Why do people behave a certain way in an organizational environment? What factors affect job performance, employee interaction, job commitment, leadership and managerial styles? Organizational behavior is the study of both group and individual performance and activity within an organization. In today’s workplace, one of the few constants is change. Shifts in global competition frequently alter the landscape, and technology is constantly evolving. One of the most difficult changes occurs when new employees are hired, especially if they are young and from a generation first entering the workforce in large numbers. Especially in the last few years, managers have begun to realize that the young generation is different. But how are they different, and why? New technology comes with an owner’s manual, but the generation of new employees does not. Until recently, information on how the generations differ psychologically was difficult to come by. Books such as When Generations Collide (Lancaster and Stillman, 2003), Generations at Work (Zemke et al., 1999), and Managing Generation X (Tulgan, 2003) relied on case studies, interviews, anecdotal stories, and qualitative surveys. Although these books provided an intriguing picture of how generational differences might impact the workplace, they were hindered by the dearth of empirical, quantitative data on how the generations differ – particularly how they differ in their underlying psychology. However, in recent times, generational studies with an organizational context have been held in plenty. Which books such as ‘Gen X & Y’ leading a barrage of articles and analysis of the Millennials at the Work Place, behavioral differences have come into the focus on organizational psychologists.
Gen Z – the cohort born after 1995 to the present day – has just entered the work force. In the next five years, this generation will be dominating the workforce population worldwide. With the baby boomers on their way out, Gen Y and Z have huge shoes to fill. Are organizations ready to welcome this generation? My colleague and I recently conducted a study with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai to record the factors that this generation treasures at work. Some of them are listed as under:
Technology & Communication
This generation has grown up living and breathing technology. They have learnt using a cell phone before learning to drive a bicycle, and technology comes easily to them. Social media is as old as they are and this new kid on the block is here to stay. As HR leaders and influencers, we need to absorb this reality and change with the times. Recruitment, talent engagement, performance management, corporate communication and all other gamut of HR can & should leverage technology and social platforms to engage with this generation
Flexibility & Creativity
With the advent of technology & communication, the work landscape is changing rapidly – older conventional jobs & industries are out of window leading to newer types of jobs & industries. Who would have thought a social media manager is a real job and that an app developer can earn millions a year? This generation wants and values flexibility – of time, location, compensation and also job responsibilities. 9 hour a day, 5 days a week, no longer resonates with this generation. An attendance tracker & micro-manager will kill their enthusiasm instantly. Creative maximization of their time and skills to solve & visibly impact the world is what excites them. The world is already witnessing a boom of entrepreneurs creating never seen before products and services. This generation does not shy away from putting in long hours, provided they see and have bought in to the organizational goals. As an HR, now is the time to focus on creating challenging globally mobile job roles and assignments that will maximize their inputs as well as help them learn on the way. Revisiting the conventional pay mix is also a good idea, the frequency of the salary and especially the incentives – as a paid vacation to an exotic locale, combined with unlimited vacation time – are perks that this generation will value
Continuing to where I left on earlier, while they are willing to put in efforts and burn the mid-night oil, they are also very quick to gauge the long term benefits. With an increase in information & opportunities available due to technology, this generation will be the toughest to retain. Organizations need to accept this reality & open their doors to internal job rotations, short term stretch assignments, internal job postings and such to retain their HiPos & alike. This trait should also be considered in developing this generation. Instant and honest feedback works well with them.
Organizations should aim to become flexible and adopt a differentiated approach. It can no longer survive on rigid mechanisms and policies frozen for years because the expectations and demands of employees are no longer similar. Organizations now face the challenge of being agile not only in thought, but also in action, as they address a set of employee highly diverse and varied in approach. "Each generation brings their own set of skills and cultural norms," Milgram said. "A successful office should be a melting pot of different generations, personalities and talent, all coming together toward a common goal. That is the only way a company will ensure they are bringing fresh perspectives to often times common problems."