2016 Trends Impacting Leadership Right Now

Building Leaders

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The changing of the guard is accelerating. As thousands of boomers retire each day, Gen X is storming the corner office, and millennials are shaking up middle management. If that wasn’t change enough, the first wave of Gen Z graduated college this past spring and is now entering the workforce. At the same time, the continued acceptance and acclimation of technology, especially social media, has put incredible power in the hands of individuals. Midway through 2016, the trends we are seeing organizations embrace are largely in response to all of this generational and cultural upheaval.

Engagement takes precedence. 

Clocking in just to endure the daily grind is no longer tolerable to any generation. Satisfied, productive employees feel autonomous, challenged and, most of all, engaged. From an inspiring (and clearly communicated) company vision to a more relaxed dress code, culture has become a deciding factor in winning and retaining talent. In fact, Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends reports that 85% of organizations cite culture and engagement as a top priority in 2016.

Development inspires loyalty.

Employees associate training with advancement. The idea that their company is willing to invest time and resources into their growth increases loyalty and retention. Again, engagement is key. Millennials in particular expect training that caters to their preferred methods of learning and their preferred mobile device. These methods include blended learning, which combines online and traditional face-to-face approaches. The good news is that a training app can be far less expensive than sending employees to a pricey seminar.

Onboarding must evolve.

Was traditional onboarding ever a success? It’s nearly impossible to glean the subtleties of a company’s culture or the intricacies of its processes from a package of reading materials and a slide presentation. The trend in onboarding today is, again, more engagement. That means unavoidable tasks like filling out payroll documents should be as streamlined as possible to make time for more important things, such as over-lunch introductions. Onboarding is also becoming more protracted to include growth plans, check-ins, and milestone celebrations.

Leadership becomes democratized. 

In the midst of so much change, leadership involves more complex and adaptive thinking and requires multiple areas of expertise. Rather than relying on the skills and innovation of a single individual, leadership is becoming more of a collaborative process involving networks of people—a concept that appeals to millennials in particular. This shared or collective leadership supports rapid change by helping groups share knowledge and respond and act quickly.

Peers are managing peers.

As leadership becomes collaborative, workforces grow more autonomous, engaged and empowered to “manage” their own. Peer-to-peer (sometimes called sideways) management involves team members getting what they want or need from one another to successfully complete a job or project without the intervention of upper management. There’s always some risk for conflict, but the rewards include increased personal accountability and stronger, more productive teams.

Peers are recognizing peers.

If peers are going to manage one another, it only makes sense that they recognize one another’s efforts as well. This trend isn’t new, but it’s growing. Receiving specific, heartfelt recognition from someone who has been beside you there in the trenches holds more weight than a generic expression of appreciation from someone higher up. Provide employees with a simple online peer review tool and watch co-workers pile on the kudos and constructive criticism.

Millennials make manager.

The millennials have come into their own and management will never be the same. We’re seeing flatter organizational structures, more collaboration, and greater personal accountability. Rather than striving for work-life balance, millennial managers are refusing to even draw lines between the two. Company-sponsored community outreach and charitable work are a new given, and informal feedback systems are taking the place of annual reviews. None of this is surprising from the generation who values emotional intelligence over IQ.

Feedback is a two-way street.

The formal annual review seems almost quaint now. The phrase “let me know if you have any feedback” is just as likely to come from the COO as from the intern. Feedback is encouraged at every turn and performance reviews are becoming more give and take. It’s another welcome and useful side effect of a more collaborative, transparent, and egalitarian workforce.

Office design is strategic—and circular.

In the 1970s, the crowded office bullpens of the past were replaced by the liberating privacy of the cubicle. By the early 2000s, the shine had worn off of the cubicle and they were torn down in favor of the open floor plan (bullpens with nice couches). Today, companies are recognizing the value of both and are creating hybrids of the two: workplaces with designated areas for collaboration as well as privacy nooks for more heads-down work. Take this concept a step further and you have the “free-address” office, a workplace where no one has an assigned desk or view, but rather works wherever the need of the moment demands.

Regardless of your demographic, it’s an exciting time to be a leader. The pace of commerce, the impact of ever-evolving technology, and the fluctuating borders between work and life keep things perpetually challenging and interesting. Good leaders of all generations understand that change is simply part of doing business, so they study the trends and equip themselves with the skills required to embrace them.

The author, Cory Jones, currently serves as Vice President of Commercial Marketing for Frontier Communications. In his role, Cory is responsible for all facets of business-to-business marketing for the company, including acquisition, retention, digital, social media, lead generation, and marketing communications.

Cory holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Texas Tech University. He lives in the Dallas area with his wife and two children, and is on an eternal quest to finally break par on the golf course.

Frontier Communications offers voice, broadband, satellite video, wireless Internet data access, data security solutions, bundled offerings, specialized bundles for small businesses and home offices, and advanced business communications for medium and large businesses in 29 states with approximately 28,000 employees based entirely in the United States.

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