Stakeholdering, Millenials and Vision
Developing Vision with Millennials in Mind
Throughout my career I have had the honor of working with senior leadership teams to develop their organization's vision. This effort culminates with a vision statement, or an aspirational declaration of what the organization will become over time. With artistic craftsmanship, this simple phrase serves to inspire, engage and unite all stakeholders across the unit, division or the enterprise (depending on the scope) in their commitment toward a common goal. As a result of participating in the visioning process, the leadership team agrees upon the future direction, which drives consistency in strategy development, decision-making, and actions throughout the organization.
Although 'visioning' has seemingly fallen out of fashion, its purpose is arguably more valuable today than ever. An increasingly diversified workforce adds to the challenge of engaging, motivating and uniting the workforce toward a shared goal. While organizations aim for consistency and efficiency, a one-size-fits-all approach can be ineffective in appealing to every individual and engaging them toward change. And yet, ensuring every employee knows where the organization is headed and how it will get there is fundamental in a strong change strategy.
A recent client engagement illustrated just how strongly a vision can satisfy the needs and values of a diverse workforce. Struggling to agree on a statement that captured the future direction of the organization, a frustrated leadership team nearly gave up on the effort entirely. The mere mention of the term "vision" was met with overt resistance among some of the members and was viewed as a fluffy, nice-to-have, but "not a business necessary endeavor" by others. Ironically, the same leadership team repeatedly shared the goal of becoming the "employer of choice" and the destination employer for fresh talent entering the workforce (millenials). I leveraged this desire to attract and retain young, cutting-edge talent as a way to re-frame the importance of their visioning effort, re-engaging the team toward a final push that resulted in a shared vision for the organization.
Some of the characteristics that differentiate millenials from their preceding generations include: a need for meaningful work, a heightened sense of optimism, a yearning to give back to society and make the world a better place. And yet, a large portion of this generation is either just beginning their professional journey, or under the legal age of employment. Since world-changing outcomes are less likely a direct result of work performed in junior positions or entry-level jobs, linking the contributions of these roles to something greater can provide an indirect way to satisfy these millenials' needs. As such, compelling visions may be more important way to bridge this gap. One can easily get lost in the banality of exacting precision in spreadsheets if goals are not aligned to those of the broader organization. But, even the most mundane tasks can take on greater importance if every employee's contributions advance something important such as "A just world without poverty"1 or "A world where everyone has a decent place to live"2.
In the client experience I referenced earlier, re-framing the vision's importance in light of the target population for recruitment efforts brought about renewed momentum and enabled the leadership to finish developing their vision. It also gave me an opportunity to reflect.
As I support leaders and their client organizations through change, I don't always get the opportunity to support the visioning process. But, most change and transformation efforts require a solid understanding of the needs, desires and fears of various stakeholders - whether it's for the purposes of developing key messages and content for communications, or approaches to training and knowledge transfer. Now, I'm not suggesting further segmenting stakeholders by generation, any more than I would advocate further distinguishing whatever stakeholder groups we identify by gender, marital status or any other classification. I am suggesting that being mindful of generational differences adds another lens by which I can advance my understanding of stakeholder needs, and thus improve my chances of appealing to, or reaching a greater number of individuals. It is only by creating compelling key messages and delivering them in a way that resonates with everyone, that I can effectively make change happen - one individual at a time. Embracing the different values and needs that distinguish the generations might help me get just a little bit closer to reaching this goal.
1 Oxfam's Vision
2 Habitat for Humanity's Vision