrics is what has become toxic.
We want to improve performance, so we create a metric to “govern” or “encourage” the performance we want. We experience a problem, so we create a metric designed to ideally help prevent or punish whatever we believe causes that problem. I could go on discussing scenarios, but I think you get the picture. At the end of all of this, we compile a library of measures whose long-term relevance becomes quite arbitrary in nature.
The unfortunate result in this is how it ultimately affects the overall performance within your organization, the limitations it places on employee engagement and the counter-productive affect it has on your organizational culture. Metrics have an interesting way of absorbing energy. They are designed to be prescriptive – occasionally proscriptive – and it takes a certain amount of energy to satisfy their demands.
Many of these metrics find themselves woven into performance reviews, promotion requirements and other areas of an individual’s work life. The unintended result? A significant amount of energy is expended for the sole purpose of surviving in the organization. This isn’t innovation. This isn’t adding value. This is mere survival…keeping your job. How can that relational dynamic create success for a group of people who see the world through different eyes? When significant amounts of energy is spent on satisfying arbitrary measures as a means for survival within an organization, the amount of energy available to succeed is diminished.
Our relationship with metrics must change to be more of a learning process, than a punitive one. Perhaps instead of placing 100% of the responsibility for performance on the individual, the organization can share in that responsibility. Collaborative responsibility. Collaborative performance. Collaborative success.
What if the metrics used included how well the organization created an environment that facilitated better performance and success. What if what created success in one instance wasn’t made to be a rigid standard for every instance, even if it wasn’t entirely comparable. What if the proliferation of company culture and values were measured as a part of achieving a desired result. What if the positive influence one’s actions had on engagement were part of the metrics used as a means to enjoy success as an organization.
By sheer numbers, the influence of Millennials will not be denied and cannot be ignored. Business is never static and the 21st century business is faced with embracing a crucial step in its development. The momentum has started and the only real choice is to embrace the process of evolving, adapting and becoming what business can be. Holding tightly to what it once was, will only serve to delay the inevitable and make this evolution ugly and much more painful than it needs to be.