Millennials: How Gen Y Will Lead Us Into the Future

Posted October 30th, 2015 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Leadership must be important — more than 20,000 books and thousands of articles have been written about the critical elements of and the impact it has on people, organizations and countries, if not the world.

In my article in The Financial Post  I show that although leadership training programs abound, they have failed to produce good leaders. We can add to this problem the fact that the next generation of leaders, Gen Y or Millennials, have vastly different expectations for leaders and how they want to be trained as future leaders.

Virtuali, a leadership training firm and consultancy, and, a research and advisory membership portal servicing forward-thinking HR professionals, announced the results of a new survey entitled “The Millennial Leadership Study“. Following a national survey of 412 millennials, the study found that 91% of Millennials aspire to be a leader and out of that, 52% were women. Almost half of Millennials define leadership as “empowering others to succeed” and when asked what their biggest motivator was to be a leader, 43% said “empowering others”, while only 5% said money and 1% said power. When asked about the type of leader they aspire to be, 63% chose “transformational”, which means they seek to challenge and inspire their followers with a sense of purpose and excitement.

Other findings in the survey:

  • 55% of Millennials said that the most important leadership skill is the ability to build relationships, which 66% said was one of their strongest skills;
  • Millennials want to learn online and have mentors. When asked what type of training would be most effective for their development as a leader, 68% said online classes and 53% said mentoring. Only 4% of Millennials said University courses;
  • Millennials prefer to have fewer managers. 83% of Millennials said they would prefer to work for a company with fewer layers of management.
  • Millennials say that the biggest problems with their company’s leaders is their ability to develop others (39%) and communication (50%).

Sean Graber, Co-Founder and CEO of Virtuali said: “Millennials embody the shift in today’s workplace. They are motivated by a desire to transform themselves, their colleagues, and the world around them. This study confirms that Millennials respond and aspire to this type of transformational leadership. If companies want to build engaged and productive workforces, they will need to find a way to tap into the Millennial outlook.”

Dan Schawbel, founder of says: “This study confirms that Millennials choose to empower others over making money or being recognized.” Schawbel goes on to say in my interview with him that “Millennials want companies to give back to society and make a difference instead of just making a profit. They aren’t fond of the command and control “autocratic” leadership style of boomers and want to encourage others to succeed.” When asked the question of the bottom-line for companies, Schawbel contends “Millennials want to align themselves with companies that have shared values. If a company can’t communicate how it benefits society, then it’s going to have trouble engaging Millennials. Millennial workers are most engaged when they are doing work that has meaning.”

The Virtuali study is in alignment with other studies on Millennials and leadership.

A report by the Center For Creative Leadership (CCL) by Jennifer Deal and Regina Eckert dispelled some myths about Millennials including: they care more for compensation than previous generations; they are disrespectful of authority; and they aren’t loyal, showing the data does not support those myths. The report underscored the importance of firms find cost-effective ways to train Millennials, particularly through the use of technology. The report also emphasized the importance of coaching and mentoring for Millennials, which provides opportunities for face-to-face personal growth.

Josh Bersin, writing in Forbes, reviewed a global study by Deloitte on Millennials. Among the conclusions Bersin provides are the following:

  • “Millennials want leadership and they want it their way;”
  • Millennials desperately want to acquire leadership skills;
  • Millennials value an “open, transparent and inclusive leadership style;”
  • Millennials want rapid career growth;Millennials “thrive on fairness and performance-based appraisal, not tenure.”
  • Bersin concludes his article : “It’s clear from our work with many companies that things need to change…Today’s Millennials will definitely rule the world. Our job now is to make our organizations ready, so they can slip right into place and help us lead our businesses in their own special way.”

Mara Swan, executive vice president of global strategy at human resources consultancy ManpowerGroup, said Gen Y’s perceived skepticism toward traditional corporate structures should make them more democratic in their approach as leaders. Dropping command-and-control leadership models in favor of more collaborative, collective organizational reporting orders is likely to be a defining hallmark.

“It’s going to be much more horizontal,” Swan said. “They don’t think of power as being something to warrant; they think about sharing it.” With respect to leadership development “We have to stop one-way learning,” said ManpowerGroup’s Swan. “You have to talk about what you want them to do, and you have to let them experience it and teach each other. The instructor has to move from an instructor to a facilitator of learning, and it has to be very experiential. I also think learning has to be tied to the purpose of the company vs. the task you’re trying to teach.”

The Millennial Compass Report  completed by the MLS Group and the Ashbridge Business School in the U.K. entitled “Truths About the 30-and-under Generation in the Workplace,” concluded Millennials “are focused on achieving through personal networks and technology; having good work-life balance; and getting high levels of support from their managers. They don’t want to be tied to an organization, a timetable, or a hierarchy, and they’d rather avoid the stress they see their senior leaders shouldering.”

These reports show Millennials’ different attitudes and expectations towards work and careers compared to the current dominant Baby Boomers. Also clear is Millennials’ definition of loyalty to the organization and expectations for frequent career or job changes. Millennials have a very different perspective and expectation of the role and behavior of managers, seeing them more in an encouraging, coaching, and peer capacity, something that is currently at odds with the current generation of Baby Boomer managers who see their role as one associated more with power and position.

