The growth story of the Indian economy is still a very good story. Periodic hiccups in political stability, price and interest rate hikes and (non) reforms are often highlighted. The positives – economic momentum, consumption led by a domestic economy, a strong young workforce and the second highest growth rates in the world, are only discussed off and on.
All the opportunities, which will be thrown up by the next few decades can only be leveraged if there is a workforce, who can really enable the actual execution of policies, plans and projects for real value add. This will require both skills and a mindset, which is balanced in approach, continuously pushing for improvements around them and sees the bigger picture into which their actions and contributions fit. The government and even private enterprise to a degree is focusing on skill development and that is a welcome step.
What perhaps also needs to be addressed is the mental and emotional make-up of the working masses, especially the workforce between 18 and 35 years of age, on an ongoing basis. Going by current issues and challenges in organizations, there are alarming trends, which could lead to our productive population actually becoming unproductive in the end, and in an extreme case, the cause for self destructive generations of the populace. The nation will be left behind in the global game if that happens.
A) Balancing personal, organizational and societal wellbeing: At the workplace today, most employees’ and managers’ behavior is guided by a sense of ‘me and myself’. This has perhaps got generated by trying to get results very quickly at an individual level and make the best of situations while the good going lasts. A sense of larger contribution is missing, as is the sense of a longer term good. Lack of respect for ones civic responsibilities, job changes for a few thousands more and a general lack of interest in organizational well being are all symptoms. Organizations too may have contributed by not having managed the overall development of employees, and only used them as resources for short term productivity gains and results seen in terms of profits and shareholder returns. From an average person, it is rare to hear about broader objectives beyond ones salary, promotion, growth or the next job. Salaries and material wellbeing in the earlier generations was much less than today but the sense of contributing to larger causes beyond the self was possibly more.
B) Balancing needs & desires and setting personal direction: Conversations around us, all possibly impacted by the last two decades of galloping growth, are about how one can quickly become materially successful. The need to create something meaningful is overtaken by measures of external success.
Desires are way beyond real needs, and in many cases, beyond means. There is an almost alarming growth in confidence, and what can only be termed as desire to succeed at any costs. The alarm is because, for many individuals, the confidence is not because of their own abilities or contributions, but linked to the general growth they see around them, and want a piece of the pie. What they do not see is that this growth is possibly fuelled by many other social and macro economic factors and not necessarily a direct reflection of their own abilities in any way.
What “I” am capable of because of who I am, and what will be my own contribution to the organization or the world around me is neither questioned nor guided in a meaningful way. This leads to no real personal goals or direction, and consequently can lead to a loss of identity and anchor in an ever changing world.
C) Balancing rights and responsibilities: A sustainable society and industry can only be formed with a good balance of responsibilities being fulfilled by all constituents while demanding their fair share of returns. If we demand more and give less, a sense of unfairness and lack of trust results, leading to actions, which are logical in a personal sense of the constituency but completely unsustainable in a larger sense. This is visible at the lowest level in a relationship between employee and manager or employee and organization, and in a larger sense between individual and society. A sense of having more rights will always lead to aggression and unrealistic expectations, and therefore an unfulfilled void always. This imbalance is further fuelled by shortsightedness of any one constituency in promoting short term win-lose situations. It may well be the consequence of an insecure generation grown up on shortages and no social security.
The growth of the economy over the last couple of decades and a huge gap between demand and supply of adequately trained and mature workforce, have led to disproportional returns for individuals. In an average employee’s mind, there is no need to learn, adapt and change; only to get quick returns from the organization/society and enjoy a good life. The influx of many young people with a wide variety of backgrounds into the workforce, a need for competing for material returns, and an educational, political and societal system, which does not enable independent thinking are all adding to these challenges in a detrimental way.
A bit of “sanity of growth” needs to come in. Grow and reap the rewards, but all together, and with an inclusive attitude, even to the environment and society. Each generation needs to groom the next ones with care, giving them the right sense of values and proportion around things in life. What this generation of leaders and managers, who have gained so much from the last two decades leave behind, will decide the future of our talented young ones.
The younger generations have the energy, confidence, lack of insecurity and moral upbringing to be the force for this country. We as managers and leaders need to nurture and guide them so they find their own identity, direction and space for contribution. And without a self–centeredness, which may well be passed on. Then all will be well.