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The characteristics of the millennials when compared to non-millennials are like chalk and cheese. A 2017 KPMG report Meet the Millennials says that 50% of the global workforce by 2020 will be millennials, and that leaves organizations with no choice but to start readying themselves to on-board a section of employees whose alignments are different from the existing and outgoing workers.

But what are the ways in which companies can actually do this? “We are working towards driving an informal, non-hierarchical, flexible and collaborative culture to adapt to the millennials," says Rajashree Nambiar, managing director and CEO at Fullerton India Credit Company Ltd, a non-banking financial company headquartered in Mumbai. Yet, revamping cultures take time and some realignments.

Be open

To bring in these changes, one of the first things to do is to get leaders to buy into the concept. To change the culture and make it millennial compliant, “you have to start by recruiting leaders who fit in culturally and embody these values. These messages are subsequently reinforced through informal conversations, expectation setting and formal leadership training," explains Nambiar.

From more flexible work hours to easier dress codes, all these changes are important to shift the culture. “Project managers have been empowered to offer flexibility in shift allocation as well as in making work from home decisions," says Alok Jha, global HR head, Datamatics Global Services Ltd, an information technology company.

For start-ups with young teams with an average age of 26, like 13 Llama Interactive, a Mumbai-based analytics and digital advertising company, flexibility in all aspects at the work place is given. “We are super flexible in terms of what the employees wear, where they work and when they work. We don’t micromanage and neither do we track hours worked, as long as they turn in timely deliverables. Of course, we do track time taken to complete tasks in order to measure productivity as well as profitability," says Prasad Ajinkya, founder 13llama Interactive.

From informal dressing at office to flexible work-from-home policies, these are the new rules of any workplace today. Photo: iStock
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From informal dressing at office to flexible work-from-home policies, these are the new rules of any workplace today. Photo: iStock

Deutsche Bank says they too are more relaxed about office attire now. “The stiff lines of sartorial formality that we once had, have made way for more informal dressing at the workplace with senior management leading the way," says Madhavi Lall, head HR, Deutsche Bank, India.

But Abhishek Jha, global human resources director, at IT solutions company e-Emphasys Technologies brings in a word of caution. “While the millennial population is undoubtedly rising, there continues to be a significant non-millennial population at the workplace. Rather than rushing into dramatic shifts in policies to accommodate the millennials, changes need to be more subtle with the intent of harmonizing multiple generations. For instance, the work from home policy is not hard coded in our organization, but managers and supervisors are encouraged to be mindful of the needs of employees and leverage this facility at their discretion. We sensitize front line managers to manage this new generation through formal training and guidance provided by business unit heads," he adds.

Give opportunities to learn

According to Generation Next Workforce Study, 2013, conducted jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industries and Deloitte, a multinational professional services firm, millennials are more career focused than their predecessors, and prefer working for organizations that they perceive as those providing greater learning opportunities and conducive to career growth. Ajinkya agrees. “Since our industry is very dynamic, with new technologies and applications emerging every three to six months, we have to address the millennials’ hunger to learn. The employees are on a steep learning curve, constantly getting to learn stuff that is ‘out of syllabus’. This, coupled with the opportunity to work on live projects pretty early in their tenure, keeps them motivated," he says.

At Fullerton, one key initiative to enhance learning opportunities is to invest in young talent and give them managing roles. “We have set up a satellite office to nurture our digital business which is managed by a young person, heading a young team that works on innovative stuff using new age technology, in an office which has consciously been given a start-up ambience," says Nambiar.

Technology plays a big role in introducing agility in the learning space by moving away from classroom regimented to a more digital learning format comprising podcasts, videos and virtual classroom sessions. “Learning is also more egalitarian now, as the learning resources, which were selectively available earlier, now transcend corporate titles and geographies and are available to anyone who cares to leverage them. Also, we provide career mobility, and allow staff to apply for any job without having to seek their manager’s permission," says Lall.

Datamatics believes in empowering employees by sharing information. “In order to help the employee see the big picture, we keep them abreast of business performance and future plans through a monthly program. We offer innovative approaches to learning by running management games and book reviews as a part of our employee engagement program," adds Jha.

Frequent feedback

The 2016, Deloitte Millennial Survey, conducted across countries, industries and levels, found that 66% of the millennials believed that they will leave their current organizations before 2020. The figure stands at 76% for India. “The average tenure is of about two years. While we would like to see people stay on longer, we have accepted the fact that they will come and go and factored this in our business model," says Ajinkya.

In a 2014 global survey conducted by SuccessFactors, a human capital management software provider, in partnership with Oxford Economics, a leader in global forecasting and quantitative analysis, covering 1,400 millennials, found that they want feedback more often than the non-millennials. “We have fine tuned our performance management system to address their need for feedback in real time. The traditional approach to performance management system comprising goal setting, followed by mid- term and year-end reviews has given way to a more regular, assignment based dialogue in order to address their constant ‘Tell me how I am doing’ need," says Lall.

It is now important for organizations to be mindful of the needs of the millenial employees and be nimble enough to fine tune their policies.

Charu Sabnavis is a coach, an organizational development facilitator and founder director of Delta Learning.

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