I’ve had the opportunity to coach and consult current leaders of organizations, most of whom are Baby Boomers, and a significant number of them express frustration and concern with Milllennials, because they don’t share the same perspectives about work and life. The realistic current leaders, who understand that Millennials will soon make up between 50-75% of the workforce, are changing and adapting their workplace processes and structures to not just accommodate the new generation, but harness Millennials’ passion for innovation and technology and more collaborative leadership style.

Why Some People Would Prefer a Robot to a Human Boss

Posted October 30th, 2015 in Articles, Blogs by admin

What if your boss was a robot? One with advanced artificial intelligence and human-like physical features, capable of assessing your emotions? And would more robots mean removing the need for human managers? Another science fiction fantasy? Not so, claim some scientists. And what about the moral and ethical questions raised by the use of robots?

The Artificial Intelligence Revolution

Several mainstream and reputable publications have now devoted lead or cover stories to the issue of automation and use of robots, and the impact on the economy and how work is evolving.

In an article in The Atlantic magazine, Derek Thompson provides an in-depth analysis of the issue. He argues we are entering an era of technology that is vastly different than the past—one of “technological unemployment,” in which computers and robots will be able to virtually invent a large proportion of the population out of work “permanently.” He contends this is because human labor will no longer be the driver of economic growth. He also argues that the coming computer and robot revolution will make material goods cheaper, but that wealth that accrues will continue to be aggregated in the upper strata of society.

In the usually conservative journal, Foreign Affairs,  much of the issue was devoted to the topic of robots. Daniela Rus, who is director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT describes the extensive use of robots currently and their expansion in the future. In the same issue, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, also at MIT discuss the potential obsolescence of human labor and Martin Wolf an economics commentator for the Financial Times argues the impact and significance of today’s emerging technologies are vastly overestimated.

American producers of robots are already saying that investments in machines are more profitable than hiring people. Technology enables lower levels of human labor outlays, but the economy doesn’t allow people to survive.

An example of the use of computers in what was once regarded as a complex human job is stockbrokers. The functions of stockbrokers are increasingly being replaced by intelligent algorithms, which are better than humans in capturing changes in stock prices. Computer programs are also being employed to analyze large datasets (Big Data), and used by corporations for the purpose of planning and marketing. Any job that is done routinely and repetitively can be taken over by a computer program or robot. And think of journalists, most office work, even jobs in the medical profession, accounting and law.

“Robotization” is the final frontier of the world of work. If a machine can do something a human can do, it is only a matter of time before it does this cheaper and more efficiently. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, the authors of the book Race Against the Machine , the coming of the era of cheap production automation is a prelude to dramatic changes in the labor market.

Other studies confirm this. In a published paper titled: “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization”  two researchers from Oxford University, C.B. Frey and M.A. Osborne, created a model, which calculates the probability of substituting a worker in a given sector. Frey and Osborne conclude machines may replace 47 % of active workers in the future.

The Pew Center for research conducted a study on the subject, concluding “The vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet canvassed anticipate that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance. But even as they are largely consistent in their predictions for the evolution of technology itself, they are deeply divided on how advances in AI and robotics will impact the economic and employment picture over the next decade.”

Traditionally, increased productivity correlates with economic growth and job growth, since human labor has historically driven production. A robot workforce, however, can drive productivity and growth on its own, eliminating jobs in the process. That might mean the whole paradigm of exchanging labor for pay starts to break down. “If we persist in the view that the dividends from robots’ increased productivity should accrue to robot owners, we’ll definitely come to a future where there aren’t enough owners of robots to buy all the things that robots make,” Cory Doctorow wrote in a recent Boing Boing post.

Yuval Noah Harari should be an anonymous academic buried in an obscure university department somewhere toiling away on his somewhat dusty discipline – medieval military history. He’s a professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and there is almost nothing in his background to suggest that he would write a book that has become one of the most talked about non-fiction bestsellers of the year – Sapiens. In an interview in The Guardian, ) he talked about the coming age of cyborgs.

He argues we’re on the cusp of perhaps the greatest change for the human race ever, saying, “The one thing that has remained constant in history was humans themselves. Homo sapiens, you and me, we are basically the same as people 10,000 years ago. The next revolution will change that.” The “next revolution”, as Harari sees it, the latest in a line that began with the cognitive revolution and takes in the agricultural revolution and the scientific revolution, is what is happening in the biotech field, in artificial intelligence.“When people talk about merging with computers to create cyborgs, it’s not some prophecy about the year 2200. It’s happening right now. More and more of our reality exists within computers or through them.”

But this is only the start of it. For the first time in history, “we will see real changes in humans themselves – in their biology, in their physical and cognitive abilities”. And while we have enough imagination to invent new technologies, we are unable to foresee their consequences he contends.

So with this as a background, let’s return to the question posed in the title of this article: “What If You Had a Robot For Your Boss?”

