When it comes to organizational change/innovation, there is two ways to handle it: top-down or bottom-up.
Top-down management style is autocratic hierarchical, that is based on the notion that the “workers” need to be very closely supervised by those in “management”. This hierarchy is naturally committed to retaining the status quo between the roles of those called “bosses” from those labeled the “workers”.
Top-down management style inherently assumes that “workers” are lazy, have no opinon and are only there for a monthly pay check, which is not the case with Millennials.
As I wrote in my previous article, Millennials are driven by purpose, contribution and control of their own work. New generation is change initiator. We don’t want to work in a company, where we are told what to do without understanding why. Millennials want bottom-up company culture, where they can be innovative and question, make suggestions and push boundaries.
Last week, Daria Taylor, a co-founder of Talented Heads and I discussed this ‘bottom-up approach’ over the coffee. Apparently, all the successful tech giants like Google and Facebook, are practicing this approach. Regardless the fact Mark Zuckerberg is heavily involved in day to day work at Facebook, he doesn’t want to be the one telling others what to do.
At Facebook new employees have a control over their destiny from Day One. This is empowering, a little nerve-wrecking, but extremely exciting.
Facebook hire people who can think non-linearly and in unconventional ways. They want change agents and people who can motivate other employees to participate in the change initiative, so that Facebook as an employer takes the role of nourishing them from time to time while at the same time preferring organic growth (bottom-up) rather than transplanted growth (top-down). That’s why Facebook keeps the best talent.
For quite some time now, it has been known that companies need to innovate constantly if they are to stay ahead of the pack in terms of competitiveness. Needless to say that unless companies innovate they cannot move up the value chain and unless they move up the value chain, they cannot remain competitive. So, to make changes to the organizational processes and its strategy, companies need to innovate constantly.
Of course, change can be driven solely from the top, but in that case the change is one-off and not constant. For continued success, change has to come from within each employee and this can only happen in organizations that have an organizational culture that encourages each employee to contribute to the initiatives.
Top-down approach has worked for centuries, but in today’s fast changing work environment, it doesn’t work. If you treat your people like tools/subordinates, you will get culture replete with apathy, disengagement and subordination and you as an employer become control freaky babysitter, wanting to micro manage everything. With this approach you refuse to treat people like self-sufficient adults and miss the chance to grow.
In order for your company to excel, people need to be energized for change. Companies should get people from each unit involved in the change and then communicate that change. If you involve people and they feel they have an investment in the change, they will perform better.
For a change initiative to be successful the top management has to communicate and the employees have to respond. Responsive employees lead to anther issue: HR need to look out for entrepreneurial minded people, who think outside of their roles and see the bigger picture, not office monkeys.
What does bottom-up culture mean in practice:
Know what your consumers think of you
Consumers are more intelligent than ever before. They can offer great insight and inspiration for brands.
This ‘bottom-up’ approach is based on carefully listening to consumers to create more responsive marketing messages rather than pushing messages at them. This goes beyond just listening for sentiment or even feedback, but to what consumers are doing and how they’re interacting.
Marketers need to stop being afraid of what the consumer has to say. It’s not all complaints and negative feedback. If we take a step back and really listen, instead of just pushing messages we discover a new, more relatable marketing strategy.
Talk to your employees regularly, ask for feedback, give-up control
We must break the divide between employees and senior leadership once and for all. We must deconstruct two solitudes into one. It’s not employees versus management. It’s not hierarchy washed away by anarchy or heterarchy. It’s people working with people.
Free and safe environment to discuss wrong ideas: innovate
Good ideas happen in free environments. Do you ever “freely reveal” new ideas or technologies, so that your employees, partners, customers, and maybe even your competitors can build them out and add value more quickly, for the benefit of everyone in your ecosystem?
Friendly and open corporate culture
Is the “culture” at your company tangible? Do employees, customers, and other stakeholders share a common idea for what your company’s real mission is? And is this culture owned by management, or by the employees themselves?
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