The Fearless Generation
Seema Nair, Director, HR, Cisco India and SAARC
With a vast majority of baby boomers retiring from the workplace, millennial workers are fast moving up the echelons of the corporate world. Companies are rapidly taking steps to embrace this new-age worker possessing remarkable technology skills, intense ambition, immense drive and enormous expectation. Millennials are the largest generation after baby boomers, slated to make up 50 per cent of the worldwide workforce by 2025 and as HR leaders, we must take cognizance of their requirements and tailor our efforts to integrate them into our workplaces.
WHAT SETS MILLENNIALS APART?
One could respond that it is pretty much everything! They are born into a digital era, where they are connected to a virtual world 24/7 and take to technology like fish to water. Their social media profile is far more important to them than developing face-to-face social skills and for them human interaction is not as essential as cyberspace interface is. Millennials thrive in a collaborative environment as compared to a competitive work culture. In my opinion, to cater to this need, workplace collaboration needs to be adopted at two levels - collaboration through technologies and collaboration via corporate engagement on a personalised level.
WORKPLACE COLLABORATION THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
Considering the fact that a vast majority of employees today work around the clock, across geographies and time zones, workplace flexibility is an integral factor for the millennial employee. For instance, in our organisation, nearly four out of every ten employees work in a different location than their managers.
While baby boomers believed that one needed to sacrifice home life in order to demonstrate commitment to one's employer, millennials no longer hold this to be true. They are very clear on balancing work and home and work-life integration is gradually becoming the new HR mantra as a strategy to boost employee morale, improve productivity and increase efficiency while at the same time reducing costs.
With evolving work styles, an employee's work day is increasingly being measured by what is accomplished and not by where it is achieved from. As such, having access to corporate information through a device of their choice, irrespective of physical location is a necessity for the millennial worker. According to the 'Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Forecast and Service Adoption, 2013-2018', India will have 1.5 billion networked devices in 2018. Technologies that take into consideration factors such as data security and real-time collaboration are gaining popularity. These technologies enable employees to work anywhere, on any device. Technology investment is on the upward curve within HR departments and it's used for the purpose of recruiting and policy-setting, thus making workplace collaboration efforts easier.
WORKPLACE COLLABORATION THROUGH ENGAGEMENT
The time has come to shift the traditional paradigm of employer-employee relationships. Cross-generational understanding needs to be emphasised so as to bridge the gap between baby boomers and millennials. Workplace expectations of millennials is unlike anything we have known thus far - they aspire to take on leadership roles at an early stage, ask that their bosses take on the role of mentors or coaches and are driven by their passion to be involved in businesses that leave behind a positive impression on the world. An open, a transparent and interactive work environment finds top priority and I firmly believe it is in our best interest to modify our workplaces to encompass these qualities.
It is thus imperative that organisations align their corporate culture by using collaborative technologies and engagements to ensure that the transition from baby boomers to a millennial workforce is seamless. Organisations are increasingly looking at this new breed of independent thinkers to don managerial roles as they are more confident, tech-savvy and unafraid of risk. A collaborative work culture that works on principles of openness and transparency towards a shared vision is the way forward for companies to accommodate millennials in the workplace.