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Cracking the Code: Managing a Younger Workforce

​The beginning of this decade has witnessed a quantum shift in the business context and the needs of employees. There is a growing awareness of evolving employee experience as the fundamental DNA of workplaces. Organizations are now more expressive about people's power and taking special initiatives to develop customized pathways for their success. However, one of the biggest challenges today is managing GenZ employees and preparing for Gen Alpha. This necessitates an analysis of the micro and macro environment of work and a consideration of HR priorities through the prism of an ever-evolving workforce and workplace.

Marrying Multigenerational Perspectives

In today's workforce, each successive generation brings with it new preferences, priorities, and problems that mold the workplace ecosystem and pose new managerial challenges for corporate leaders. "The older workforce prefers stability. On the other hand, inclusion, enhanced benefits, remote work, and immersive work culture are the top priorities of the youth today," says Dr. Priyanka S., Vice President-Human Resources of IDBI Capital Markets & Securities

The differences among the four generations (baby boomers, GenX, Millennials, and GenZ) are numerous and wide-ranging, from needs to working methods and levels of commitment and contentment. An organization's attempts to strive for the participation of these various cohorts must complement the view of generational diversity.

Adopting Gig Workforce and Flexible Work Culture

According to the Niti Aayog report titled 'India's Booming Gig and Platform Economy', in India, the gig workforce is expected to expand to a whopping 23.5 million by 2029-30. The introduction of 'Nomad visas' in some countries like Germany is yet another piece of evidence supporting forecasts of a global sharing economy and gig economy expanding fast.

The new generation of the workforce with specialized skill sets plays a vital role in the uprise of the gig and sharing economy. This allows the younger workforce to experiment with varied kinds of work, resulting in higher job satisfaction. HR is in the spotlight with a significant responsibility to reform policies to cater to staff's need for work flexibility and side gigs while also addressing organizations' concerns related to productivity and confidentiality.

Providing Platforms for Meaningful Engagement

Gen Z is accustomed to instant gratification and may become easily impatient if they don't see immediate results. Many find their work ethics different, and even challenging to bind them with the codes of discipline. In contrast, some industry experts hold a more optimistic perspective about them. According to them, the younger force is not useless, but their potential is utilized less.

One of the industry experts shares a case study to concretize his positive stance on youth, "In our firm, we started a quarterly practice of adopting an old age nursing home or an orphanage to consciously make a positive change in the lives of its inhabitants. A particular village in Maharashtra had a water crisis. We arrived in the village with 26 youngsters from our company who interviewed senior citizens of the village for their input. They researched and discovered the solution by inquiring about how the village had an unobstructed water supply about a decade ago. They approached IIT and negotiated with them. IIT agreed to aid the cause by giving us free technology. With the right and thoughtful approach of the young minds, technology, and the guidance of the senior citizens, we could revive the village's existing wells. Within a small budget, we could ensure the village does not have a water crisis for the next more than ten years. We succeeded in channeling the youth's collective energies in making a real positive change to society, giving them a sense of meaning and purpose."

The above study provides a strong case for youth having inherent drive and ability to make revolutionary changes if given a platform. Social consciousness and satisfaction earned by contributing to meaningful causes transcend regular job satisfaction and provide instant gratification.

Fostering Well-being and Inclusion

Workers desire a healthy work-life balance; 61 percent of the people wouldn't accept a position that would disrupt this balance, and these sentiments were particularly strong among individuals between 18 to 34 years of age, according to Randstad's workmonitor 2023-India edition. Further, the report states that 34 percent of the people said they would quit if they found themselves in a toxic working environment. The stats make it clear that workaholism is not a fad anymore. Holistic well-being and inclusion are significant in building a happier and contented workforce.

HR needs to build a collaborative culture where people trust each other and consciously seek guidance and value input from one another. Dr. Priyanka S. suggests, "To achieve employee wellness, organizations must define managers' code of conduct. What conspires to the workforce's holistic well-being is how managers and leaders characterize employee welfare, employee engagement, and employee experience." Diversity hiring and inclusive policies are just the beginning; sensitization and empowering the employees can be the next step to commit to their holistic well-being. However, this cannot stop here, it requires shaping managers as future leaders who advocate for inclusion at all levels and constantly strive to sustain an environment that accepts with pride the varied gender and sexual identities and specially-abled individuals.

Retaining Young Minds by Harnessing Their Inherent Traits

One of the many fears of having GenZ employees in the workforce can be their lack of sense of belongingness, owing to which they hop jobs more often. What makes the employees stay? According to experts, it is honoring the psychological contract you enter with the people you hire. Trust, empathy, recognition, and psychological security are some of the unspoken terms of the psychological contract that an employer enters with employees for their appointment, and these terms ought to be honored.

Some supervisors may find GenZ employees challenging to tackle, as they won't hold back from calling you out when you are culturally tone-deaf, biased, or wrong. The bug lies in delegating responsibility without sharing authority in the right proportion. Dr. Priyanka opines, "Delegation is not dumping responsibility. It is about guiding their approach and giving them unbridled freedom to execute." Moreover, regardless of the results, today's workforce expects to be rewarded for the right approach and efforts.

In this new digital-first world, they know more than their older peers and need avenues to exhibit their skills. Dr. Priyanka further suggests, "Hire for attitude and train for skills. If you hire for skills, you will fire for attitude. The secret lies in balancing the 3H - hire for Hands, train their Heads, and treat them with your Heart." They are faster at learning new skills and better equipped to cope with the dynamics of the work, so we need to embrace their inherent skills while providing avenues for them to work on what they lack.

Final Thoughts

To assimilate youth in the workforce and strengthen their part within the organizational framework, we need to consider specific dynamics of the workplace and workers and how we, as an ecosystem, prepare for these. The corporate ecosystem shouldn't just mirror the societal ecosystem but lead its diverse workforce with empathy and enablement. The role of managers cannot be ignored in motivating youth by focusing on their strengths and emphasizing their contributions to achieving larger goals.


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