The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Most of us are Ants

Most of us are Ants

Nov 17, 2010

Saratoga says that large organizations have an average of 7 to 9 hierarchical levels.  This means from the top to the bottom, there are 8 layers of management.  I’m going to make some assumptions and say that a lot of these organizations (based on the fact that they are mostly older, more mature organizations), are brick and mortars.  The fact of the matter is that while strict hierarchies and chains of command present easier access to good governance processes, I’m not sure they facilitate great connections.  Especially at the top levels of the organization, access to conversations can sometimes be quite restricted. 1

I am reminded about hierarchies and access from sitting in the airport today.  Lately I have been getting a lot of LinkedIn activity, and as I sat there updating my profile, connecting to people at many organizational levels, and having conversations through the web, I thought about the juxtaposition of rigid hierarchy versus easy accessibility through Web 2.0.  Today’s world and today’s younger workers expect not only to be able to form networks at all levels, but they expect accessibility.

As we develop within organizations, there is probably a realization at some point that very few of us are going to get to that SVP and EVP level.  Most of us are going to stay “ants” for our careers, and that’s both ok and necessary.  But the way we work and shape the future of HR is going to be more about collaboration than rigid hierarchies.  The new model simply isn’t going to work with the old model.  We no longer believe we’re just worker ants doing the bidding of the hive.  We believe we all have ideas and we can contribute.

The problem with all of this is that we need to find a way to combine good collaboration expectations with good governance and decision making.  However, millenials don’t really care about the lines drawn between hierarchical levels, and the experience that senior executives have accrued.  Collaboration and access don’t correlate to good, sound decision making that is influenced by corporate strategy.  We need to find a balance between rigid hierarchies that restrict access and the ability for individuals to work in the new model.

Any thoughts?


  1. Reference to ants happened in an actual conversation [back]

2 comments

  1. As with most problems of this scope, the answer is found outside the problem and not within it…

    Right or wrong, millenials may not really care about the lines drawn between hierarchical levels and the experience that senior executives — and others — have accrued, BUT someone has to give them the authority and permission to continue not caring, someone has to enable them to not care or to care.

    What end game for all this is a social promotion to make everyone equal — not possible… The more social equality becomes prevalent, the more independence will be sought. Conformity is something many fight their entire lives as long as that conformity threatens life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness, faith, charity or hope.

    Take a good look around you — how many are connected electronically in their own little world through the airwaves? When was the last time any of us have had a healthy exchange with a stranger as we waited for anything? Particularly for those on either of the coasts? If healthy needs to be defined, then it is beyond the headlines and actually sharing your thoughts about anything — something many are fear doing for being labled not politically correct.

    We have, for the first time in this country and in many countries, a society that is very knowledgeable, socially connected through the curtain of electronics, and places a higher priority on work and policital correctness than it does on family and respect.

    Not to long ago, my second wife, her children, my own son and I sat down together to have dinner together… My 17 year old son looked a little puzzled and when I asked him what was up, his answer shocked me – “We (his mother, sister and step-dad) never sit down together to eat, have never done this before”… This is a son who is connected throughout the world through various networks, is up late at night playing video games with someone in another country… and his own family is a stranger…

    My thoughts are — before we start giving any generation the ability to tear down the walls of respect for the person in the position, maybe we should give them the ability to build and maintain their own families that has that respect… If the respect for the person in a postion of authority is being eliminated at work, it definitely does not exist in the home and family…

    And without home and family, eventually a nation is not long to relinquishing its own sovereignty…

  2. Very interesting post. Employees, particularly millennials, expect the same opportunities to voice their opinions and ideas in a work setting that they already have in their personal lives. The key is to channel this engagement and desire to be heard for the benefit of the business – to drive innovation, improve business processes, share knowledge, transform corporate culture, etc.

    In order to truly change behavior, social business technologies need to be viewed by employees as both enabling and empowering. They need to simplify, connect, and create new efficiencies. Perhaps most importantly they need to be worth changing the status quo.

    Ultimately, successful social business solutions are driven by both the business needs and the user experience. Companies that strategically plan, deploy and continually evolve their social capabilities in line with specific, measurable business goals will change the game with respect to how they interact with, engage and conduct business across their workforce.

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