Young, dynamic, ambitious, aspirational – there are many adjectives that describe the new entrants into India’s corporate workforce. In the last few years, the eco-system has changed considerably and one can clearly say that the new economy is being transformed by people who think differently.
The millennials have changed the work style and culture of the corporate houses, big and small. “The entry of millennials in the work force is a significant development, which has changed the way work and interactions happen and the way hierarchy and relationships are built. And this reality is well understood by traditional corporate houses as well. This generation is free of a certain conditioning and their value systems are different from the previous generation, says Jayapriya JP, manager, talent development, Larsen & Toubro and author of the book From Crippling Emotions to Can-Do Attitude!: Counter Negativity and Create Energy in Five Smart Steps.
Start-ups have given them a platform to unleash their potential in a way that was never seen before. And something has changed in the job market and workplace environment in in the last 10 years. “We’ve clearly entered the gig economy. People don’t want to work forever in the same role, in the same company. A restless pursuit for a more suitable fit within the organization or in other organizations seems to typify the typical employee’s mindset today – and thus, senior management is challenged proportionately to keep the workplace interesting and dynamic enough – a hotbed of innovation and progress,” says Rajendran Dandapani, Director of Engineering, Zoho Corporation, who feels we are entering the era of data scientists. “Irrespective of domain or role, a deep grasp of the power of data analysis tools is seen as a big career-booster. As they say, data is indeed the new oil.”
Major metro cities across India are seeing the rise of start-ups and a new work environment is being shaped there. “They are looking for a higher degree of autonomy than what the previous generation would have wanted, lesser hierarchies, quicker decision making process, environment that enables want them to grow. Also, in today’s economy, hankering after security and big brands is not much in vogue,” says Jayapriya.
Impatience is definitely there. And they want to see the change faster. Ratheesh Krishnan is the head of experiments and new ventures at SPI Group and feels that millennials have a different representation of time when compared to the previous generation. “What was 10 years for my father is three for me and 18 months for someone younger. What my father needed when he hit 10 years in the career hits a youngster when he is over 12 months into an organisation. The power of data, emerging tech and new job roles are an addendum to the wave we live in,” he says.
Today, the size of millennials in a workplace is sizeable enough for them to change the norms at work. As Rajendran puts it, there are many more people with a start-up mindset than there are people in start-ups. “Excellent examples can be found in the new breed that has earned the title intrapreneurs. Working in the comfort and safety of an established organization, they are being given the width to experiment, the liberty to learn, and the freedom to fail,” he says.
The exploration of career begins right after high school with a slew of internships for the younger generation. “There was no concept of an internship 30 years ago. Tech-based process enablement, on-the-go performance evaluation, work from home are all still catching up in India. Career itself is just a 21st century invention,” says Ratheesh.
To manage this workforce full of possibilities can also be a huge challenge. While the aspect of friction with the older generation is slowly fading out, there are other factors at play. “This is a generation that is far freer of a certain conditioning. They have a mind-set that is not having the same kind of values that the previous generation did. Risk taking and autonomy also depends on the industry. When you talk about a mega project worth several thousand crores, the scope for trial and error is minimised; it is a fool proof plan. But the big business houses are today having measures to keep this generation interested; else, we won’t have young talent. The problem is people have exaggerated ideas of possibilities in a start-up that the traditional companies need to do a lot more sometimes to keep the talent interested,” says Jayapriya.
The new workplace might be unrecognisable for someone who walks into it from 20 years ago. “New technologies like cloud computing and telepresence have introduced new cultural paradigms like remote work and live collaboration. At the same time, the rise of the developing world economies, the growth of languages other than English has forced companies to also give a serious look at local footprints and cultural customisation of their products and offerings. We have started to realize that what can be tracked easily is anyway useless and what needs to be really tracked is nearly impossibly hard,” says Rajendran.
As Ratheesh puts it, today, millennials aren’t on the look-out for individual development programs or performance development plans. “They seek great mentors and sandboxed challenges where failure is imperative. If a person from the past were to be launched into 2019, he or she would be surprised by the democratic approach to learning, faster methods to prototype anything and the new buzz words like innovation, sustainability and even unschooling. Today, work is not a place to go to but something that you get done.”
Jayapriya also feels that sometimes, too much emphasis is laid on salaries, free food and bohemian workstyle in start-up spaces by people at large. “Many start-ups are austere and people stick on because they accord opportunities and passionate employees get to work with equally passionate people.”