Millennials have been described by the US Census Bureau as those individuals who have been born between 1981 and 1999. They are thus between 20 and 38 years of age in 2019. A sticky slogan that describes millennials is - how the ‘me” generation has impacted the contemporary workplace in ways that, for the most part, are positive. Let us consider a few of them:
- Millennials have caused greater employee engagement initiatives. Millennials through sheer force of numbers, have changed the way companies engage with employees. India has one of the youngest populations in the world, and this is reflected in the large numbers of millennials that make up the Indian workforce today. They are not content with having to wait their turn till they can impact company policy and procedure. They would like to be noticed for their performance early on. That is why many contemporary companies are providing opportunities for millennials to stand out. One such method is called “shadowing”. Many get opportunities to periodically interact with senior managers in different ways. One shadowing method is to second millennials to senior managers for a few days so they can learn managerial skills through this engagement. The millennial also receives individualised feedback on how they can fast-track their careers. Case in point is RPG Enterprises, which conducts brainstorming sessions where millennials participate alongside senior managers. The millennials bring a freshness of perspective to the sessions. If they are consistently outstanding, they could get hand-picked for special assignments.
- Tech-savvy millennials are particularly suited to this Machine Learning age. Millennials tend to be tech-savvy, which works in their favour in the contemporary workplace, which is currently ushering in the industrial revolution 4.0. (It is not for nothing that they are described as being part of the M-generation; constituting the mobile generation.) Often, senior managers take assistance from millennials to prepare infographics for presentations. I once presented a paper at an international conference, in collaboration with one of my MBA students. I had prepared the content, but my student had prepared the visuals. The visuals were so good, they almost upstaged the academic arguments put forward. Technology is also enabling remote working. A recent study in the UK has revealed that 77 percent of millennials favour flexitime. These millennials prefer flexitime not because they want to spend time with family members, but because the concept is aligned with their lifestyle. Millennials are thus forcing companies to embrace telecommuting as a way of work life.
- Millennials have prompted generational cohabitation. Today, it is not millennials who are experiencing difficulties adapting to work-life. It is the veterans, the generation referred to as baby boomers in the West. Veterans, unable to adapt to millennials, are often forced to retire. Many veterans find it difficult to accept that hierarchies are becoming increasingly permeable. Organisations will now have to task their HR function with a new job: that of assisting old-timers to come to terms with the contemporary workplace. Organisations which neglect old-timers are as much likely to become low performance organisations as those which ignore their millennials. Thus, organisations must consider that they are now multicultural in an all-new 21st century way. Organisations now have employees from different generations working together in the same unit. Academicians have given this phenomenon a name: generational cohabitation. Different generations have a different cultural upbringing, and both generations need to be protected from “culture-shock”. It is interesting to observe that while older generations advocate and design flat work structures, it is millennials who fit into such structures with ease.
- Millennials’ interest in sustainability issues is giving CSR a fillip. A recent doctoral thesis undertaken in Sweden indicates that millennials bring to the workplace a commitment towards sustainability. This commitment is likely to make even the greediest corporations become more socially responsible. The impetus for this is not coming from governments and legislation but from internal stakeholders. The Millennial Impact Report has demonstrated that there is a year-on-year increase in the involvement of millennials in volunteering and in philanthropic activities. Where they can, they choose to work in organisations which have successful corporate social responsibility programmes. Many organisations, taking note of this, are allowing millennials to volunteer on company time. Colleagues working together to address social issues end up becoming more tolerant towards each other. This leads to an overall improvement in the work culture.
- Millennials and job-hopping. A frequent criticism of millennials is that they want instant gratification. This may fly in the face of traditional thinking - that people become successful by making sacrifices now, to deserve a future built on hard work and dedication. But so many millennials have become incredibly successful early on in life, through invention, hedge funds and entrepreneurship. So, we cannot fault millennials for thinking big. Millennials really do expect a great deal from their employers and are prepared to change jobs if taken for granted. This could have a positive effect on organisations if they respond by valuing their employees more in newer ways.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur)