Ask any individual who has been part of the corporate work force for around two decades, and they would tell you that the most indistinguishable shifts at their workplaces have been the dramatic change in demographics and the intensive penetration of technology.
With a new generation of young professionals entering the market, not just the age but the shape, colour as well as gender balance of workforce has changed radically in recent years. Add to it the rapid onslaught of technology, increased connectivity and easy familiarity of the workforce with new technological innovations, the way we work has also witnessed a sharp shift.
It is therefore incumbent on managers to ensure their organisations change to meet the requirements of a changing workforce. Organisational culture is a critical factor that attracts and binds employees to the company.
The more amenable the work culture, the longer an employee is likely to stay. Unless and until the top management re-invents itself with changing time, it will not be able to provide the right leadership.
The millennial surge: India is expected to become the youngest country by 2022. In fact, India’s millennial generation is bigger than China’s or the US’, and it will boost the nation’s labour force to the world’s largest by 2027. With the Generation X closing in onto retirement gates, the world’s corporate workforce is largely turning into a millennial juggernaut.
Easily the largest generation in history and an influential force today, millenials, however, are not a uniform block. There are multiple generations within this category – a new employee who has joined an organisation at 21 is a millennial, so is a senior manager who has 10 years of work experience. It is extremely important for human resource managers to take into account this reality and work towards re-scripting organisational policies.
This younger generation not only has a different understanding of the workplace as well as expectations from it, they are also more likely to voice their opinions strongly and change jobs if not happy. They value not just monetary compensation but also job satisfaction, a large part of which flows from the workplace culture.
Elements such as workplace flexibility, greater autonomy and being able to do things differently play an important role in determining workplace culture.
Spontaneity and flexibility over protocol: Twenty years back it was difficult to visualise an important corporate meeting taking place over pizza and breadsticks at a casual food joint.
However, today this is a norm rather than an exception. While the classical concept of work dictated a serious and highly formal approach when it came to clothes, addressing people and adhering to protocols, a lot of these things are considered redundant today.
This is a generation that might be some serious work while simultaneously being plugged to their MP3 and sipping coffee at the cafeteria; they might be discussing a crucial campaign idea while also running over a treadmill.
More organisations today are adopting the idea of open offices that are characterised by minimal cabin spaces and dividing walls.
This more democratic, less hierarchal approach gives way to a free interplay of ideas and greater intermingling of creative juices — the environment the young generation finds ideal for work. Offices today are brighter, colourful and visually happy places rather than the black and white monochrome settings that defined the formal office look earlier.
The formal settings of the conference rooms have in many places made way for more informal and practical collaboration spaces where a group of people from different teams can deliberate together while working on a common project.
Easy accessibility of laptops and round the clock connectivity has ensured that even employees working remotely or in different offices can conveniently join important meetings through video calls without the need for physically being present all the time.
Flexible work timings and work-from-home settings allow employees greater space and room to balance work and personal lives, and increasingly organisations are adopting these approaches to give precedence to employee convenience.
A lot of formal approaches to work have also become redundant in a workplace driven by spontaneity and convenience. Skipping formal communication through mails in favour of on-the-go updates on watsapp groups and one-on-one communication has become a norm.
In a nutshell, the focus today has turned more on a result-oriented approach to work rather than a process-oriented one. Organisations must understand that the working generation of the day wants greater freedom and autonomy to finish projects in their own ways.
Focus on health and wellness: A key area organisations today must give priority is focus on the overall health and wellness of employees by ushering in a culture of care and comfort. Health and wellness policy must not end with sick leave; health insurance and the customary annual health check up, it must go beyond towards ensuring the physical, mental and psychological well-being of employees.
In a rapidly changing world where social and family support is shrinking, it becomes a responsibility of the organisation to keep a check on your employees’ mental wellbeing as well.
Has the performance of one of your bright and productive employees suddenly taken an unexplained beating? There might be nagging mental health issue behind it.
Thankfully, a number of organisations today are paying attention to this critical aspect that still remains largely a taboo in India.
A number of organisations today have tied up with counselling services; several companies provide the help of psychologists to their employees while others provide remote call services.
(The writer is vice president, Human Resource, Sunlife Financial Asia Service Centre)