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Three Uncomfortable Truths That Can Derail Your Organization by @HRTMExec

A previous HR & Talent Management article, “Millennials in the Workforce: Separating Fact From Fiction,” was based on an IBM study that dispelled five common misconceptions regarding the behaviors, habits, and expectations of working Millennials. However, the second half of IBM’s groundbreaking study, “Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths,” reveals that workers from every generation feel that businesses are doing a bad job in communicating the organization’s business strategy and other fundamental elements. According to the survey, there are three uncomfortable truths that companies must address if they expect to be successful and competitive.


Uncomfortable Truth #1: Employees are in the dark. Many aren’t sure they understand their company’s business strategy – and their leaders are to blame:


Understanding of Key Organizational Elements


Gen X

Baby Boomers

I don’t fully understand my organization’s business strategy




I don’t fully understand my manager’s expectations of me as an employee




I don’t fully understand what my customers want




I don’t fully understand my organization’s brand






Gen X

Baby Boomers

The leaders in my organization inspire confidence




The leaders in my organization recognize the accomplishments of employees




Uncomfortable Truth #2: All three generations think the customer experience is poor


Customer Service


Gen X

Baby Boomers

The organization does not effectively address the customer experience




Uncomfortable Truth #3: Employees of all ages have embraced the technological revolution. The problem? Their enterprises are slow to implement new applications.


Obstacles to implementing new technologies



Impact on current customer experience


Leaders’ lack of technological savvy


Complexity of technology


Leaders’ inability to envision future needs


Organizational culture that is resistant to change


So what can companies do? The study offers five recommendations for addressing these uncomfortable truths:

Focus on the individual

The only way to manage a multi-generational organization is to view the employees as individuals instead of lumping them together by age. According to Carolyn Baird, Global Research Leader at IBM Institute for Business Value, and the study’s author, “Organizations can’t afford to make sweeping generalizations. They must realize that employees are unique individuals, and the culture, management style, compensation, and other areas of the organization should reflect this.”

Foster a collaborative culture

The employees who will likely become the company’s leaders probably welcome the opportunity to hear and share ideas with other workers. Baird recommends appointing a “Collaboration Czar” to gather excited employees from various segments of the company and then have this team create a collaboration strategy. However, executive leadership must also embrace collaboration for these efforts to be sustainable.

Make customer experience a priority

While technological innovations actually improve the customer experience, many of the survey participants stated that their companies were slow to adopt new technologies because they felt it could negatively impact customer service. It is important to assess the customer’s experience from her perspective, noting every place where technology affects the interaction and then find a way to use technology to improve the experience.

Look within

Leaders should honestly assess their strengths, weaknesses, and effectiveness and be willing to make necessary changes, which may include developing better interpersonal and communication skills and learning how to celebrate employees’ accomplishments.

Get everyone on board

Use anonymous online surveys to discover how much employees know and understand about the company’s goals, business strategy, customer expectations, and their own roles within the organization. Create a task force to address issues and find solutions.

Baird concludes, “Employees are not comfortable about their organization’s business strategies, and they don’t know what’s expected of them or what their customers want. Leaders must assess how well they are connecting with the workers. Spend time with them – in lunches, lunch and learns, mentoring, etc. It’s impossible for an organization to be competitive if the employees are not engaged and they don’t understand business strategy and brand promise.”

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