The shelf life of a ‘millennial’

MUMBAI,ARUN KRISHNAN: In every HR or workforce conference that one goes to, one of the dominant themes is with regard to how HR needs to reinvent itself because of the millennials. People aver that millennials have a completely different outlook towards life. They are more demanding, less accommodative, keen on seeking a balance between work and personal life – things that their older colleagues apparently do not long for.

Moreover, given the pervasive digitisation, millennials perhaps are the first generation that has grown up with the internet and have very different attitudes towards privacy. They are far less hassled when organisations utilise the many digital and social media channels to understand their ‘complex personalities’.

But is this really true? I submit that the generation we know as the millennials are not going to remain as such for the entirety of their lives, unlike say the Baby boomers. Instead, there is actually a shelf life for millennials, of about five years that lasts from the time they enter the workforce as young, insouciant twenty-somethings to when they start taking more responsibility. It is within this time-frame that their attitudes are significantly different from older generations’. As their individual responsibilities increase and so do their worries about their families and career growth prospects, my contention is that they start mimicking every other generation behaviorally. The same insecurities that plague employees of all generations then start to play a major role. They then become more circumspect in their dealings with their peers because they realise that coming up tops in this rat race requires all those qualities that they would have scoffed at in their millennial period. Thus, while HR needs to certainly reinvent itself because the trend is towards self-managed, independent and agile teams, the stress given to millennials is more than it is actually required.

Instead, the focus should be on using technology and data to understand employees to the best of their abilities, regardless of whether they belong to the millennial or to older generations. Gen X/Y members are nearly, if not as, comfortable with technology as the millennials are although there certainly are differences in their attitudes towards how the data generated in this digital universe is being put to use. That is the significant difference between millennials and the older generations and not necessarily in terms of their overall behavior. Since at this point in time the ages of the millennials are in their ‘pre-responsibility’ period, it appears as if all millennials have this carefree attitude towards life. I am sure members of other generations of a similar age-group had very similar attitudes at a comparable stage in their lives.

So what should HR do to attract and retain individuals of this generation? I would aver that it ought to be the same across generation for attracting and retaining talent. Treat employees well, really show that you care about them, their careers and aspirations and help them grow both personally and professionally. Use data to drive decision making while still ensuring transparency as far as possible.

Put systems in place that measure the important metrics. Use technology as a platform to help connect the organisation with the employees by enabling two-way conversations.

What I have mentioned above is not really new or radical. Rather these are timeless principles which I believe are still valid across generations. As Price Pritchett says, “We need timeless principles to steer by in running our organisations and building our personal careers. We need high standards — the ethics of excellence.”

Posted by on October 8, 2016. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.