More than anything, the issue of emotions remains the most difficult to address with robotic technology. Yet, computers already have developed a capacity to deal with emotions such as, “stressed”, “fear”, “anger” and other emotion-oriented words, because they generally rely on self-monitoring, Many can even be progarmmed to handle self-motivation. For example, when a sensor in a car indicates a bad fuel mix problem, a car even today can warn its owner that it is feeling “sick,” and should go to the car doctor–the dealer’s service center.The next step would be a self-navigating car that asks its owner if it could drive to the car doctor itself, so that it can talk to the car doctor’s AI to let it know exactly what the problem is.

The other aspect of robotization is the Internet of Things. Increasingly, everything is being connected to the Internet, and the Internet is being imbedded into everything from merchandize to buildings. Eventually the use of this kind of AI will be seamless with robotics.

Are any jobs safe? Some experts believe that jobs that require judgment and interactions with other people might be saved. Examples would be in the healthcare, education and social net sectors. All of these require the human touch.

As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee describe in their book The Second Machine Age, “thinking machines”—from autonomous robots that can quickly learn new tasks on the manufacturing floor to software that can evaluate job applicants or recommend a corporate strategy—are coming to the workplace and may create enormous value for businesses and society. They raise some key questions though. Although technological limitaitons are disappearing, social, moral and ethical ones remain. How can you persuade your team to trust artificial intelligence? Or to accept a robot as a member—or even as a manager? If you replace that robot, will morale suffer? Will you be able to express your emotional concerns to your robot manager?

Yet, research has shown giving machines a voice, a body, or even a name can tap into this tendency and make people more comfortable working with them. For instance, we seem to collaborate with robots more effectively when they make “eye contact” with us and we think they’re cuter and more humanoid when they tilt their heads to one side.

Research from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), show how groups of two humans and one robot worked together in one of three conditions: manual (all tasks allocated by a human); fully autonomous (all tasks allocated by the robot); and semi-autonomous (one human allocates tasks to self, and a robot allocates tasks to other human). The fully autonomous condition proved to be not only the most effective for the task, but also the method preferred by human workers. The workers were more likely to say that the robots ‘better understood them” and “improved the efficiency of the team.”

A study from the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Manitoba, suggests that you’ll probably obey a robot boss nearly as predictably as you would a human. The researchers found humans willing to take orders from computers, but much less readily than from other humans. Participants were asked to perform a menial task (renaming computer files) for 80 minutes, and a computer named “Nao” was able to exert enough authority to keep 46% of participants on task for the full 80 minutes even as they voiced a desire to quit. Humans were almost twice as likely —86%—to obey another human, in this case an actor in a white lab coat. Still, researchers were struck that “even after trying to avoid the task or engaging in arguments with the robot, participants still (often reluctantly) obeyed its commands. These findings highlight that robots can indeed pressure people to do things they would rather not do.”

Robotic or computer software managers may seem far-fetched, and today few predict when the authority figure in the corner office is an automaton. But in recent years, a surprising array of managerial functions has been turned over to artificial intelligence. Computers are sorting resumes of job seekers for relevant experience and to estimate how long a potential employee is likely to stay. They are mapping email exchanges, phone calls and even impromptu hallway interactions to track workflow and recommend changes. Widely used software is analyzing customer data for algorithms, which in turn is changing when and where workers are deployed.

Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources  argues robot bosses are no substitute for human bosses. “ It is possible for software to provide sophisticated information (i.e. ‘Here is how you are doing’). But management is still a much more complicated task of making adjustments to the work being performed in order to meet changing demands, diagnosing problems and offering solutions,” Cappelli argues.

Shawndra Hill, a Wharton professor of operations and information management argues automated functions and algorithm-driven decisions are becoming ingrained in the workplace. She says anything that can be coded and tied to the bottom line is an opportunity for model building.

In nearly all categories relating to HR from recruitment to performance management, companies participating in the CedarCrestone 2013-2014 HR Systems Survey said they were substantially increasing technology enablement of HR processes. (The survey represented 20 million employees, mostly in the U.S.)

Experts like Cappelli and other management gurus present another argument. One that taps into the trend toward workplace autonomy and independence of workers. Increasingly, jobs are knowledge related and employees are educated. And many of them want more autonomy over their job, particularly Gen Y employees. Cappelli says, “You don’t need a boss, you have to report info to our software system [instead]—they might actually like it.”

So a number of practical and ethical questions remain to be answered regarding the question of replacing managers with robots. The practical ones, including developing sophisticated enough algorithms to deal with a million different scenarios that involve human judgment are already being developed in labs around the world. The ethical question of constant monitoring of employees movements and actions by robots and software programs remains a thorny issue for policy makers. And finally, can robots be made to be so humanoid in features including dealing with emotions to generate trust in employees remains a substantial obstacle?

One thing is for sure. The workplace is changing and the nature of what a workplace looks like, and applications of technology to allow remote and mobile independent work may make the current use of managers obsolete. But will they be replaced by robots, or replaced by individual worker initiative?