Goodbye Corporate Ladder, Hello Teams

Team Organizational StructureWatch any old black-and-white movie that depicts office scenes and you’ll see it: the stark difference between the corporate haves and have-nots. Plush offices, special perks, and absolute authority set top management apart from the working stiffs, with very little interaction and even less opportunity for recognition or collaboration. Fast forward to 2016 and for many companies, that scene is still all too familiar. But that’s about to change.

Quit Working Like It’s 1960

The hierarchical structure common in most businesses during the 20th century is gradually going the way of the dinosaur. According to new research conducted by Deloitte, more than 90% of businesses cite structural redesign as a key challenge, making it the top business trend of the year. Only 4% of the survey respondents said they had no plans to change.

That’s staggering.

What is going on in America’s offices and why do organizations feel the urgency to redesign the way employees interact at work? Josh Bersin, a key researcher in the field, believes we are entering a new era of management that focuses on bringing people together, developing employees, and promoting engagement. He describes this new emerging leadership style as a network of teams rather than the hierarchical or even collaborative management of the past. As management evolves, we will see greater emphasis on four primary organizational trends:

  • Shared values and culture
  • Transparent goals and projects
  • Feedback and free flow of information
  • Rewards based on contribution, not position

But perhaps a more pressing question is: why now? Why should organizations consider a team-based structure as opposed to the old school corporate ladder approach? Among the contributing factors are: the evolution of digital technology, enabling faster, better communication; the new mindset of younger workers who are looking for more collaboration, work-life balance opportunities, and growth potential; and information transparency in a social world where customers want to work with companies they trust.

And the benefit for businesses? Bersin suggests that employees will experience higher productivity and deeper engagement as managers align goals and inspire teamwork while also providing continuous feedback to address potential problems early.

How Organizational Changes Drive Trends in HR Software

In the HR software arena, we’ve seen strong trends toward better performance management options, social platforms, and mobile accessibility. The importance of culture and engagement is pushing companies to design their businesses as “collections of people” rather than top-down hierarchies. For that to work, there must be a way to encourage connections, deliver timely feedback, and promote the human side of HR. Software companies have responded to the challenge with deeper people solutions, including:

  • Feedback—Annual performance reviews are giving way to more frequent, less formal feedback, including peer reviews, self-evaluations, and manager evaluations. By providing feedback more often, companies can identify and address problems to keep team members on track.
  • Goal setting—Goal setting and coaching play a huge role in employee performance, especially for younger workers. HR software can make this easy by setting specific, measurable goals, creating a timeline for completion, incorporating alerts, and tracking achievements.
  • Social collaboration—From simple social networking to elaborate gamification solutions, social platforms give employees ways to connect and collaborate for projects, teams, and information-gathering.
  • Mobile access—As employees increasingly want to access work information outside the office, robust mobile functionality will become a necessity. And for companies who allow employees to use their own smartphones and tablets to access time management or update personal information, mobile apps are being designed to function across a wide variety of devices and operating systems.

The challenge for software providers is to develop solutions that speak to shifting team dynamics and behavioral economics, making it possible for organizations to facilitate the fluid movement of employees across teams rather than in a straight promotional line. Digital HR solutions of the future will be driven by analytics, changing workforce demographics, and demand for deeper engagement.

And lest we think the future is some vague, yet-to-be-defined time frame that requires no urgency, make no mistake. The future is now.

About the Author: Susan McClure is our new resident content marketer at She will be writing about the search, selection, and implementation of HR technology, as well as HR outsourcing and general employment issues. When she isn’t writing, you might find her browsing shelves at the library, exploring a local hiking trail, or digging in the garden with her family and fur kids.

Published by Susan McClure

Susan McClure is our resident content editor at She writes about the search, selection, and implementation of HR technology. When she isn’t writing, you might find her researching trends in social media and online marketing, browsing shelves at the library, or digging in the garden with her family and fur kids.

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