As an entrepreneur, in your startup, you would need to hire great people. However, in recent years, workplaces have been flooded with a new generation of workers. “Lazy”, “high maintenance”, “easily distracted” have become popular stereotypes attributed to these new young workers by their employers (and senior colleagues). However, as these millennials begin to become the inevitable majority in the workplace, it is imperative that this attitude towards them changes, and that employers make a concerted effort to understand them; to continuously adapt in order to unleash the true potential of the next-gen workers.
Who are Millennials
A demographic cohort, they are the generation that succeeded Generation X. There are no definite dates to identify them, but people born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s are generally termed millennials.
Their characteristics vary by region, depending on their socioeconomic background. However, Millennials have proven to be far more comfortable with communications, media, and digital technologies. Largely, Millennials have brought along with them a liberal approach to politics and economics; the effects of this polarization of ideas can definitely be disputed as observed most notably in the 2016 United States Presidential Election. The Great Recession that peaked during the Global Financial Crises of 2007-2008 proved immensely devastating to this specific generation. These young people witnessed historically high levels of unemployment and left behind significant long-term socio-economic damage to the earliest millennials.
India is home to 440 million millennials and a further 390 million children have been born since the year 2000. The youth of this country continues to multiply and occupy more significant positions in the marketplace, workplace, and every other faction of our lives. Therefore it is imperative that successful workplaces make a concerted effort to adapt to the needs of the next generation of workers, to enable them to fulfill their relentless potential in the business world.
Millennials in the Workplace
According to the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder has risen to close to three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older; 58% of college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. It is hard to dispute that a significant number of Millennials are substantially more obsessed with themselves, their image, and, their social standing. However, this social consciousness does provide an opportunity to engage them better. Young people today are consistently striving to find a higher purpose in everything that they do. Organizations must adapt to fulfill this need or consistently risk losing unsatisfied workers in the largest growing demographic in the workplace. The success of models of companies like Uber and Ola, which employs drivers as independent contractors, and allows for them to essentially be their own bosses to whatever extent is an important illustration to understand successful workplaces of the future. The increased responsiveness that Millennials crave for must be fulfilled by essential organizational redesign, the successful workplaces of the future will have to possess the ability to react as fast as the mobile applications of today do.
The oldest Millennials joined the workforce right on the back of the 2007-2008 global financial crises and immediately faced historic levels of unemployment among youth. Therefore, a substantial number of millennials are more inclined to chase what makes them happy instead of what makes them wealthy. Unlike their parents, 40% of whom have stayed with an employer for more than 20 years; Millennials are not nearly as interested in long haul efforts to eventually sit atop the corporate ladder, rather they are instead attracted to the possibility of starting their own businesses and catalyzing social reform. They don’t see their work and their personal life as independent factions, but rather strive to integrate the two, which is evident in their constant pursuit to make careers out of their passions. The millennials will eventually form the majority of the workers in the world, and it is the responsibility of companies to evolve as their workers do, or risk failing.
The first generation of digital natives, millennials are supremely comfortable with technologies and are well suited to make good ‘Exponential Entrepreneurs’. They possess great potential to transform existing technologies and businesses to reach new heights with their unmatched acumen in communication and technology. On the other hand, their parents’ generation scores the lowest on the adaptability scale, they struggle to constantly accept new technology and need adequate training to use them efficiently. Therefore, Millennials evidently provide a good counterbalance to their older co-workers at the workplace.
Young workers today are unfortunately far more prone to errors than their elder peers. This issue can be traced back to their elevated self-confidence, their tendency to multitask and, their inability to effectively handle stress. According to the American Psychological Association, no generation feels the effects of stress as much as millennials today. The current work culture does not suit the characteristics of the youth of today. The eight-hour workday would find a great place during the industrial revolution but has no place in the modern information age. According to Inc., the average worker is only productive for three hours each day, and this is far more relevant to younger workers with shorter attention spans and an altered work-life balance that glorifies the latter. Taking a cue from the Ford Motor Company, who in 1914 reduced working hours, while also doubling employee wages at the same time saw an immediate increase in productivity among their workers. Working fewer hours each day would also free up time for rest, recreation, and leisure. Too often rest and recreation are looked at as a waste of time that hinders productivity, but only the converse is true. Extensive research suggests that the energy employees bring to their work are far more important than the time they spend doing it. The digital native millennial values their work-life balance far more than any of their predecessors because of the semblance of impossibility to really maintaining one. Irrespective of the number of hours that one works, their work follows them home on their handheld devices, and even on vacation. It is imperative that employers make a greater effort to distinguish between an employee’s personal hours and their working hours.
The Indian Millennial
Workplaces in India have an even greater responsibility to their young workers due to the failure of the educational system of the country to adapt to the needs of the new generation of students. The Indian education system consistently promotes rote-learning and overworking. Unfortunately for these students, rote-learning has no place in the information age of today. The seamless access to information that the internet has brought with it, has done away with the need for workers to retain large amounts of information by themselves. Instead, it allows them to use the technology of our time to do that work for them. As I have detailed above, overworking has been proven to reduce productivity, and decrease the efficiency of the employees. Therefore, working long hours as is promoted by our educational system is far removed from the reality of the modern workplace. This disparity is magnified in the youngest workers of today because of their shorter attention spans and increased pursuit for a healthier work-life balance. Workplaces must make a concerted effort to work towards bridging the gulf that is being created by a flawed educational system to bring out the best in the millennials in their workplace.
Today, the workforce is rapidly evolving and this evolution of the workforce is especially magnified in India where more than 65% of the population is under the age of 35. It is expected, that by 2020 the average age of an Indian will be 29 years old, which will allow this country to uniquely position itself to succeed with an extremely large, young, and, enthusiastic workforce, as long as these young people are nurtured carefully. In order to fulfill this potential, workplaces must strive to keep pace with this continuous change to attract, retain, and, nurture the best talent of the next generation. The inevitable disconnect between millennials and the generations before them need not be a hindrance but rather be celebrated as vital to a diverse working environment. As the populations of other major countries age rapidly, the young Indian population holds great promise and therefore it is essential that we in our startups and entrepreneurial ventures make a conscious effort to invest in the lives of the youth, and breed young leaders within this generation.
Tanmay Thomas is a junior studying Computer Science and Economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He has interned with Versys Consultants in Bangalore for the past three summers and with a startup in Mumbai, called Musikshack. Tanmay is passionate about business development, politics, football, and music.