Smriti Handa is a seasoned HR professional with over 14 years of experience of working with corporates. A firm believer of HR and business integration, Smriti works to ensure that HR plans are seamlessly integrated with business strategy. Throughout her career span, she has worked on various HR functions including but not limited to organization productivity enhancement, HR organization re-design, performance management process re-design, stakeholder analysis, change management & communication, automation (Oracle HRMS processes & Query Handling System), facilities planning and delivery, organization re-design & implementation, risk assessment & mitigation, and transition & migration strategy. Currently, she is working as the Regional HR Director South Asia at RB.
Millennials receive frequent criticism and get boxed. That leads to under-leveraging of this group of employees. Organisations need to understand that in order to get the best from millennials they need to collaborate with ease and adapt their management style to create a win-win situation for everyone.
Millennials are often referred to as GenY, Gen Me, digital natives, trophy kids, job hoppers, boomerang generation etc. Given that most of these name-tags smell of societal biases, there is merit in letting these go (Dread people calling you ageist in meetings and events!) It is important to remember that their agility allows Millennials to quickly learn-unlearn various modes of communication, social media, networking, and technology. Further, this demographic cohort is poised to make up the majority of the workforce by 2025. Given these facts, it is imperative to think of a robust talent strategy that binds together people, cultures, roles, and structure for tomorrow.
As some of us make time to think of future ways of working and design ways to attract, engage, and retain Millennials, I thought of penning down some of my thoughts on key ingredients of talent development for Millennials:
1. First, Bid Goodbye to Dinosaur Leaders
Accept that authority, hierarchy, attendance management, strict controls, etc. is passé. New leadership style must emerge across organisations. The new breed of younger, more agile, “digital-ready” leaders are expected to be friends, coach, guide, mentor, boss, peer, agony aunt all at the same time. Figuring out which hat to wear will be situational leadership. Millennials will not be a passive set of workers. They will demand frequent feedbacks, emphasize relationships more than structures, and a manager that embraces fun and provides opportunities to learn anytime and anywhere. Therefore, rise and shine new age leaders. You need to think differently, maybe at the speed of light, handle complexity in the VUCA world, manage a multi-generational workforce, and make decisions quickly for building an effective and productive workforce.
2. Hire Them Young
Let go of the days of long-term tenure and welcome shorter, productive stints. Accept them as nomads. To guide these nomads well, it is advisable to hire them young to shape their minds, choices, ethics, and professionalism. If we shape that well, we will witness highly engaged, loyal workers. Moreover, when people are loyal at work, productivity automatically rises. Commit yourself to developing capabilities that will enable their survival and success; focus on building change enablers with transformative vision and digital excellence.
Millennials will not be a passive set of workers. They will demand frequent feedbacks, emphasize relationships more than structures, and a manager that embraces fun and provides opportunities to learn anytime and anywhere.
3. Challenge Their Boundaries
Let us not be shy of offering them jobs that expose them to scorching heat, late-night silence, traffic halts, multi-task regimes, angry and irritated customer, etc. Push them to the peak to outperform in the most inconvenient situations because that is how 70% of the learning takes place. We acknowledge that their upbringing has been through helicopter parenting, but this will be the time for a reality check to develop them into future leaders. Train them beyond Google and jargons in order to ensure they have a competitive edge. Provide them experiences that enable them to exercise influence in their role. Statistics show that 54% of people believe that the engagement level in an organisation is a function of exercising influence. My experience says that influence is a function of knowledge, experience, gut and past laurels. Invest in them!
4. Engage Digitally
Millennials are adept at technology. On average, a Millennial checks digital platforms 150 times a day. Phew! Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become a daily part of their life — and work, as well. They want to feel a sense of belonging, make acquaintances and remain connected with friends. They simply cannot conceive an unconnected life: so much so up to that up to 56 percent of Millennials would turn down a job that denied them access to social networks. This social need is felt equally at work, where they spend a large proportion of their life. In such a scenario, we cannot be pursuing pen/paper approaches to engagement. We have to create digital-connected-user friendly talent platforms, social networks, internal search engines to grab this new age employee’s attention.
Statistics show that 54% people believe that engagement level in an organisation is a function of exercising influence. My experience says that influence is a function of knowledge, experience, gut and past laurels. Invest in them!
5. Embrace an Environment of Work-Life Balance
Millennials value, and are most willing to stick with, companies that offer flexible hours, telecommuting, location independence, etc., which will enable them to experience the world, spend time with their families and friends, and achieve multiple goals. Millennials firmly believe that work-life balance is good for their happiness and emotional health. This is why having diverse management teams and flexible work environments is very important to them.
6. Creating Opportunities for Learning and Development
Millennials are on a constant lookout for new opportunities and challenges since they have grown up in a culture of immediacy, surrounded by stimuli. They have watched their parents struggle and work through the negative impacts of the changing workplace; therefore, they value work-life balance above everything else. They are result-oriented, impatient, ambitious, eager for new experiences, and they thrive on short-term goals with visible results. Their managers need not micromanage them, instead help them identify opportunities to develop new skills. Millennials desire opportunities to make a real impact in the workplace. Therefore, the organisations need to lay out their future in the company and talk about their career growth more frequently.
7. Offer Entrepreneurial-flexible Culture
Their passion and restlessness is their strength. Let these wild spirits work on new business ideas, marketing strategies, and subsidiary businesses. Create test-and-learn environments to explore possibilities. Embed startup labs where they can work on new ideas periodically. Organisations need to satiate this hunger for their urge to find meaningful opportunities in the gig economy to come down. Further, offer a culture that allows them to make choices. Forward-looking culture would be non-judgmental and flexible. To achieve this, organisations will need to open up to inclusive policies wherein employees can be single or married, with or without kids or in an LGBT marriage without worrying about the consequences.
Let them tell the story, whether of success or of failure, themselves. Empower them to own the business as their own enterprise. Enable employees to move around projects/SBUs, provide them with the liberty to work on self-directed skill-enhancing programs and personalized multi-faceted career paths.
We have stereotyped Millennials in various ways, researched them, and painted a picture. We need to act more responsibly and not be judgmental. We need to collaborate with ease, valuing the change of a new workforce and new mindsets. We have to work towards creating a win-win for everyone.
Times will change, organisations will grow, and before we know it, Industrial Revolution 5.0 will hit us. Current leaders will move on and new ones will step in; talent of today will create an impact tomorrow. Encourage them to define the future vision. Groom them, invest in them and set them free to change things their way because when one gets the freedom to perform is when one ensures that transformation sets in.