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Engaging the ‘Young & Restless’ Generation

Never before has the challenge of keeping our younger staff engaged greater that now. According to recent reports the population of India will be much younger than China’s in 2050. With more young people being part of its workforce (median age of 25), India is expected to enjoy a huge economic advantage. A recent study indicates that in the next five years more than 30% if the workforce in India will belong to the Net Generation. However unless companies, especially in India realize their worth the generation that leads will not have anyone to lead.

In a realistic representation of the impact Gen Ys are making in the corporate world Business Today’s cover story – ‘Brats at work, How twentysomethings are changing the workplace’ sums up steps companies are taking to listen, understand, involve and engage these youngsters.

Seems like the corporate world in India is feeling the heat managing the young workforce they fondly call ‘brats’.

Petal glow

I feel that the story is a ‘must read’ for all supervisors, human resources, communication and training professionals in the corporate world in India.

What struck me most is that the organizations featured aren’t all from the sunrise industries but ‘old world’ who are keen to evolve and get to the next level of innovation, knowledge management and success.

The key trends are – a focus on swifter recognition (in tune with the instant gratification needs of Gen Y), demand for greater acknowledgement of their life outside of work (social media, family expectations among others), greater emphasis on internal communications by human resources and the organization’s acceptance of their influence in the workplace’s future.

Among the expectations these youngsters seek are increased latitude, honest answers to questions, frequent and meaningful communication, option to choose their mentors and a life beyond work.

Here are some best practices that caught my attention –

Larsen & Toubro: redesigning employee benefits to give ‘cash in hand’, internal version of Facebook kind of social network

Maruti and Genpact: have overhauled their appraisals to ensure employees see near term action. They also get to experiment and are put on a leadership program

Adobe: begun their own social networking site on Yammer

Amex: has a reverse mentoring program where youngsters coach leaders

Ashok Leyland: created a program called Mission Yes aimed at Gen Y whereby including greater delegation and shared ownership

Apollo Tyres: has collapsed their performance system to give feedback every 3 months and has a mandatory, structured training program

Babaj Allianz: unique concept of having a two minute learning module instead of relevant themes such as time management and customer segmentation.  Guess it works for a generation with declining attention spans.

Bharti Airtel: has skits by trainees that allows better assimilation of messages and is used by the L&D team to engage employees. Also senior leadership is paired with top performers.

DLF Pramaerica Life Insurance: flexible work timings, allows for hobbies, higher studies.

While all these initiatives look like easy-to-replicate my recommendation is that leaders, human resources, training and internal communicators must first examine the business need and impact.

Here are pointers that can help you better engage your Gen Next.

Understand your young-gen: It seems only 1/3rd of companies have accurate data on employees (Managing Today’s Global Workforce – an Ernst & Young May 2010 study). Without a clear understanding of your employees’ interests and background it becomes difficult to manage expectations, let alone provide ample support. Your data should integrate knowledge and expertise that each individual brings to the table. This mapping gives every organization immense clout to internally manage resources and capacity.

Make your workplace’s technology current: Nothing appeals more to this generation to work for an organization that is moving with the times. Accenture’s study on Global Millenials (born in the 1990s) suggests that ‘state of the art’ technology is a differentiator for most Indians when they choose an employer.

Learning is multidimensional: Learning isn’t about instructor led courses, e-classes or structured programs – it is now everywhere. Tap the immense wealth of knowledge that the youth of your organization come with. Especially in areas such as marketing, technology, social media, environment and even crisis management. Enroll them as ‘experts’ who can give guidance, provide ideas and involve networks. During 26/11 (Terror attack in Mumbai) the young generation mostly provided real-time updates on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, much faster than the print or the television media.

Allow for internal networking: Youngsters expect to explore their environment in ways in which they feel comfortable. Keep your organization’s culture and systems flexible to allow for internal networking. The new generation will find their way around and they are known to seek their own mentors (people they respect and look for guidance).They are keen to innovate and help organizations they work for successful. Make them central to your core committees which create social media plans and take IT decisions.

Co-create communication: If you haven’t realized yet, Gen Y are light years ahead in finding information, creating and publishing real-time. In this world of instant communication it is foolhardy to package information that they can anyway get from their networks. By involving them as ‘internal communicators’ you can tap live stories in formats (for example, blogs, podcasts and videos) that appeal to their peers.

Succession planning at the start: It is important to show this generation how they can grow and prosper within the organization. Without a clear succession plan and career map they will lose interest or seem opportunities elsewhere. However don’t expect them to be loyal. They view it as a symbiotic relationship.

Manage performance often: If it needs to be everyday, it works even better! They expect to know how they fare with every task and if there isn’t a mechanism they will lose faith in the system of appraisal. Real-time feedback and course correction is the order of the day to keep this young bunch focused. Most importantly, you need to be a role model if you want them to believe and respect you.

Create policies that enable not deter: A shockingly large number of this young group routinely bypass IT barriers to get to sites they like to access. The following statistics indicate the growing trend: ‘a staggering 45 percent of employed Millennials globally use social networking sites at work, whether prohibited or not. Only 32 percent say that the social networks they use are supported by their IT department and meet their expectations’.

Join ‘em or lose ‘em:  Research points to India Millenials on e-mail, text, IM and social networks in that order.  As leaders and supervisors it is essential to understand their online behavior and engage them accordingly. Those who have lesser knowledge of their world are respected even lesser! Not surprisingly, where more than three in four Millennials use social networks more than half of the time when trying to learn more about peers or superiors.

All said and done this new generation can’t be ignored as they take over the reins in organizations in a few years from now. Unless they are groomed to lead, think long term and be inclusive in their communication we may see organizations struggle to know how to manage these ‘twentysomethings’.

2 thoughts on “Engaging the ‘Young & Restless’ Generation

  1. Great blog. I’m sure similar situation is happening in most of the world, even though populations are younger in the developing markets. Interesting perspective! I’ll post a link to your blog in my page if you allow. Thanks

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