Gen Y comprising of those born between 1980 and 2000 would form close to 75% of the global workforce by the year 2025. While it is true that every generation has got smarter and more prosperous than the previous one,millennial men and women born in an environment that has had transformational impact due to digital technologies have developed a significantly different outlook towards various aspects of life. This is the generation which cannot imagine life without internet,computers and mobile. Around 80% of Gen Y is working on two or more devices while simultaneously watching TV! So what does all this mean to the corporates and how do they cope with Gen Y in the organisational context?
At the outset,it would be useful to make a brief comparison of Gen Y with Gen X. Parents of Gen X grew up in times of scarcity and limited resources and hence they were groomed to believe in the values of focus on hard work,investment in education and both men and a significant percentage of women both pursuing their careers albeit mostly in the same location. Gen Y on the other hand has relatively much better access to larger amount of resources and has grown up in an environment where digital technology has touched every aspect of their lives. Gen Y also values education but has been much better informed and conscious in making decisions regarding the type of programmes and careers they wish to pursue unlike Gen X who have had comparatively limited choices. Gen Y men and women nurture their careers with great care supported by active networking and peer influence with women keen on pursuing their careers of choice even if it means staying away from their families.
It is a fact that most organisations are run by Gen X comprising of a growing number of Gen Y employees. The organisation processes,structure and methods are built to suit the former and have not changed much over the years resulting in conflict with the style and approach required to deal with Gen Y employees. For instance,we often refer to Gen Y as lacking work ethic and not as hardworking as the previous generation. We fail to recognise the fact that Gen Y employees love to mix work with fun. They are as focused and diligent on completing the work at hand but do this in their own way. They are comfortable working from anywhere,any place and hence work does not suffer. They may want to enjoy their weekends but know how to prioritise at times of need and ensure deliverables are met.
Sometimes Gen Y is criticised for their irreverence. This is an interesting theme to delve upon. Firstly because of the exposure they get,Gen Y employees have their opinions firmly in place for most of the things. At the same time,there is a certain expectation in terms of relationship that they have of their seniors. It is a fact that unlike the previous generations where there was a clear distance between the parents and the children and the latter used to look upon their parents with some sort of fear or reverence,in todays times,Gen Y is used to be treated as equals or friends by their parents. Having grown up thus,they expect a similar type of relationship with the adults in the organisation. This psychology needs to be understood and appreciated as it becomes easy to give and take feedback. We need an open and transparent environment that creates room for everyone,valuing contribution from each member of Gen Y or Gen X.
Gen Y gets bored with work that is repetitive in nature and expects to do meaningful and challenging work. It is a fact that every job would have some routine elements and some elements which would be interesting and exciting. Gen Y expects more of the latter,prompted by the exposure and higher awareness they have of their environment as compared to the earlier generations. Therefore managers have to think of ways of making their assignments challenging and set tall goals for the energetic Gen Y.
Another concern often heard is the get successful quick syndrome of Gen Y. Gen Y does not have the patience to slog for years to attain promotions or to afford a luxurious lifestyle. They want to make fast moves and are willing to work hard to get there,including their ability to take risks and even pursue entrepreneurial opportunities to achieve their ambition. Gen Y employees straddle multiple goals while they pursue their careers. In a recently concluded survey among young IT professionals in Pune,it was interesting to note that beyond starting on a job with an IT company and doing an onsite assignment for a few years in the US,what they wish to do is to become a rock star or pursue their real interests which would enable them to get recognised by the media and people far and wide.
It is therefore important for organisations to rethink their structures and compensation frameworks. Allowing young people to don the mantles of responsibilities faster,providing impressive titles and designations,facilitating outcome linked compensation plan rather than years of experience/level based remuneration,enabling quicker promotions feasible and redesigning organisations with flatter structures are some of the measures that would significantly motivate Gen Y employees to stay with the organisation and build their careers instead of looking for frequent changes in order to satisfy their quest for success.
One area where Gen Y employees have undisputedly better skills than others is in the use of technology and their understanding in the smart usage of technology to solve problems or innovate. Gen Y lives,interacts and test their ideas with known and unknown people around the globe with absolute ease. Organisations should encourage them to use these skills and knowledge in the work context and involve them in rethinking the business propositions propelled by the power of technology. Successful relationships,healthy work environments and positive outcomes would emerge by applying the age old principles of engagement,involvement and ownershipprinciples which continue to be effervescent be they Gen Y or Gen X.
The writer is CEO,Global Talent Track,a corporate training solutions company