In the future of work, traditional hierarchical organizational structures are giving way to flatter organizations of different kinds.

In a hierarchical organization, decisions are made at the top and instructions passed down the ladder to the lowest level. These structures are rigid, there is no communication or collaboration across levels and information is uni-directional: top to bottom.

This structure goes against the precept of future employees who want freedom, autonomy, responsibility, collaboration and sharing of information, not just across levels but across geographies.

Suppresses initiative and creativity

Hierarchical structures work well for organizations that do repetitive work which involves standardization and zero creativity. But companies that are dependent on creativity and innovation – and over time the proportion of such companies has been increasing and will continue to do so – cannot be efficient with such a structure as it suppresses initiative and creativity.

Future organizations will tend to be flatter in form – the level of “flatness” depends on what the organization is comfortable with. In such companies the number of levels between the top and the bottom are minimized. There is no order of communication. Collaboration and decision making is encouraged at various levels but the chain of command is not totally absent.

There is no power-play

In totally flat organizations there is no power-play. Everybody is equal and has the same authority and responsibility. The employees work together to set rules, to decide on what the company should do, which direction to go in, what assignments to take on. There is open and complete communication and transparency. This style works best for start-ups and small companies. In bigger organizations, such a structure is likely to lead to chaos.

Medium and large sized companies that want to get the benefits of both – the hierarchical and the flat structures – adopt a flatarchy structure where a hierarchical structure can become a flat structure for some projects and then go back to their original structure when the project is completed. The reverse works just as well with flat organizations instituting a loose hierarchical structure for specific jobs but operating in the original format otherwise.

Holocracy – yet another organizational structure

Holocracy is yet another organizational structure that will be popular in the future of work. This system works by creating circles of employees who have no specific job titles but are expected to perform several roles. There are strict protocols and rules on how meetings should be run, how work is to be conducted, how problems are to be sorted out. Circles of employees on the top set objectives identify priorities and provide guidance. Circles below them implement these plans in a democratic manner. Within circles there is no leader, everybody is equal. This structure is being adopted by small and medium sized companies but there is no data as yet to show if it will work as well for large organizations.

As the world moves forward and new opportunities present themselves, companies have to adapt and change to fit into the new world. If organizational decisions continue to be taken only by those at the top, it will be difficult for these companies to grow. With progress and development, organizations also have to become more open, more democratic, more nurturing and caring about their employees in order to keep them engaged and motivated to want to contribute to organizational success.