01 Jan 2016 16:01 IST

How you can shape the perspectives of millennials

Perceived Gen Y ‘distractions’ can be leveraged to a company’s advantage

Let me open this article with the obvious: Gen Y is different from the baby-boomer generation and the Gen X-ers of the world. Period.

There’s a lot of research done in this space that points to how different the native netizens are; how they are an evolved lot who demand their pie… mind you, not a piece of pie but the pie itself.

Their motivations are different, expectations are different; their whole take on life is different from mine. But I have played a key role in shaping the perspectives of this generation and I hold the key to making sure their energies are channelised with purpose. All the brouhaha about how difficult it is to manage Gen Y-ers, in my opinion, is oversold.

How they’re different

Surely increasing globalisation, having 24/7 accessibility to information and living in an app-driven world, have had their influences on the psychology of Gen Y. However, the fundamentals of business will never change, even though the approach, business models and methodologies might evolve over a period of time. Similarly, the fundamentals of engagement will never change, irrespective of the generational categorisation.

The youth in every generation enters the workplace with a desire to succeed and the ambition to drive change. It is just that the Gen Y has a lower tolerance level as compared with previous generations. Therefore, we just need to tweak the approach to addressing the same engagement needs differently, and harness the unique opportunity of diversity available to us at the Indian workplace.

Gen Y brings the strength of being highly tech savvy; however it is way below average on some dimensions of emotional intelligence like active listening, and project management skills like managing meetings effectively, sticking to an agenda and focusing on one issue at a time.

What’s the answer?

The answer to developing critical workplace skills doesn’t lie in sending Gen Y to a rare four-hour classroom workshop. Organisations wanting to harness Gen Y will need to focus on more relevant and sustained development. This requires organisational commitment to ongoing development programmes that are delivered in a structured and engaging manner with applicability at work. The 70-20-10 model for learning and development works very well. Coaching, mentoring and job rotations will need to be leveraged heavily in the times to come.

Playing on Gen Y’s affinity for multitasking, collaboration and need for an immediate solution, organisations must leverage this innate capability to create cross-functional swat teams that can work together on business issues requiring stakeholders from multiple functions.

Word of caution

Gen Y-ers most likely will face more difficulty in transitioning from peers to leaders, given their informal conduct. During peak stressful times, where they have limited bandwidth, the millennial can get coercive to achieve results.

To handhold digital natives through such difficult transitions, many companies like Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Marriott and Sodexo, have set up cross generational mentoring and coaching programmes to develop relationships at work and enable development of strong Emotional Intelligence (EI) factors.

Moulding this generation is in our hands. The legacy that’s been built till now has to lay a stronger foundation for future talent and leadership to succeed. Its important for my Gen Y colleagues to realise that experience comes with success and failures, and is full of trade-offs. Maturity and empathy form the cornerstones of success, for every business requires strong working relationships.

I sign-off here by wishing success to the next generation talent.