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Time to Let the Guard Down?

Innovation Times

Posted by JR Reagan on May 17, 2013

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The workplace is changing. Ambitious and tech-savvy millennials with powerful social networks are entering a multi-generational workforce, a workforce long defined by hierarchy. At the top are the revered “old guard,” but is it time for them to drop their guard?

In the midst of a recession that battered Main Street, Fortune 500 companies generated the highest earnings on record in 2011 ($824.5 billion, up 16.4% over 2010). Those halcyon days likely won’t last, but in the face of such success, shouldn’t we try to emulate those in the executive suites?

Probably not. By 2020, millennials will make up almost half the U.S. workforce, and millions of baby boomers will have retired. While the current playbook clearly worked last year, the game field’s evolving, and it’s changing fast.

The anti-social CEO

The 2012 Social CEO Report looked at Fortune 500 CEOs and their social media use.

They are, in a word, disengaged.

Less than 1% of CEOs have a verified social media account. Just six of the 500 blog. Though more than 50% of Americans have a social media network following, only 7.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are, and the majority of these count fewer than 100 friends.

Guess what? The average age of professional network users is 44, the highest among most social media sites, according to a social network demographics report.

If the CEOs don’t see a benefit to being personally involved in social media, their employees do. A vast majority of Fortune 500 employees surveyed responded that social CEOs are better, more trustworthy leaders, who will increase sales and strengthen brands through social engagement.

The new kids in the cube

Millennials are often called the “Me Generation,” thought by some to be entitled or just plain lazy. Look past the stereotypes, though, and you’ll find a generation as varied as any other, but with mad skills and a need to be innovative.

They’re connected to hundreds, if not thousands, of people online, putting old-school, face-to-face networkers to shame. They’re team players, used to collaborating and finding solutions. And they’re fierce multitaskers.

According to the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) Millennial Survey, 78 percent of the world’s future business leaders believe innovation is essential for business growth. However, as the economic crisis enters its sixth year, just 26 percent of Millennials feel that business leaders are doing enough to encourage practices that foster innovation.

Blending the workforce: Epic fail, or recipe for success?

Try to force millennials to fit into rigid workplaces with legacy systems, and you’ll likely find they mix like oil and vinegar: epic fail, in the words of the younger generation. Companies that do so won’t be able to retain new employees, or to benefit from their knowledge.

Reverse mentoring works well in companies where upper management doesn’t have an understanding of social media. Younger staff can teach the ins and outs of social media, while learning from the experience of those who’ve climbed the corporate ladder, and know how to close a deal.

By adapting workplaces to fit the millennials, companies will gain committed and driven employees. Employees who understand the advantages of social media engagement in ways today’s CEOs may not.

Millennials will become brand advocates for their employers using their own broad networks. They’ll shape the workplace of the future, a workplace where on-demand video, social networking, blogs, and wikis are the norm. The workplace where they may one day be CEO.


As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte & Touche LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.


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