Organisational think tank now sits at the bottom of the pyramid

Younger employees in organisations are finding their rightful place in the think-tank club—earlier the privilege of the few top bosses.

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With the revolutionising market and the industries feeding into them, we see a radical change that can be tracked down very easily. Earlier, there was a traditional binary dividing the activities of ‘doing’ and ‘thinking’. However, with the new-age demands and the skillset that the younger generation is ready to offer with increasingly amusing enthusiasm, the flow of ideas and experimentation is definitely changing.

Organisations, for years, have had the think tank sitting at the top making all strategic decisions, while the people at the bottom were expected to be mere executioners of those ideas.

Of late, what has changed is that organisations have begun experimenting with a reverse pyramid model, where the junior employees do the thinking job as idea generators.

“With the onset of startups, we have witnessed the young bringing great efficiency, leadership and execution to the table. That has really helped break the glass ceiling.”

Debjani Roy, chief HR officer, Mind Your Fleet

Milind Apte, senior vice president, HR, CEAT Tyres, shares how a similar practice adopted by his organisation has given rather encouraging results.

“We have a young executive board, a formal forum, where we select a number of very young people every year, to whom we hand over live business challenges. We have seen path-breaking solutions for very difficult problems,” Apte says.

What makes this younger lot different from the traditional thinkers is that they bring in a flavour of heterogeneous and disproportionate thinking, which knows no conventions and patterns. This free-flowing creativity keeps on challenging the status quo.

Debjani Roy, chief HR officer, Mind Your Fleet, feels that the change has been brought-in by the new generation at the workplace, which includes all of Gen 20, Gen Y, or Gen Next.

She believes even the most traditional of organisations, where membership to the think-tank club was led by chronology of age and experience and not by ideas, have been forced to undergo this transformation.

Roy says, “We have seen companies making place for the youngsters and giving a seat to these groups of people to come in and become a part of the think tank.”

“Many companies have moved to the concept of self-managed teams, or supervisor-less factories. In such empowering work culture, one will obviously have the base of the pyramid contributing actively and generating ideas. That’s a very progressive way of incorporating engagement.”

Balachandar N, senior HR leader, and former group head-HR, Café Coffee Day

The young management trainees, engineering trainees, who were considered mere executional pawns, are now increasingly becoming the think tanks at larger organisations. Leaders have realised and acknowledged that efficient thinking does not need high experience. All it needs is a good understanding of the business dynamics, a street-smartness, and most importantly, a sense of all-conquering confidence.

Apte of CEAT Tyres concurs that the quality of talent has improved today, and Gen Y and Gen Z in particular, want to do their bit for the larger growth of the organisation. They are not happy doing mere administrative work. Not only are they very keen to know the larger goals, but want their tasks to be connected with those larger goal. “They are very eager to contribute. My experience is that they are not just fundamentally smart, they don’t want to avoid work. In fact, they want to shoulder more responsibilities,” adds Apte.

Balachandar N, senior HR leader, and former group head-HR, Café Coffee Day, believes that the base of the organisational pyramid has to be paid attention to because ‘thinking’ cannot be the prerogative of a few.

“There are many companies that have moved to the concept of self-management team, or a supervisor-less factory, where problems are solved on the spot. Talking about empowering the work culture then, one will obviously have the base of the pyramid contributing actively to the organisation and therefore, ideas will be generated. That’s a very progressive way and a method incorporating engagement for me.”

My experience is that Gen Y and Gen Z are fundamentally smart and don’t want to avoid work. In fact, they want to shoulder more responsibilities.

Milind Apte, senior vice president-HR, CEAT Tyres

The intellectual capital, which was earlier devoid of attention and respect, has now achieved the recognition that it desired and deserved.

Roy is also of the opinion that the big shift started with the IT & ITES boom, but gained speed with the success of the startups. “With the onset of startups and with the proven credentials of certain unicorns in the last five years, in the subcontinent, we have witnessed the young bringing great efficiency, leadership and execution to the table. That has really helped break the glass ceiling,” she says.

“Thinking is no longer a functionality of age. We are living in a very agile and disruptive age, which is driven by new thinking, new insights and new inputs. The workforce itself is changing shapes and colour,” she concludes.

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