Future is in tech-savvy hands of Gen Ys

With organizations already shifting to a Generation Y workforce, employers will gain if they understand and cater to the needs of these younger workers now.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

Generation Y workers (Gen Ys) are highly motivated, not afraid of hard work, know what they want and desire to get it. Employers, therefore, need to manage these workers in a way that is different from how they managed workers in the past, advised HR practitioners.

According to Karen McFadzen, Asia-Pacific vice president of technical services for Cisco Systems, Gen Ys require their jobs to be fulfilling and enriching from a career perspective.

"Not only do they expect to learn and develop in their role, they also want their job to be meaningful in terms of having a visible impact on the organization," McFadzen said in an e-mail interview.

R. Anish, Intel's South Asia HR director, added that Gen Ys expect challenging work assignments, accelerated career growth, socially responsible workplaces, flexible work environments, freedom, and collaboration and innovation from their jobs and employers.

"In the coming years, Gen Y will be the largest constituency in an organization. Not having our social operating mechanisms catering to their sensibilities and values will mean inability on the part of companies to win the most critical resources--people."
-- R. Anish
Intel South Asia

"They are a lot clearer about their expectations, and are confident and assertive about what and how they plan to achieve it," said Anish in an e-mail interview.

Mike Game, Asia CEO of HR consultancy Hudson, suggested that employers need to be more "coach-like, less boss-like" to Gen Ys, the generation typically defined as those born between 1982 and 2005.

"Organizations should encourage and allow constructive feedback," Game said in a phone interview. "Gen Ys have respect for senior executives, but the respect is being earned."

Richard Talbot, general manager of IT recruitment specialist Sapphire Technologies, noted how these younger employees are much savvier at managing their careers than previous generations.

"To demonstrate this, simply look at any of the major IT forum Web sites that have a careers section and look at how the Gen Ys are communicating with each other about what different employers are offering, where they are interviewing, typical salaries/benefits on offer," Talbot said in an e-mail interview.

"Some people think this is a negative point about Gen Ys. However, I think it's a positive which employers should embrace and work with," he said.

Strong networks
Hudson's Game said the "shape" of Gen Y coincides with the emergence of the Internet. "Gen Y is better networked in a strong community," he noted.

Accordingly, said McFadzen, Gen Ys want to be given the opportunity to socialize with like-minded people through activities such as sponsored events and social initiatives with a green or philanthropic bent.

"They expect employers to look after their social well-being as well as their career development," she explained.

With the advent of more flexible hours, introduction of new collaborative networked tools and the ability to work remotely, Gen Ys also look for work-life integration that takes technology beyond the realm of the workforce and into their everyday lives.

"Social tools like Skype and Facebook, are blurring the boundaries, and their usage is as commonplace at work as it is at home," said McFadzen.

Talbot told ZDNet Asia that because this generation is at ease with the Internet, instant messaging, SMS, social networking and the like, "in this environment, news travels fast, good and bad".

"The right employers that manage this well will, by the joys of Gen Y communication, have candidates asking to work for them. The bad ones will struggle to hire and retain the right staff," he said. "Ask any Gen Y candidate to name companies/brands he or she would like to work for and he or she will tell you who they are and why."

According to Game, Gen Ys have high regard for multinational corporations "because such companies give greater flexibility in career and work-life balance". He noted that having work-life balance is very important to Gen Y workers.

One company that focuses on creating a work-life balance is Intel India, which does this through its Sparsh programs aimed at "touching an employee's life at work and beyond". Sparsh is a Sanskrit word that means "touch", in the sense that the word connotes care.

Anish said: "Under the Sparsh umbrella, we run a gamut of programs like sports, games, career development workshops and other activities, that help people connect better socially and relate to the workplace in a personal capacity.

"Our culture and social operating mechanisms help Gen Ys connect better with Intel. As a company, we promote open and direct communication, risk-taking and customer/result orientation--values that echo strongly with Gen Ys," he added.

In fact, said Anish, Intel India is also doing physical changes to cater to the tastes of its Gen Y workers. The chipmaker is creating open-space seating and a colorful work environment at the work areas. It is also in the process of providing music at its cafeterias to make them socially lively places.

"Pilot projects are underway in India," said Anish.

Have the people at heart
Hudson's Game noted that in today's service-oriented business environment, "the service is the people--the heart and minds of the individual is important for a competitive advantage".

Therefore, to attract the best and the brightest, Cisco's McFadzen said, the networking product giant must concentrate its efforts to accommodate the needs and wants of Gen Ys, so their productivity and work satisfaction "can help grow the vision of Cisco".

"From the layout of their desks, to the type of work with which we task them, it’s all about matching our needs to the employees skills to make their job meaningful and having an impact," she said.

Noting that among Gen Ys, technology has grown into an infrastructure meshing personal, business and social spheres, McFadzen said: "So if they want to use Facebook during office hours, allow them that flexibility as long as it does not impact their ability to achieve their work goals."

She said it is normal practice for businesses to evolve in their HR practices over time.

"It's our job as employers to put the policies and processes in place so that we can create the right environment in which they will thrive. We, in return, can expect a higher performance from our employees," she noted.

Sapphire's Talbot added: "It's a war for talent out there, and with an aging population and reduced numbers of people entering the workforce over the next few years in many countries, employers need to innovate to attract and retain young blood into their organization."

In fact, Intel's Anish said, today's workforce and consumers are largely Gen Y.

"The demographics mix has changed drastically in India, where at least 50 percent of our population are under 30 years of age," he said. "Hence, it is critical for us to evolve our systems and practices to suit their expectations."

"In the coming years, Gen Y will be the largest constituency in an organization. Not having our social operating mechanisms catering to their sensibilities and values will mean inability on the part of companies to win the most critical resources--people," he said.

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