By now, workers from the digital generation have been part of the business world for a while. But for many employers, this new generation is still seen as a mystery; a puzzle to be solved or an unsettling challenge to the established way of doing things.
It’s no secret that the next generation of workers is different. Having grown up amid the home computing and internet revolutions, they bring new ways of thinking and working with them into the workplace.
For companies like us, headquartered in India where there is a very young, fast growing population, understanding them is particularly important: at the moment, as much as 60% of the workforce in India is part of that generation, and by 2020 the average age in India will be just 29 years old.
These demographic factors mean that, as a business, we realised the importance of appealing to them early on. What can British firms learn from Indian experience?
The younger generation expects pay for performance and promotion for potential – they believe in meritocracy. Most organisations strive to be meritocratic, but you should amplify this for them. Make clear that opportunities are open to anyone with the right abilities, regardless of age. We encourage employees to apply for any internal vacancy, give younger workers opportunities to meet with customers and work on onsite projects, and have created a fast track for high-potential employees. Above all, you need to show you are rewarding people for talent and hard work.
Youngsters are digital and social by nature: don’t try to inhibit this. Allow employees to bring their own device and use social media in your workplace. Your young employees will use it to connect with their personal and professional contacts, and that will generate value for your business.
Give instant recognition
Star performances must receive instant recognition. Give them internal exposure, not only to provide instant gratitude to the recipient, but to demonstrate to others how much you value outstanding performance.
Create role models
Give employees one-on-one time with their leaders. This ought to happen right from the most junior employees through to middle management. You’re not going to be able to give everyone time with your CEO, so choose a role model relevant to the employee’s level but still inspiring. A role model is not someone who has been at the company six months longer than the employee; they’re a buddy.
Show you care
Don’t just tell your young employees about your benefits package: tell them about your culture as well. Showcase a culture which is inclusive, open and transparent.
Give them input into their career
Youngsters are hugely ambitious. They want greater input into their career and want to know what they need to do to progress. Let employees have input into their goal setting. Showcase your development opportunities – career streams, mentoring, etc. Decentralise HR so they can access them more informally.
Ask their opinions
This generation are particularly good at voicing their opinions: embrace that. Give employees channels to be vocal - run a satisfaction survey and take it seriously, then publish your findings. If you do lose employees, running comprehensive exit interviews can teach you a lot.
- Nupur Mallick is director of HR at Tata Consultancy Services UK and Ireland