23/06/2016 8:40 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST

How To Get The Best Out Of Millennials At Work

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An attractive young businesswoman having coffee while working at her office desk

Millennials (those individuals born between 1980 and the early 2000s) rank as the largest generation ever, and they are having a significant impact on the world around them -- not the least of which is how they will drastically change the composition of the workforce. By 2025, Millennials will make up over 50% of the global workforce and 70% of workers in India.

But their view of the world is different from any previous generation and leaders need to understand the attitudes, beliefs and values that define this unique generation, as detailed in the research study, "Understanding Millennials: What Businesses Must Know about the Most Unique Generation," by Dr. Frank Mulhern of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University.

Who Are The Millennials?

Millennials are plugged in

As the first generation that grew up immersed in the digital era, they are comfortable working with the intricacies of the internet, mobile technology and social media. They keep their devices close by and multitasking is second nature to these digital natives. Many businesses have taken note by re-designing open and shared workplaces with good connectivity and capacity for mobility to suit millennials.

Measurable goals, concrete benchmarks and regular training that help millennials maintain cutting-edge skill sets and achieve professional goals will all help managers get better results

Millennials value authenticity and ethics

Considered by many as the most socially conscious generation in decades, millennials tend to be much more tolerant and altruistic. They actively seek authentic leaders and ethical corporate policies as they enter and progress through their careers. They look for inspiration and value accountability. Millennials want to believe in the organizations they work for, so transparency, authenticity and involvement in altruistic causes rank as important business strategies.

Millennials want to succeed

Millennials expect great things for themselves. Willing to work hard in order to achieve and advance in the workplace, they also crave structure and a clear career path. Measurable goals, concrete benchmarks and regular training that help millennials maintain cutting-edge skill sets and achieve professional goals will all help managers get better results from these workers.

Millennials crave meaningful, challenging work so they can personally feel they make a difference. To accomplish this, managers will want to keep millennials in the loop with frequent communication about how the tasks they perform directly contribute to the company's strategic goals.

A good example of this is Infosys's launching of Murmuration, a millennial-led initiative across Infosys offices to discover innovative ideas that could be transformed into a company strategy. The company has already executed 10 ideas from the 2,700 entries it received.

Millennials have a distinctive, informal work style

Millennials personify informality. They like to dress casually and prefer informal work environments where they can readily interact with coworkers and supervisors. Accustomed to the frequent and informal communications predicated by the world of mobile communications, millennials expect similar approaches in their work settings.

Forward-thinking companies will benefit from establishing flexible hours, working conditions and career paths.

In terms of homegrown corporates who have incorporated millennial engagement in their corporate KRAs include Infosys. The IT giant has removed the formal dress code, making smart business casuals a norm at the organization, much like its western counterparts such as Coca-Cola and Visa Inc. Another Indian corporate that has incorporated millennial processes is Cleartrip which ingrains a relaxed dress code, flexi-work hours, hackathons and experiential learning into its corporate milieu.

Having come of age with mobile technology, millennials are accustomed to being connected to mobile technology at all times and fully expect to communicate directly with family and friends while at work.

Research says 96% smart phone owners in India are using WhatsApp. Start-ups and young professionals are using WhatsApp as a formal channel for business communication. One example is a start-up called NowFloats, which has created several active groups for sales, emergency action and co-founders.

Unlike the generations before them, millennials don't particularly value "desk" time. This new orientation doesn't easily fit traditional work arrangements, so forward-thinking companies will benefit from establishing flexible hours, working conditions and career paths. Another example is of IBM India, which encouraged its millennial employees to come up with a game-changing platform named IBM Verse that integrates emails, meeting and calendar schedules, file-sharing, social networking, instant messaging and more on a single platform.

Millennials focus on relationships

Millennials readily admit they prioritize relationships over careers and have established their own networks and communities. Representing a strong shift from a "me" to a "we" environment, millennials prefer operating as team players who engage in informal relationships with their colleagues. While they don't respect hierarchies, they do desire strong leaders who express a sincere interest in them.

While millennials seek frequent, specific feedback, they don't accept direct criticism well.

Millennials believe they are special and want their managers to recognize their specific strengths. In fact, a close relationship between supervisor and employee may actually help ensure millennials develop loyalty to their companies and meet their own performance goals. Not surprisingly, mentoring relationships can work well with this group as long as mentors check in often to make sure their protégés stay on track with projects and have the necessary resources to feel sufficiently supported.

Millennials need personalized, timely, relevant recognition

While millennials seek frequent, specific feedback, they don't accept direct criticism well. Managers should offer suggestions as part of regular feedback rather than waiting for scheduled performance reviews. With their need for frequent, positive feedback, millennials appreciate the use of recognition and reward programs as ways to spotlight their accomplishments. Companies have also found success by including peer recognition and specific celebrations as motivators.

Becoming a growing trend across corporates in India, millennial engagement is something that businesses are taking seriously with an aim to hire and retain great young talent. Take for example Philips India, where health and wellbeing are the employee buzzwords. They have a "Back In The Game" policy for women returning to work after a gap, as well as an education policy, fitness centre tie-ups, flexi-benefits, flexi-work, short-term international assignments and more.

One of the best ways to engage the millennials is to stick to the "3-3" formula. Appealing to 3 core values (ensuring familiarity, recognizing talent & creating comfort zones) and integrating 3 core traits (encouraging out-of-box ideations, creating sphere-of-influence and appealing to their behaviours), millennials can be engaged towards positive behavioural values. Today the millennials are shaping corporate interactions like never before, with distinctive modes of engagement which helps shape up a diverse business environment. A deeper understanding of millennials will hence create an engaged workforce that works towards an all-round development of the organization.

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Photographs by Nemai Ghosh

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