Article: Connecting to the ever-connected: Making millennials happy at work

Life @ Work

Connecting to the ever-connected: Making millennials happy at work

By 2021, 64% of the workforce in India would be comprised of millennials. Is the workplace ready to make the most of this millennial boom and to make them happy?
Connecting to the ever-connected: Making millennials happy at work

The Economic Survey 2013-2014 purported that by 2021, 64% of the working population in India would be within the 20-35 age group making India the youngest country. What at the time of the survey must have felt like the fairly distant future is now close at hand. Companies across the globe seem to have been preparing for this millennial boom for years and it should thus not be wrong to assume that they already have plans and processes in place to attract and retain these wifi-dependent, technology-hungry, intensely and inherently globalized individuals. 

That said, simply attracting and retaining millennial talent neither ensures productivity, nor happiness at work. Moreover, there must be more to millennial happiness than VR-enabled nap-pods, gourmet snack-dispensing vending machines and an abundance of beanbags strewn across the office space.

Let’s look at it from another perspective – what are the biggest challenges millennials face at work that make them unhappy? The HBR-Ascend survey, Skills, and Challenges faced by Millennials Today indicated that 40.3% of the millennial workforce sites "excessive workload" as the strongest deterrent to better performance at work, the second hindrance being “office politics,” according to 39.17% respondents. It is crucial to understand that millennials are a result-driven group of individuals who have grown up in the instant-revolution and are used to immediate feedback with regard to whether something works or not. Therefore, performance and happiness are closely linked for them, they are not happy with just surviving at a job sans a two-way value addition and a deterrent to increased performance is thus a road-block to happiness.

 Recruiter speak

 Considering that recruiters spend a lot of time analyzing and assessing which workplace factors work and which do not (not to mention that their own jobs depend on being able to hold onto millennials who are fabled to have attention spans of about 6 seconds, who redefine job-hopping and are a lot more well-informed than their predecessors), it is interesting to note what they think about work aspects that draw millennials like moths to a flame.  MRI Network’s Millennial Hiring Trends Study, 2017 points out what recruiters believe are the most effective tools to increase millennial engagement and retention: 

  • Work-from-home flexibility - 38%

  • Career path planning - 32%

  • Updated interesting technology - 23%

  • Relevant Perks - 17%

  • Open workspaces - 14%

  • Mobile-friendliness - 13%

  • Internal Social Sharing - 10%

  • Mentoring and Diversity related groups - 9%

Numbers often speak louder than words and while those above are but perceptions of a sample of recruiters, it would not be wrong to assume that they form the crux of a much larger shared perceived reality. Besides, most organizations worldwide seem to be focusing on similar aspects at work and that cannot be without reason. At Infosys, for example, out of its 1,80,000 workforce worldwide, millennials make up 90% of the numbers. Companies like IBM India, Microsoft India, and InMobi all seem to be focusing their energy on their millennial talent as well. 

Senior Vice-President and Head HR at Infosys, Richard Lobo agrees that people processes must evolve to connect with this work population with a mean age of 28 years.

Connecting the dots

Engaging millennials often seem to be a hassle. How is it so difficult to connect to individuals who spend the majority of their days connected to others, albeit through devices? Maybe that is where the issue lies – millennials are connected to devices more often than they are connected to people? While that conjecture might be open to debate, gaining access to millennials on a collective, connective plane would surely be the right step forward. 

Let’s take a look at the 3 Is of making millennials happy at work – Innovation for greater Involvement and for better Integration – a throwback of sorts to Hammurabi’s code of an “eye for an eye” – modified to “an I for an I (for an I)” to suit our present-day needs and concerns, if you will.

  1. Innovation: Millenials reportedly detest stagnation and thrive in a dynamic and innovative environment. They expect organizations to look beyond cloud, seek digital assistants and are on the lookout for the next big thing. They are largely a trend-setting and trend-following generation with trends changing often on the click of a mouse. Considering the speed of feedback and results that millennials seek, eBay seems to have got it right with their “Want it, Get it” campaign. This is a generation that lives digital, every day. Creative thought and innovation has to be more than a value listed on the company’s  ‘About Us’ page and become a habit that the organization regularly engages in be it in technological upgrades, managerial styles, core HR processes or simply how they interact at work or even basic ergonomics. Pride in one’s work and the organization one works with has been noted to be related to how happy an employee feels at work. Millennials take pride in their work when they know they work for an organization that is taking the right leaps in innovation and thus that affects how happy they are at and with work.

  2. Involvement: Being a hands-on generation, millennials seek and enjoy greater involvement that the previous working generations. Even when one looks at the kind of media and content millennials consume, one cannot miss the importance of immersive experiential content. That same applies to millennials at work. Baby Boomers might have been content in being involved in a few decisions at work at pertained to them directly and followed processes and guidelines without a very critical questioning attitude. Not millennials. They want to be involved in decisions that affect the bigger picture at work, are ready to question established rules and being brought up in a world where opinions and updates almost need to be broadcasted 24x7, they do not shy away from making their voice heard. On the contrary, if they do voice out their opinions and are not allowed to be involved, that’s when their tether breaks and they move towards disengagement.

  3. Integration: Millennials are a group that has been exposed to globalization for most of their lives. Besides this, a wider span of connectivity has made them the generation that can be the most inclusive with regard to cultural, generational or gender diversity. They thus seek a work environment that abides by stronger and wider integration with regard to diversity and digital. They also believe in the integration of more effective work-life blend related practices, better integration of internal communication that is not merely transactional along with their own holistic integration into the work system not just as Machine Piece A who does task A but rather a human entity that does task A predominantly but can also do tasks B and C, is keen to learn about task X and wants to upgrade to Task A+ of his/her base role. They thus seek better role integrations and career path charts that make sense to them from a future perspective.

The 3Is are not the alpha and omega of making millennials happy at work but they do touch over the points that millennials seem to be on the lookout for universally. Often regarded as the generation that is still coming of age, millennials seem to have a better grasp of the needs of the present work landscape than the workplace has of their needs. Maybe it is time for the workplace to come of age too.

Image Credits: Aventr

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Topics: Life @ Work, Employee Relations

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