Managing Millennials: Looking at Transparency in a Networked Structure
One of the values Millennials see in a networked organization structure is transparency. A network calls for a fluid exchange of information shared across the organization, whereas in a tiered hierarchy, it’s pretty clear that all the information lies at the top and is trickled down as necessary to the other rungs of the ladder. In a network, information is accessible to anyone who takes the initiative to figure it out.
When you’re assessing how to position your organizational structure, be it radically different from the traditional hierarchy or just a few tweaks here and there, one concept Millennials will be looking for is this idea of transparency. It is something you should aim to offer them, in ways big or small. Whether you do so by sending leadership meeting minutes to the entire company or communicating the big picture and organization-wide goals during one-on-ones with employees, you should try to weave a level of transparency into everything you do.
Millennials aren’t the only ones who benefit from understanding the why. So why is transparency so darn important to the Millennial generation? What, exactly, does it mean to them? Here are some answers:
- Transparency means embracing a more democratic model of work. He who holds the information holds the power, or so runs the conventional wisdom. Millennials grew up with Boomer parents who abandoned the dictatorial household of their childhood for a more democratic one, where every decision in the family was a group decision. Few conversations were off-limits.
Additionally, the rise of the Internet gave Millennials access to information and power to influence more than ever before. A Millennial’s world was and is a level playing field where it doesn’t matter if you’re the 53-year-old CEO or a 13-year-old teenager; you have something to say because you have access to the same information.
- Transparency means interconnectedness and seeing your part in the bigger picture. Millennials are the generation infamous for asking one key question: “Why?” With earlier generations, if a boss told an employee to jump, the reply would always be, “How high?” But Millennials are flipping the switch, and instead of doing as they’re told, they’re asking, “Why?”
This is not because they’re trying to be rude or impertinent (even though that’s certainly how it can come across), but because one of the key things Millennials and the next generation yearn for is to be connected to the bigger picture. They want to understand how their contributions impact not just their boss or their direct teammates, but the organization as a whole. The act of being transparent, of taking the time to explain the why, is an easy, straightforward way to motivate a generation that thirsts for connection and impact.
- Transparency means open communication and increased feedback opportunities. Another by-product of a transparent model, from a Millennial’s perspective, is that feedback can happen on a more regular basis. Instead of restricting feedback to the typical six-month or yearly review, there can be an open exchange of feedback — good or bad — that doesn’t need to be neatly fit into a regularly scheduled performance review.
Nothing feels worse — for any generation, really — than to have a flaw or weakness pointed out months after you made the initial mistake. Millennials want real-time, immediate feedback as much as possible. This doesn’t mean you need to be ready to comment on their every move at any given moment, but it does mean that as you examine your organizational structure, you should consider how embracing a transparent structure might naturally set up a more steady feedback system. You might consider implementing a weekly one-on-one with your employee or even a 5–10 minute daily check-in.
- Transparency establishes a framework for more authentic interactions and builds trust. Millennials grew up with parents blurring the line of the authority figure along with social media that provided a venue for making the private very public. Sharing what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, even what food you’re eating, is a part of everyday life. Why would you try to hide who you are at work, when a simple Google search will reveal a great deal about who you are (on Facebook, anyway)?
To cling to the old model of the suit-wearing professional is to cling to the past. Just as honorifics like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” have melted away from popular use, in Millennials’ minds, adherence to the “professional” is outmoded and outdated. Transparency means you can be your authentic self, communicate your ideas, and show that you aren’t obscuring any information or have alternate plans or ideas.