By Suhail Aboli,
Dun & Bradstreet
25th January 2017

Millennials: Reshaping the Workplace Trends

“The Old Order Changeth, Yielding Place to New”

There are a few quotes as apt as Alfred Lord Tennyson’s to describe the present global workforce, which is rapidly being taken over by the ‘Millennials’. The millennial generation has only recently surpassed Generation X to become the largest generation in the US workforce. Estimates state that by the year 2025, about 75-80% of the global workforce will be composed of Millennials. Interestingly, India’s Millennials account for approximately 28 per cent of the population; therefore, it’s not hard to see why Millennials are here to stay, for a very long time. Needless to say, this is why it becomes important for organisations to brace themselves to manage this humongous pool of talent.

A plethora of questions arise, like ‘What is so unique or different about the Indian Millennials?’ ‘Do engagement rules practiced in the US & UK markets work in developing countries like India?’ ‘What would Indian companies need to do in order to identify the characteristics of Gen Y and implement strategies to manage them in their workforces? Keeping in mind these trending questions, Dun & Bradstreet hosted an event on ‘HR Best Practices 2017’. The special focus was a panel discussion on the topic ‘Human Resources Management in the Age of Millennials’. The event was a platform for leading organisations across India to share their HR Best Practices and exchange notes on the importance, application and outcomes of adoption of HR Best Practices in the Indian context. It was a great learning opportunity where eminent speakers and experts in the HR domain expressed their views and thoughts on how millennials are reshaping the workplace trends, especially in the current business scenario. Beyond what the title indicates, the panel discussion also focused on the opportunities and challenges posed by a multi-generational workforce.

It is elementary knowledge that although millennials are rapidly taking over workplaces globally, organisations still have a sizeable number of employees from previous generations – Generation X, the Baby Boomers and others. Understandably, each of these cohort groups displays an array of traits and characteristics, some of which are strikingly different. These differences in values, experiences, expectations, priorities, perspectives, working styles and behaviours between generations could lead to conflict and tension at the workplace, and could even threaten the workplace culture if not managed well. On the brighter side, however, a multi-generational workforce also brings to the table the advantage of a range of experiences, learning and skill sets. Organisations that have been able to leverage the strengths and values of their multi-generational workforce are known to have delivered great success stories. Intel on how to integrate these forces to develop an agile and flexible business model and on why to focus on millennial, were interesting perspectives to fathom.

Millennials are generally admired for an array of traits that they possess. They are known to be tech-savvy, having a tendency to work smart rather than hard, and possess an ability to learn quickly. They are also viewed as being more ambitious, desirous of more responsibilities and in search of opportunities to do meaningful work. On the other side they are also perceived to be lazy, narcissistic, attention-seeking, seeking instant gratification, non-collaborative, and as having a sense of entitlement. This is in stark contrast to the earlier traits, and is in reality far from the truth. These are harsh labels to be attributed to a generation that was born amidst widely-used technology, and which grew up in an era of financial stress, skyrocketing prices and which was facing a dearth of jobs and public welfare benefits. The sense of entitlement is probably the result of them coming largely from nuclear families and having being raised with a lot of attention and indulgence. Having always enjoyed more access to information, what is mistaken for attention-seeking is actually their natural need for constructive feedback and mentoring. Their tendency to job-hop should not be mistaken for lack of loyalty; rather it reflects their quest for a diverse series of experiences. Millennials want to become the ‘Jack of all Trades’, which is the most sensible thing to do in today’s volatile market. Likewise, their level of confidence is wrongly labelled as narcissism. The newer lot of employees are not afraid to ask questions to the people leaders with respect to the career paths promised to them at the time of hiring. They are also confident to seek a change in case their career aspirations are not met. For instance, a large part of the younger workforce values a work-life balance and is not afraid to change jobs, even frequently, in order to meet this need. As I see it, millennial are fortunate to have been born in an age where technology is rapidly changing by the minute. They are simply digital natives, and knows how to make good use of the now easily-accessible information and are also aware of the options available. In a nutshell, it seems like easier access to information and the knowledge of alternative solutions gives millennial the courage to make decisions that might have otherwise been considered ‘audacious’ in an older era. The question is, “Is it then right to grudge them on their so called ‘imperfections’?”

It would indeed be a mistake on the part of organisations to assume that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to talent management can work for a multigenerational workforce. How then should organisations grapple with the challenge of capitalising the diverse experiences, strengths, values and skill sets of various generations towards a common objective?

8 Key Takeaways from the panel discussion - Human Resources Management in the Age of Millennials

  1. Active promotion of multigenerational diversity at the workplace and in teams to foster a feeling of value and trust
  2. Focus on building a workforce that is adaptable and open to change
  3. Consideration of the fact that employees are at their best when they are doing something they are passionate about, when they are doing something they are good at and when they are doing something that meets their aspirations
  4. Revisiting and revamping of HR policies to provide for hyper-personalisation of talent management and performance measurement systems
  5. Creation of a common ground for employees across generations
  6. Trying to identify aspirational needs of various generations
  7. An improved corporate culture to help get rid of intra-generational estrangement, improve inter-generational understanding, provide education about various generations, reduce age discrimination, reduce risk of brain drain and improve productivity
  8. Encouraging business leaders to be flexible in their management styles

This list could go on, but it was really interesting to know the expert panel’s view. We are sure that this list will evolve and we will see many more changes which will drive the way millennial are perceived, inducted and assimilated into the mainstream business.