The big question is how to attract, retain and optimise employee relations in today’s disruptive environment.
The following article is based on a panel discussion during the annual CFO Conclave held between 15 and 17 September. The panellists were Nandita Gurjar, Advisor-Startups and Badri sanjeevi, Co-founder & CEO, Mauj Mobile.
If machines and bots are the future of work, where do humans, especially the millennials, fit in? Talent management of the millennial generation comes with unique challenges. Temperamentally more suited to the unstructured work environment of startups, millennials do not find the big corporations that attractive. However, youth is the lifeblood of any organisation and one can ill afford to miss out on the bundle of energy and ideas that the millennial workforce brings with it. The most important future of work then is the millennial generation whom we have been trying to understand but have failed to do so far. The interesting line up of speakers including Badri Sanjeevi, Co-Founder and CEO, Mauj Mobile and Nandita Gurjar, Advisor – Startups, had some startling observations to share.
In his brief but insightful presentation on Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z and the millennials, Sanjeevi debunked some of the myths around perception of the millennials. Is the next generation fundamentally different from us? Are the millennials distracted, impatient, self-absorbent and lazy? Won’t they stay in a job for long?
Pointing to a multi-generational study by IBM, he said that the conversations don’t actually change but what changes are the situations and the environment in which the respective generations are born. “It’s not questions themselves but what the starting points are and why these questions become relevant again and again.”
Business owners may find it challenging to manage the millennial employee, who is often accused of feeling entitled and being narcissistic. Sanjeevi shared tips from motivational speaker and author Simon Sinek who has garnered a wide audience for his YouTube video on millennials in the workplace. Sinek focuses on four areas: parenting, technology, impatience and environment. Analysing these prime areas can enable companies to successfully manage millennials.
Sinek stresses that the style of parenting has fundamentally changed from the way Gen X and millennials are brought up. Is it the reason why our children struggle when the real challenge comes up? The harsh reality about our environments is that they are extremely challenging and demanding and all that we care about are quarterly and half-yearly numbers.
Today’s millennials are exposed to far more instant gratification than before. “The other problem to compound it is we are growing up in a Facebook/Instagram world; in other words, we are good at putting filters on things. We’re good at showing people that life is amazing even though I am depressed…” Mr Sanjeevi said quoting Sinek.
The third characteristic is impatience. We live in a world where the entire digital economy is about removing inefficiencies. “What is the environment in which these millennials are operating? Are we as managers/leaders making the journey easy for them? Do we understand the context from which they come?”
Sinek even says that some of the challenges the millennials are facing are not even their fault. It is the parenting, impatience, and instant gratification environment built by the technology and the ecosystem that’s gone into making them who they are. Whether we are in a traditional or new age setup, there’s responsibility on us as leaders to integrate them well into the company.
Sanjeevi added: “At People Group, which includes the matchmaking portal Shaadi.com and mobile media company Mauj Mobile, most of our headcount comprises the millennial generation. Some of the things that we do at our organisations to engage the millennials are: one, we try and maintain a learning organisation. We do recognise that as a digital business, more often than not, our business can be disrupted by the next startup. We are not so much worried about a big corporation beating us but about the next startup beating us with a better business model.”
Most of the organisations have been caught unawares, with the millennial workforce coming in. Also, this workforce is going to be 75 per cent of the entire workforce by 2025, and we are nowhere prepared physically, as well as mentally, in the sense of infrastructure.
“What would be the strategy for a corporate office to ensure that both the generations work together amicably?” Gurjar, who has worked with Infosys as their HR head, managing their humungous workforce of 1.5 lakh, said: “The multi-tasking capacity of the millennial generation is very high. The question is does it disrupt us so badly that we say that you have to do one thing at a time. While we believe that focus means one thing at a time, for them, focus means doing multiple things at a time. If you believe finally that’s the future, then channelising them to make sure you become output-centric rather than asking how you would do the same thing, would be beneficial for both generations.”
She also talked about some of her experiences at the IT giant. “I joined Infosys in 1999. It was a dramatic year because we were feeling rich as IT was taking off. Also, we were feeling apprehensive because of Y2K and what happens after Y2K. We were just 4,000 people strong, extremely idealistic and very closely knit. Till then, I believe we were like a startup.”
“In 2000, things changed. We went around asking people what they felt about the values of the organisation or what the organisation stood for, and this was typically at the brink of what we call as takeoff. We were so surprised that despite being so close-knit, we meant very different things to different people. Our values, which we believed were so strongly articulated again and again by the different founders, were interpreted in different ways. So we decided that we need to have an exercise of formalisation and we had what we call value workshop in which the entire board, top management and 20 millennials (people below the age of 30) joined in.”
The reason why this particular workshop was important was because in spite of all the discussions spanning the next two days, there was one value which people debated very strongly. While the older generation believed that discipline is the value, there were these 20 voices of youth who were outraged and asked that why can’t we have accountability as a value?
“For me, that day was dramatic because we saw the difference between the two different generations. It took us three-four years to accept that things were changing and it’s not enough to have the other generation—the baby boomers—to keep pushing and say they will learn. At the end of it, the future is theirs and they have very different ways of thinking,” she concluded.