Changing Times

Saurabh Nigam, VP - Human Capital, Omidyar NetworkAlmost 50% of the global workforce today is less than 30 years of age. This is a generation that has grown up with ‘never seen before’ exposure to all kinds of information and knowledge. They are a completely informed workforce, who is driven by very different kind of motivators as compared to the generations preceding them. Most organizations are struggling to manage a diverse talent landscape – spanning across multiple generations - in a professional set up.

Gen X was coined by Douglas Coupland in 1991. The phrase Generation Y first appeared in an August 1993 Ad Age editorial to describe teenagers of the day, which they defined as different from Generation X.

Managing such diverse talent in organizations today has become both an art and a science. There no longer exists a clearly defined set of rules that can be considered as a 'Standard Operating Procedure' to be followed to the letter which would help today’s HR managers navigate through the choppy waters that most companies resemble these days as far as their talent landscapes are concerned.

Who are they?
Generation Y is a generation that has grown up with technology since their childhood. They have increased awareness about politics and religion and this has resulted in increased tolerance towards differing cultures and points of view. The world for them became increasingly smaller due to digitization and the internet. They boons and banes of technology have certainly impacted this generation the most. There have been a lot of researches over time to understand the upcoming generation in the workforce and their preferences. The key influencers for Gen Y are the 3 P's mentioned below .

Peers - Relational connections
With the advent of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Generation Y has active relational connections which are dynamic and the same behavior is translated in their physical life. Generation Y embraces community values and tries to reach a consensus. They are extremely comfortable with a group of 3 to 8 people. There is an inherent necessity in this generation to be understood, accepted, respected and included. Since Generation Y has strong views and inclinations there is a need for real life role modeling. This generation needs guidance in the form of a mentor. In the world of personalization and abundance in the choices available, the mentor should be able to personalize advice for every individual based on the circumstances.

Generation Y is very practical in its outlook. They are sensitive to increasing unemployment rates and corporation collapses like Anderson & Enron. They have also witnessed economic downturns and its perils like layoffs impacting their parents very closely. With an accumulative increase in inflation and
prices there is a definite impact on the quality of life.

Generation Y is one of the most liberal generations and are conscious of the fact that there is no absolute truth. Since the world has become smaller due to technology, it has resulted in heightened cognizance among Gen Y.

The Impact
Each of these influencers manifests itself in certain behaviors. Organizations need to be alert to each of these behaviors and manage them early on to ensure business profitability and success. With a better understanding of preferences and behaviors of Echo Boomers, they can be better engaged and their transition into the workforce can be seamless.

The Solution Strategies
The good news is that certain observations can be intelligently made about Gen Y, which would help in developing core talent management strategies required to keep a young workforce engaged and motivated. Keeping the key influencers and the high expectations of Echo Boomers in mind, there are some strategies that organizations in today’s world can adapt to manage this talent effectively.

It is no longer about Money alone
Professional development, recognition, flexible work schedules, attentive employers and freedom to express are some key non-monetary awards that should clearly become a part of the organization culture which wants to attract this generation and retain them.

Display confidence in their abilities
While Generation Y hopes to remain faithful to their current employer, they also want a host of new experiences and challenges from their work. Since they have experienced changes at a very fast pace, there is a risk that they may get bored easily. The organizations should create opportunities for developing new skills and create impact.

Have regular conversations with them
Focused weekly conversations on topics such as career coaching (even if this means a discussion on where the employee should be headed at the end of his/her tenure with the organization), real time feedback on his/her performance (without waiting till the end of review period), skill development of the employee over and beyond what is required for the current job role will help in developing a sustainable rapport and connection between the management and employees and this will have a direct impact on employee productivity.

Recognize effort, not just achievement
Often times, in today's complex business environment, achievement is a function of many factors, some of which are clearly beyond the impact scope of young employees in the early stages of their careers. Factors such as internal client challenges and poor client relationship management (especially relevant for service companies) could have a severe impact on feedback scores which ultimately end up affecting the younger employees. In such situations, on a case by case basis, publicly recognizing and rewarding effort put in would be extremely helpful in communicating to young employees that senior management is well aware of the real challenges being faced by front line personnel and effort being put in is being observed and acknowledged.

Listen to what they have to say
This generation is self-reliant,collaborative and has the belief that they have what it takes to succeed. Managers should understand this thought process and for every task they should plan for trial and error as well as extra time to allow greater collaboration for Gen Y. Once they show they care, Gen Y will go the extra mile for the manager and the company.

Here and Now
This generation is very tech savvy and are used to the latest gadgets and applications since childhood – organizations need to make investments in this arena to ensure they have up to date technology or else they are bound to face challenges in holding interest of the Gen Y employees.

Communicate and Connect
Networking and interacting is their second nature hence team work is a good motivation. The office space should follow the 'Open Door' policy with access to anyone in the organization. Institutions have to take steps and be conducive to socializing. Communication with this generation should be real and spontaneous. There needs to be honesty and relevance in the message to resonate with this generation.