By: Srihari.S

About the Author: He Heads the Talent Management and Digital HR practice for a medical technology Company and is currently the Director Human Resources with over 15+ years of Industry experience.

Mention organisational restructuring in a hallway, and you’ll likely receive an eye-roll. Seasoned employees may say that they know the drill as they revise and re-revise business priorities. However, isn’t it time we find a new group of workers to come along and bring with them a vibrant and optimistic approach to workplace change? After all, even long-tenured and jaded employees may want to experience change in new and exciting ways. 

In recent years, I have been witnessing a more collaborative and constructive approach in organisations and the catalyst is the generational overlap taking place in Indian business today. Generation Z workers are arguably the most ethnically diverse generation, and they are entering the workforce in big numbers. With close to five generations present in most organisations, managing generational diversity can be overwhelming. 

Rethinking Goals & Seeking New Values 

Firms today are competing to maintain longevity and employees’ value proposition vis-a-vis the industry approach. This requires leveraging demographic advantages, specialisation in creating collaborative networks, performance management and project economics. All of these tasks require that organisations garner commitment from their workforce of the future.

As per a survey by PWC, India will have the youngest employable population in the world by 2020. With the increase in flexibility and ease of work, the average retirement age will also likely go up, which will further increase the multi-generational mix. Moreover, by 2020, the average Indian will be only 29 years of age. The key is adopting the learning-from-everyone approach or reverse mentoring. Communication, networking, strategizing and other related tasks are executed differently by varying generations, and can add unique value to multiple aspects of an organisation’s functioning. 

The Role of HR

The role of HR in building a collaborative multi-generational work environment and brand should be focused on connecting the right culture and behaviors, and on guarding against reputational risks across divisions. In the same vein, innovation in financial wellness programs can assist in incentivising different generations and help companies thrive in the future. 

As organisations struggle to find employees with bleeding-edge tech-skills and professional savviness, there is a need to anticipate the ways disruptions originating from a multigenerational workforce can impact an organisation. Over the years, I have seen divergent pursuits of happiness, values and ideals across generations, as I’m sure many others would have as well. The key is to make every generation feel accurately valued and align them with broader goals.

Every generation shares different goals. Some prefer cash rewards and respond to hygiene factors such as promotions, perks, appreciation, fancy designations, and so on. However, many may be interested in relatively newer age concepts such as flexible retirement options and tax-saving schemes. This should not be surprising – all of us desire financial security, after all. Millennials tend to appreciate wellness programs that offer them getaways with family and friends, outcome-based remuneration and structured investment plans. Whereas, the older generation prefers monetary rewards, stock options and long-service awards. To allow employees from each faction to add to the changing business landscape, it is important to fine-tune the financial rewards with performance metrics and productivity. 

Challenges Ahead

The real test of the HR function would lie in catering to the diverse employee value proposition. While millennials revel in multi-tasking and in being validated for their efforts, the older generation is task-oriented and can value material rewards and individuality. 

A generational difference creates a workforce that may find itself divided in more ways than more homogenous workforces. Herein lies the rub. While most policies in an organization are designed by a group of seniors, there is an increasing potential for mismatch between the desired results and the actual impact. As per a study by Deloitte, this mismatch can lead to lower engagement rate, productivity, a higher attrition rate and  unrest among the workforce. This can result in lower than expected output from the investment in human capital. Clearly, there is a need to build granular understanding of generational differences for a productive workplace. 

Multi-Generational Workforce: A Boon

It is important to remember that the senior industry experts in your organisation add tremendous value with their industry insights. However, we must not overlook the knowledge that younger generations can bring. A multi-generational workforce creates an environment ideal for symbiotic growth of knowledge and skills. When we leverage the unique skills of the different generations, we enable employees to create a more engaged and productive environment.

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