Olaf Swantee, the CEO of EE (Everything Everywhere), wrote an interesting article following research he commissioned by Deloitte (Upwardly Mobile: Redefining business mobility in Britain http://tinyurl.com/oxs7h88) about what he considers will be the impact of Gen Y (those currently aged 33 and under) on how businesses are led in the future. As Jack Welch, one of the most celebrated business leaders of the 20th Century, puts it: “Generation Y is the most exciting group in the world. They want to do their own thing, they want to change the world. Technology’s changed so fast. The internet’s come, they can do it.”

So as Gen Y will make up half of the workforce within a decade, what does Olaf Swantee believe will be the impact of Gen Y on how businesses are led as they transition from the wider workplace and into the boardroom as leaders in their own right? Talking about the differences he currently sees in his Gen Y employees, Swantee says:

“They think differently, more digitally. The connected world is the only world they’ve known, and that means they come with an embedded attitude that’s naturally more social, open, and focused on working together to solve problems and generate ideas.”

He thinks, and this is highlighted by the Deloitte report, that Gen Y leaders demonstrate three key characteristics:

1. They are inclusive and collaborative decision-makers: having access to a wide network of expert collaborators will become crucial, as more views will be required for decision-making. Pervasive data networks will become even more important to business operations, as data and insight will be required across many more locations and channels to support distributed decision making.

2. They foster a more flexible and human working environment: Gen Y leaders work to shape the business to suit its talent as much as they shape talent to the business. The workplace, working practices and tools of business will become much more personal and customisable. ‘Presenteeism’, the ‘cube farm’ and other recent cultural hallmarks of business will cease to be relevant. The working environment will become more flexible and human.

3. They are prepared to persistently challenge the status quo: they are passionate about fast progress, innovation and entrepreneurship. Speed of decision-making will become paramount in a wider variety of businesses. Access to data and insight will become ‘real time’ in order to support ‘fast twitch’ responses to problems and exploitation of opportunities.

Swantee believes the impact of Gen Y on business will be more “revolution than evolution.”  He says:

“Evidence from the Deloitte report suggests that Gen Y leaders carry their experiences as employees into senior roles. They do not adapt their style to that of the previous Baby Boomer generation in order to conform to the management group they have joined. Gen Y influence is growing and businesses stand to benefit greatly from this inclusive, diverse, flexible and transformational working environment that they will bring to the leadership ranks.”

I would be interested to hear your thoughts about what you think will be the impact of Gen Y on the leadership of your business and how you are preparing for this change.

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