Build Value by Understanding Others' Values

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted Monday, July 22, 2013 00:01 AM

By Samuel Greengard

It's no secret that our attitudes and values are largely shaped by the era in which we grow up. Those born during the Great Depression—sometimes referred to as the Silent Generation—nurtured the idea of career employment. Typically, companies turned to layoffs only as a last resort.

Over the last three decades, that business model has vanished. Baby Boomers and Gen X have refashioned companies to reflect changing economics, technology and values. Layoffs are the norm and switching jobs on a regular is basis is accepted, if not acceptable.

And now there are Millennials, who take an entirely different tact. Author and blogger Annie Murphy Hall notes that high achievers from this group change employers on an average of 28 months. Moreover, three-quarters of them confess to sending out resumes or contacting search firms at least once a year, according to the Harvard Business Review. A whopping 95 percent indicated that they regularly watch for openings at potential employers.

CIOs should take heed and pay close attention to the changing dynamics of today's workplace. Young bright workers require interesting, stimulating and empowering work. According to a growing body of research, they also seek mentoring and personal attention.

Within IT, this means designing cool projects that leap beyond conventional linear thinking and combine mobile app development, geotagging, cloud initiatives, next-gen social media tools and data science projects that land at the intersection of analytics, mathematics, sociology, psychology and blue sky innovation. In other words, it's a bold journey into an IT universe that nobody has previously dared to go.

Managing Millennials—often viewed as a generation of somewhat needy and narcissistic smartphone addicts—is a formidable challenge, particularly for older managers who are stuck in a power and control mentality and can't relate to their younger counterpart's values, or the constant e-drip in their lives. But suffice it to say that these individuals—aided by social media and other technology—have grabbed the steering wheel.

Traditional hierarchies are crumpling and who and what is valuable in organizations is undergoing a profound redefinition. CIOs best embrace this new reality and accept the fact that it isn't going away. As Stanford University lecturer and former Apple executive Nilofer Merchant writes in a Harvard Business Review blog post: "Thriving in the Social Era requires different skills: collaborating rather than commanding, framing and guiding rather than telling, and sharing power rather than hoarding it."