Every organisation exists in a constant state of transformation: adapting structures, implementing new departments, undergoing personnel changes. But the digital revolution has pushed these dynamics and the implications of change to a whole new level.
One important driver of this new organisational transformation is the generation born after 1980. These so-called “digital natives“ will bring revolutionary forms of communication and change the way information is handled at work. An organisation 2.0 has to take their new demands into account – a huge challenge for already established organisational structures. In the classic organisation 1.0 everything – applications, qualifications, production and evaluation – was structured in a clear and process-oriented way.
In the working environment of the future, this control will increasingly be replaced by new values like flexibility and mobility. The creativity of employees will become a central economic factor, confronting human resource management with unprecedented challenges.
An acid test: Facebook
Even the handling of social networks like Facebook has turned out to be an acid test for many internal structures. Parallel to the established communication network of enterprises, Facebook provides a closed, self-contained, world: independent teams are cooperating virtually on specific projects. But simultaneously, every employee can extend the circle of his virtual team at any time by consulting his personal network to ask for opinions or to begin a subject-specific exchange.
In this way, young employees are adopting a new form of work and communication, which becomes an applied and expected standard for them no matter where they are situated in an organisation.
This phenomenon of the new generation was verified by the Accenture study “Millennials vor den Toren” (Millennials at the gates), which was based on a Germany-wide online poll among 570 people at age 14 to 32. Two thirds of the participants stated that in their jobs they expect to communicate via social networks like Facebook, instead of utilising “classic” email. For them, social networks not only provide a faster means of communication, but also a more interactive one, thus seeming clearly superior to the mono-directional approach of email.
We speak of a “Clash of Cultures“ that is taking place: “Millennials are expecting a work environment characterised by mobility and flexibility. They prefer to work with the applications and devices of their choice,” the Accenture study concludes.
Management under pressure
In this decade alone, more than 50 million digital natives will begin their careers – thereby impacting workflows and infrastructures. The integration of digital social networks into enterprises and working environments – whether deliberately planned, or by the habitual use of Facebook, Xing and others – often presents a challenge for managers.
For those hierarchical structures, the following problem occurs: virtual networking via social communities enables a kind of solution-oriented teamwork that ignores or even busts departmental and hierarchical borders. Executives may be excluded from some project phases, which defies the usual formal processes.
Sociologist Richard Sennett got to the heart of this revolution in “Management and Organisation 2.0.” For him, the employee of the future will not necessarily be valued for the skills he developed over a long period of time, but rather, his potential abilities. As far as top executives are concerned, Sennet’s conclusions seem to be even more threatening: in tomorrow’s organisational culture, past merits won’t have the same relevance as they do today – people will have to learn to let go of the past, as their place in the organisation will no longer be guaranteed.
The organisation 2.0 encompasses all parts of a corporation’s structure, especially knowledge management and project management, but also internal and external communication. Here, the value system of digital natives comes into play again: young employees expect a culture of networking and fast response. Thus, hierarchical feedback and frequent evaluations will play a much bigger role in a company’s organisation and its workflows. In line with agile process management, employees will constantly want to know how successfully and efficiently they satisfy the expectations placed on them. To meet these goals, a new culture of appreciation will be necessary
By Ansgar Mayer, September 2012
- The Future of Management, Gary Hamel, 2007
- Wissenstransfer mit Wikis und Weblogs: Fallstudien zum erfolgreichen Einsatz von Web 2.0 in Unternehmen, Alexander Stocker / Klaus Tochtermann, 2010
- Millennials vor den Toren: Anspruch der Internet-Generation an die IT, Accenture (ed.), 2009
- The Culture of the New Capitalism, Richard Sennett, 2007