The twenty-somethings who join the workforce today are as ambitious as they are talented. GEETA PADMANABHAN on how they are changing corporate culture
If there were an HR anthem, the lyrics could go like this: Our 20-nothing employees are gung-ho, they’re different from what they were even ten years ago. HR Execs across the country confess they’ve asked themselves this question sometime or the other: ‘What is it with these young people’?
“There is a sea change in the new generation of Indians joining the workforce,” said Shreyasi Deb, HRE, Gridstone Research. “The twenty-something Indian millions interestingly are not too different from their counterparts across the world.”
Creative and tech savvy
They act fresh, have annoying habits, shocking priorities and oversized expectations. They are ambitious and demanding. They question everything. Want them to stay beyond hours? Prepare to answer: “Why should it take you so long to do this?” They want company cheerleaders. When it comes to company loyalty, let’s say it isn’t the first thing on their mind. It may/may not find a place after gadgets, friends, free time, shopping, hang-outs and family.
Wait, every GenNext has had to duck under this charge. So what’s new? These young men and women are invading corporate offices in large numbers. And forcing changes in workplace practices.
“They have creative minds,” says Lata Rajan, Director, Ma Foi. “They are tech savvy and innovative; they bring vibrancy to the organisation. They stand apart, they are fast trackers.” And then, “They also react to everything, they rebel. “Me” is high on their list. Because of the exposure they get, they have a good sense of their worth, know how to demand. They are brittle.”
“Youth entering the workforce today have 100 times the number of options their parents/ grand parents had,” says Subhalakshmi, VP, HR, Genpact. “A natural fall-out is the huge challenge in resisting the temptations of higher salary and bigger title. So, folks entering the workforce do have a tougher time being balanced and mature in their responses to temptations.” Shreyasi attributes this to the clear shortage of skills and experience. “There’s a booming demand for whatever talent is available in the market. In industries which hire in bulk, the sole driver for hopping jobs seems to be monetary — no respect for the interview process and career stability.”
Abhishek, a tech consultant happily endorses the view. “We’re certainly high maintenance,” he shrugs. “About 2-3 per cent are “eligible”, there are any number of jobs, so we need to be paid well.” Now is the time to take risks, hunt for salaries that will satisfy him. Yeah, he’ll be kind enough to finish the work before he leaves. “Come on,” he says parting with his gyan, “Only the owner can talk of loyalty. Are you saying the HRs won’t go for a hike?”
His colleague Kokila is willing to share “retaining” tips if the management is ready to share turnover details. “Productive work, different roles, daily, if not hourly feedback. Never, ever put me on the bench,” she offers. She and her friends expect a 50 per cent raise in compensation — “only after appraisal, fair enough. People are ready to pay, you know. We consider our growth, the management theirs.”
HREs now talk of innovative ideas for hiring and retaining. They know “that responses of the past will only get them killed in today’s environment.” Shreyasi might resort to pampering employees — “a basic necessity for employers to survive!” She might allow them to “huddle together and build social networks in the workplace, but will be on the alert to crack their incorporation into the organisation. She, however, isn’t sure this will lower attrition rates.
Our workers will fast lose their competitive advantage if the fall in employability of the workforce and the spiralling wage costs continue, say HREs. While employers must follow a Total Rewards philosophy the young ones must sync “performance expectations with growth aspirations.”
Subhalakshmi has some friendly advice. “They have this frightening 2-year itch. Sooner or later they should figure out that if they run away from problems at the workplace, the problems come running right after them. Staying and fighting the battles of a dissatisfactory performance rating/bad boss, etc. is essential to build long and healthy careers. I don’t think enough have started seeing this light yet though.”
Latha Rajan is positive about GenNext workers. “I meet a lot of fresh MBAs. Yes, they are competitive and expect to be promoted within two years. But those from tier II cities work hard to get there. They get bored quickly, they want to move on. We have to get the best out of them, if we don’t want to let them go. We should create an environment. We have to feed them like a genie from a bottle. Handling them is an art.”