For the first time in history, there is a prospect of as many as five generations going to work together by 2020. This is bound to revolutionise workplace dynamics, with each generation of individuals bringing their own set of unique talents and abilities. Getting one generation to respect the talents of the other, though, is where the roadblock lies.
In order to address this critical challenge, People Matters in association with Luminous Power Technologies held a roundtable on the theme ‘Leading a multigenerational workplace: Strategies for attracting and retaining millennials’. The event brought together senior professionals from diverse organisations, who shared their ideas and best practices for tackling the issue.
As Arti Sharma (Sr.Vice President HR, Admin & CSR, Luminous India-Schneider Electric) stated at the outset of the discussion, millennials would comprise 50% of the global population, by 2020. It is imperative, therefore that organisations find effective ways to integrate millennials with the Baby Boomers and Gen X, at workplaces.
Embracing the differences
The older generations need to acknowledge the distinction in work-related attitudes and philosophies that millennials bring, as the first step towards creating synergies at work. Once the differences are clearly understood and defined, then all the stakeholders can work collectively towards getting everyone on the same page.
There was a concurrence in the table, about some of the broad characteristics exhibited by millennials at work. Everyone agreed that millennials are very technology-savvy, seek instant feedback from their colleagues and managers, and desire a higher degree of autonomy with their work and career progression. In order to engage them better, organizations would need to develop mechanisms to fulfil these expectations.
Interestingly, this might not be as tough to achieve, as one would imagine. Ester Martinez (Founder and Editor-in-Chief, People Matters) in her opening remarks, made the observation that with all the change happening around them, the older generations are also beginning to display some of these characteristics. Be it the social media or technology, Generation X and Baby Boomers are equally inquisitive and up-to-speed about the latest developments. Since they can now relate to this new environment, they may not find it difficult to come to terms with it.
Making leaders out of millennials
One key learning that emerged as a consequence of the discussion was: rather than looking at managing millennials as a challenge, organizations should look at grooming millennials as an opportunity. The next set of leaders will all be millennials, and in order to give them the best possible chance to succeed, organizations will have to provide them with the right mentorship and guidance, at each stage.
A Sudhakar (Executive Director- HR, Dabur India) shared some insights around developing potential leaders out of millennials. He extolled the virtues of the younger generation, lauding them for their work ethic, teamwork and innovative ideas. In order to extract the best out of them, however, they need to be given the freedom to operate in their own manner, he said. Flexible rewards, a dynamic work environment and continuous feedback are some measures that could help, in this regard. In addition to that, it is also important to ensure that there is a cultural fit, for the incoming employees. Leaders can only flourish if they believe in their organization’s philosophy and raison d’etre. If that is not the case, it would lead to a struggle to adjust, and an inability to excel.
There is no doubt that the future holds a lot of promise, for organizations that can optimally channelize the energy of millennials. The way Baby Boomers and Gen X align themselves to millennials though, could be the decisive factor that shapes their future.