Engage Millennials with Flat Management Structures Image

I Am Millennial, Hear Me Roar!

Despite being in the minority in past years, Millennials (workers now aged 20-32) have always had a disproportionately loud “voice” in shaping and influencing employment efforts and human resources initiatives within organizations. Now that the shift in workforce composition is moving at an ever increasing rate towards these workers, that voice is getting louder and louder.

What are Millennials demanding? Rapid career progression, dedicated education/learning programs, flexibility and benefits to name a few. However, the demand that we’re going to focus on in this article is the one for transparency and influence in decision making. The key way this demand manifests itself in modern companies is through flattened management structures.

The Rise of Flattened Management Structures

A flattened management structure refers to removing the ‘hierarchy’ of management structures within the company, in particular the middle management positions. As the name suggests, the company organizational chart will be flatter as there are fewer layers.

A flatter management approach therefore allows individual employees to have greater input into business decision making at all levels with less regard being paid to seniority or position. We’re sure you’ve heard them speaking up around the workplace more and more – yep, it’s the Millennials.

So, is this a good thing?

Yes and no.

If promoted and facilitated properly, flattened management structures can be extremely effective at fostering employees that are extremely engaged. Engaged Millennials in flat structures make regular business decisions, have input into company strategy and objectives and are highly in tune with their work.

In addition, these structures typically have the following advantages:

  • Increased collaboration of ideas between employees and management, ultimately leading to increased learning, innovation and entrepreneurialism.
  • Decision making becomes faster and more efficient as there are fewer levels to travel through, and responsibility is distributed more evenly throughout the workforce.
  • Greater agility and ability to detect, adapt to and thrive in the face of shifting business landscapes

Who gets this flattened management thing right?

37 Signals employ a system of rotating, non – permanent team leaders. This allows everyone to bring their ideas and have input into development and strategies.

VALVE have a system where team leaders are nominated from project to project (labeled as “group contributors”) which results in a more unified and rounded spectrum of ideas and inputs.

The Morning Star Company adopt a ‘no-manager’ rule within their orgranization. Although authority still exists, managers are open to accepting ideas and inputs from all employees regardless of their position within the company itself.

Red flags

Millennials can be hard to herd together. As a result, although the adoption of flatter management structures has been due in great part to their influence, they can often be the first to abuse the freedoms which accompany these structures.

Flattened management structures require employees that are motivated, often independent and tuned into the business. As Steve Jobs would put it, you need a team of “A players”.

Often the risk is that while a proportion of the workforce will fit this description, another, larger portion of the workforce may be accustomed to receiving more direction and guidance which they may have experienced throughout their working careers in more heirarchical management structures.

Building an engaged workforce with flatter management initiatives

Without a doubt, flattened management structures can produce employees and teams that are incredibly engaged, motivated and attuned to their work and the company. It’s not difficult to see how giving employees who are asking for more opportunities, learning, transparency and responsibilities the chance to actually lead and manage projects and impact business decisions and strategy can produce these outcomes.

Of course, the type and extent of the initiatives that you consider implementing in order to create a flatter management environment must depend on your company and the profile and composition of your employees. There’s definitely no one size fits all solution. However, the companies which should definitely be considering moving towards flatter structures right now are the ones with the Millennial employees that match the description described in this article.

So if you can hear them roaring, it might be time to think about lowering some of those traditional hierarchical barriers and see what they can do.


Align values, engage and motivate with WooBoard; an employee recognition platform that encourages happier, more productive workplaces.

Go to WooBoard.com
photo credit: pattoise via photopin cc

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