As more post-millennials join the workforce, they seek startups that are more open and ethical, offer constant feedback and training, and help them unlearn and relearn
After completing an internship at a Hilton hotel in 2018, Sakshi Rathore moved to Skootr, a Gurugram-based startup that manages offices for companies, to work as its executive administrator.
Rathore was offered responsibilities beyond her scope of work and experience. “But I liked the challenge," she says. Still completing a bachelor’s degree in science from the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Rathore has her five-year career plan ready: “I’ll continue my studies, get a masters in forensic science, while gaining work experience at Skootr."
Rathore is not an exception in her generation. In fact, her focus is typical of Gen Z—people born from 1995 to 2010—that is now joining the workforce. They will be one of the driving forces of hiring and retaining decisions at companies from 2020 onwards.
Gen Z, or post-millennials, know what they want. They rent almost everything, from cars and homes to gadgets and furniture, demand constant self-development, feedback and training, are tech-fluid, willing to learn new skills, and don’t differentiate between work and life.
“They are aware, diverse, informed, less dependent on elders for guidance, global, digital first and want to try new careers," says Pearl Malhotra, visiting faculty (organizational behaviour and human resources management), Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. “They are changing the way companies work, " she says.
Sixty-six percent of Gen Z have a career-related life goal and have higher inclination towards entrepreneurial aspirations when compared to millennials, says India’s Life Goals Preparedness Survey 2019, released by Bajaj Allianz Life. “While millennials want balance between individualistic and family aspirations, Gen Z are all about individualistic life goals," says Chandramohan Mehra, chief marketing officer, Bajaj Allianz Life.
It was the experience of working in a high-growth startup, solving a new-age problem and developing his skills that made Pritesh Jain, a data scientist, who graduated three years ago from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. He is already in his third job, at FourKites, a supply chain management startup in Chennai.
“I’m aggressive with regards to the future," he says, adding he wants to keep learning new skills, get a better position and a good salary.
Jain tests his skills regularly in competitions and hackathons to check his level against the crowd. To improve his lateral thinking, he is taking up courses in product management, sales development and marketing, and developing games on the side.
“I do not mind wearing multiple hats and am comfortable adapting to different kinds of work at short notice, as I want to keep myself future-ready and work towards personal satisfaction," he says, adding that he aims to start his own company within three years.
The most striking feature of Gen Z is that it prioritizes personal growth in both careers and life, says Shrishti Chhazed, 29, HR manager, OTO Capital, a Bengaluru-based car financing startup. “They want individual recognition for their work, and have developed an amazing skill of multitasking and constant learning which the millennials flounder at."
The new generation’s motto is smart work rather than hard work. They adopt new technology and applications to save time and effort. “My focus is to improve efficiency using different apps available to complete a task," says Jaipur’s Gautam Sharma, 24, a front-end developer with OTO Capital. Unlike millennials, he says, his generation is focused on completing the task and not the intermediate process. “I will use an app with open arms even if it saves me a couple of seconds," he says.
Like Sharma, Rathore too has a seamless relationship with technology. “It’s about quick thinking and finding a solution immediately without waiting for due process," she says.
That’s perhaps the biggest shift in the way companies need to think if they want to attract this generation. Gen Z is a “no strings attached" generation, says Akhil Aryan, co-founder and chief executive officer of ION Energy, an ion-battery producing startup. They need full ownership and responsibility of their work, but do not want conventional work structures, adds Aryan, 28. “Since most of our team is young, we have flexible working hours, leave policies and bonding exercises including treks, camping, cricket and yoga."
Besides using outdoor activities for engagement and collaboration, companies also need to acknowledge Gen Z’s constant need for unlearning and relearning.
Like Jain, by the age of 24, Grahit Tengshe has already worked with four startups, the latest one being ION Energy. He joined ION not only because of the job description, but also because of its cache of senior engineers that could mentor him. “I want to move on to an R&D role in the future. ION is helping me get there as I’m improving my engineering concepts," he says.
Another priority for the new generation joining workforces is accessibility to top management and the ability to have conversations with them.
At Jumbotail, a B2B food chain platform, engineer Yash Vardhan Chaturvedi, 24, likes the fact that there is limited managerial oversight with a peer-driven system. “We have feedback and appraisals by peers which drive our bonuses and growth," he says, adding it’s a big reason for him to be there.
For Rathore, it’s important that people she works with care about her work. “I can approach the founding team, they are warm, interact with me regularly and make me feel like I’m part of a family," she says.
Chaturvedi believes startups need to be hands-off, open and ethical to attract new talent. “We don’t want to become rich. We want to work on products and services on a moral and ethical reason and have full ownership," he says.
Gen Z looks at connectivity as an extra limb. When Jain needs to do something in his job that is outside his domain, instead of turning to colleagues, he goes online, takes a two-hour course and completes the task. “We’ve grown up immersed in mobile technology, we learn new things much more quickly that our predecessors," Jain says. “No one cares how many hours I’m clocking in at the office as long as the job is being done," says Kaushik.
“It’s just life," says Jain, “A fulfilling life that doesn’t distinguish between work and personal."