Will you surf or sink? The coming org tsunami

By the year 2020 a huge organizational tsunami is about to crash down and sweep through every corporation and institution in the Western world, especially Canada and the United States. Inexplicably, while some workplaces and their leaders see the force of the tidal wave coming, many others have their head buried deep in the sand.

Scientific observations and empirically sound forecasts warn us that the org tsunami is composed of three massively transformational components: age, ethnicity, and gender. We’re already seeing the early waves roll in and effect everything from organizational culture to employee expectations. By 2020–just seven years from today–we will feel the full effect.

tsunami orgToday, as more women not only enter the workplace but rightfully rise to management and leadership positions we are seeing shifts in how a respectful workplace is defined, how work schedules are designed, and how we communicate to one another at work. My own research with thousands of employees shows that (as other research shows) women are more communicative, more collaborate, and better at teamwork than men. This is not a generalization. It is a fact. As more women enter the workplace and especially take on senior roles there will be a healthy expectation that all employees are asked their opinion, be told why decisions are taking place, having early and fair management of conflict, and are treated with respect.

A younger generation of employees of both genders entering the workplace is similarly shape-shifting what the organization is all about. Again, some of my own employee research across the continent shows that to the majority of younger employees having a boss with a lot of experience is far less important than one with great communication skills and with an ability to be open-minded and flexible about the future. Younger employees expect to have a say, expect to be part of a well-functioning team, and place a huge value on accountability and respect.

The third powerful tsunami force of change, especially being felt in Canada and the U.S., is the ethnicity of the workplace. Federal statistics show that workplaces are growing almost exponentially in the ethnic diversity of employees with those from India, China, and other countries increasingly evident in all jobs and positions of management and leadership. Data from the World Values Survey clearly shows that attitudes about certain workplace behaviors and roles are dramatically different among various locales. This may mean that supervisors and managers from some countries may apply a different standard or expectation to the Canadian or American workplace. At times, this cultural or attitudinal difference can result in crossing the line of existing labor or human rights laws.

The data clearly shows that by the year 2020 the Organizational Tsunami will be at its peak. Organizations that are not today, right this minute, adapting to the early waves will be swept under if they wait much longer. The damage will appear in loss of competitiveness, increases in workplace harassment complaints, loss of employee retention, and both morale and job satisfaction that will be just broken flotsam. So…are you ready to surf? Or will you sink?