Jeff Fromm: Zappos Embraces Holacracy as Millennials Shape the Future of Work
A founder and president of a millennial marketing research and consulting firm explains why a new brand of self-management, as pioneered by Zappos, is well-suited for the millennial generation
As powerful consumers, marketers have had their eye on the millennial generation for some time now. These young adults born between 1977 and 2000 have revolutionized the consumer economy and created the most connected and innovative culture in history. However, while marketers were spending their time trying to understand these young adults from a consumer perspective, millennials were busy growing up, graduating college and entering what we like to call “the real world.”
Today, millennials represent a strong majority of the workforce and by 2020 they will make up 50 percent of the total adult working population in the United States. Unfortunately, millennials are a generation that is still largely affected by unemployment. More than 15 percent of millennials are currently unemployed and just one third has obtained a bachelor’s degree. A large reason for this high percentage of unemployment is largely due to the fact that millennials are having a hard time finding jobs that align with their values and future goals.
Unlike previous generations, millennials are not willing to get a job simply for the reason of “having a job.” As a highly aspirational generation, these young adults feel very strongly about the places they work and don’t want to be just another cog in the machine. Millennials want work environments that align with their collaborative nature and propensity to voice their opinions.
In an effort to adapt to a new workplace structure that is more millennial focused, many brands are turning toward the concept of Holacracy. However, Zappos is the leader when it comes to the implementation of a self-governed work environment.
What is Holacracy?
By definition, Holacracy is “a comprehensive practice for structuring, governing and running an organization that replaces today’s top-down predict-and-control paradigm with a new way of achieving control by distributing power.” English, please? According to Alicia Snyder, Holacracy Training and Coaching Enthusiast at Zappos, Holacracy is a stepping stone to self-management.
Zappos replaced the traditional hierarchical work structure with Holacracy last year and has received mixed reviews regarding this significant mindset and workplace shift. However, among the millennial workforce, this change is garnering extremely positive results. Why are millennials in favor of this new workplace structure? The answer is simply because within a Holacratic structure, there is more opportunity for employees at every level to share their voice.
“Millennials have a desire for a less pressured work environment,” said Jeff Corbin, Founder of theEMPLOYEEapp, a new mobile approach to improving office communications. “They want more frequent and more open communications and desire opportunities for their voices to be heard.”
According to Intelligence Group, 88 percent of millennials prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one. “Our collaborative environment puts the ownership of the company on all employees equally,” said Snyder. “Think about our sales teams, these are the people on the front lines. Why not hear what they have to say and put more of the decision-making in their hands?”
This type of opportunity and ownership of their work is something that millennials actively seek out in the workplace.
How to Implement Holacracy Into Your Internal Structure
1. It’s not about how you manage the people, it’s about how you manage the work
One of the primary focuses for employees in a Holacratic system is determining where they can add the most value. This changes the focus from an output of time spent to an output of quality of work.
“If we’re focusing on the work from a ‘management’ perspective, the question becomes what skills each individual employee has to move the company forward,” said Synder. “More often than not, our employees realize they have more to contribute than they thought they did and even for an entirely different team than the one they are on.”
2. Trust the system
While Holacracy has the potential to guide the future of the workplace, there are still many pain points among employees who have equity in old schemas. With Holacracy comes an entirely new perspective of the status quo in the office; titles are removed, offices are deconstructed and the layers of management are reimagined. However, this evolution allows brands to act in a more reactionary way for the greater good of the company.
Jeff Corbin has seen similar trends take shape by companies adopting the EmployeeApp. “Millennials are a generation that wants their cakes and to eat it too,” said Corbin. “They want to see physical growth but value a more horizontal office landscape where they can connect openly with their superiors.” Putting more trust into a system of Holacracy is essentially putting more trust in the people that you work with every day.
Ultimately, Holacracy is another example of how the millennial Democratization of Fairness is at play. Like Uber, Venmo and Airbnb, millennials are fueling a participation economy that emphasizes access over ownership and inclusivity over exclusivity and hierarchy. Holacracy aligns perfectly with this mindset by giving millennials the opportunity to have access to a wider range of the business ecosystem rather than being tied down by a specific job description in a hierarchical structure that may limit their participation.
Jeff Fromm is founder and president of FutureCast, a millennial marketing research and consulting firm. Leah Swartz, Content Specialist at FutureCast, contributed to this article.
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