This article was written by Prithvi Shergill, Chief Human Resources Officer at HCL Technologies.
Post, Pin, Tweet, Webinar, Video Conference, Tele-presence, Social – these are some of the new business terms that we are increasingly seeing heard in our workplace. Gone is the static, paper-based, boardroom-centric world of work. In its place, a new social, collaborative landscape where freedom of information enables an idea-based economy is emerging.
A new 'breed' of individual
The main driver for this change is a new breed of individual, known as Generation Y or the Millennial Generation. These are people aged between 18 and 33 who have grown-up in an age where technological advancement has changed the way they interact and work.
Why are these individuals becoming such a catalyst for change?
There’s no doubt that use of social media is on the up in the workplace. What’s perhaps less well known is the extent to which we are also seeing a rise in other innovations, such as flexible working hours and locations. These ends and more, are becoming more prevalent because they so closely mirror the character traits synonymous with Generation Y. It’s a generation that embraces change and one which businesses have to keep pace with if they are to be successful.
The truth is that in the modern workplace, day-to-day activities are continually being shaped, enhanced and dictated by the technology available to us. The increased reliance on these tools by this new generation is a product of the environment in which they live and how they were brought up. As such, it stands to reason that those aged between 18 and 33 are increasingly looking to use what is available to them at home, at work.
Although businesses are slowly coming to terms with the priorities of Millennials, many find it difficult to translate this into the recruitment methodologies and the experience candidates have. There’s no doubt that talent is the primary engine that drives organisations forward, and that more progressive recruitment methods are being used to find people whose potential can be translated into high performance in diverse environments. However, what some businesses continue to struggle with is the challenge of accepting that this talent can actively influence the culture within a business, based on their own character, competencies, and countries of origin.
A shift in the talent management landscape
For this reason, it is essential for businesses to realise that the pressure within the organisation has shifted when it comes to talent management. It is not just the candidate that needs to interview well or the employee to perform above expectations. Today’s businesses also need to work hard to display their own values of providing autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose to attract potential hires of their worth. The behaviours, programmes and outcomes it espouses must reinforce these clearly if they wish to attract and retain the best talent. The modern business reality is that unless your current and future employee agrees with and supports these core values, top talent can and will simply go elsewhere.
Part of this is the willingness to accept new ways of working. The ‘work wherever, whenever’ nature of Millennials comes hand-in-hand with a desire to look beyond the confines of their desk for more opportunities to interact with clients, customers and each other out of the office. For this reason, there is an increased amount of remote working seen in today’s organisations, as a result of Millennial-influenced trends such as BYOD, and flexible working hours. Consequently, more businesses are also feeling compelled to invest in more innovative solutions such as cloud-based technology to enable employees to work on the move, as well as business intelligence software to speed up data-fuelled decision-making.
Such workplaces spark demand for a greater work-life balance and a clearly defined sense of purpose, whatever the job description. Generation Y is more aware of their rights and responsibilities within the workplace, perhaps due to growing up with any number of multi-media reminders of what is going on in the business community, in society, and around the world. This is made more acute as for many of these employees most of their working life has been at a time of austerity and economic uncertainty.
It’s also worth remembering that future success for organisations lies in understanding different talent segments and tailoring value propositions to the generation. Put simply, it is not conducive to long-term talent retention to recruit Millennials and then simply slot them into a role and environment established by the previous generation. With different generations working in an organisation, it is crucial to evolve and customise people practices for each segment.
There’s a very good reason for this, as if history has demonstrated anything, it’s the importance of employee engagement within the business. After all, if a business is dependent on its people to add value to their clients, shouldn’t it prioritise the needs of its employees first? Today, we see more and more employees responding to a culture where they see leaders accepting imperfections as catalysts for transformation. Indeed, today’s truly effective leaders are actually, able to seed trust by stretching the envelope of transparency and reverse accountability. They see that by bringing ‘the bottom of the organisational pyramid to the top’, decentralising decision-making and recognising and rewarding collaboration, they are able to create greater value.
How should businesses manage employee growth?
There’s no doubt that attitudes to career paths have changed considerably over the past decade and today it’s unusual for employees to stay in the same company for the entirety of their working lives. What this means is that employers have had to adjust the way they manage employee growth. Increasingly, employers must strive to continually understand the priorities of its workforce and shape roles and opportunities accordingly. What this means is that there is a greater need to sculpt job descriptions to enable, engage and empower individuals is also required.
It’s not an overstatement to say any organisation trying to push a star-shaped Generation Y recruit into the square Generation X hole will simply not exist in ten years time. They will be overtaken by their more innovative peers – those willing to shape their organisations around their more highly motivated, collaborative and creative staff. Successful businesses of tomorrow will recognise the importance of growing the capability of its people, both in terms of capacity and ability. This recognition will fuel the growth of businesses, as both individuals and organisations will find that their objectives are being achieved simultaneously.
In turn, we’ll see more focus placed on those within a business that are willing to shape their organisations around their more highly motivated, collaborative and creative staff. The Millennial generation isn’t just a change in business practice – it’s marks a significant shift for society as a whole. Perhaps the only risk is that organisations will struggle to keep pace with this change and be left lagging behind!
The Millennial generation marks a change in business practices and society alike. People who seed, nurture and harvest new ideas will innovate and fuel growth for organizations as tomorrow’s Idea-preneurs!
About Jamie Lawrence
Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names, including Daniel H. Pink. He has worked previously as a small business journalist and a copywriter and has published non-fiction that reached #2 on the NYT Children's Bestseller List. In his spare time Jamie likes writing fiction, films, fitness and eating out.