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Part 1: Designing a modern workplace for Millennials and Gen-Z

An incredible transformation has reshaped the future of work – from technological advancements to an endemic that is changing the rules of how we work. However, there is arguable a more influential change: The rise of a new generation that plans to make its mark on the workplace. Organisations today are grappling with this critical challenge – How to manage a successful transition in the workplace norms and behavioural protocols consistent with an ever-increasing percentage of participation of Millennials (Gen-Y) and Gen-Z in the workforce. According to recent research by the world economic forum, Gen-Z and millennials will comprise about 30% of the total workforce by 2023.

With the evolving context of multigenerational workforce playing out its own dynamic, leaders won’t be able to operate with a one-size-fits-all approach. What is increasingly becoming evident that as the major social influencers like technology, economy, education, parenting etc., are undergoing rapid evolutions, they in their wake bringing in important questions for the organizations as to how the new generation employees would learn, communicate, and work. For leaders and executives, the complexity of managing the diversity of multigeneration workforce will possibly be more demanding than that of earlier era.

The experts in the field of research in organizational behaviour are already observing interesting disruptions being brought in by the Millennials and gen Z in the existing business models and workplace cultures with their fresh and unique perspectives which is redefining expectations towards career, workplace norms, and work habits.

To understand the critical context of this issue, we recently interacted with two leading minds in the corporate world, Dr. Suleman Alvi, currently working as Country Head, Life Science, Martin Dow Specialities Pvt Ltd. and with Ms. Milagros Perez, CHRO, CHS Therapy & Rehab.

About Our Guests:

Milagros Perez, CHRO, Therapy & Rehab from Ohio

Mila Perez is the Chief Human Resources Officer for CHS Therapy and Rehab, a contract therapy company based in Cleveland, Ohio. She has over 25+ years of experience in Human Resources, both in functional and general HR leadership positions working next to a business leader as a business partner. She has held HR Leadership positions for large public multinational companies in the pharmaceutical, consumer goods and automotive parts manufacturing industries.

She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the Ateneo University in Manila and a master’s degree in HR and Global Leadership from Baruch College, City University of New York.

Dr. Suleman Alvi, Country Head, Life Science, Martin Dow Specialities Pvt Ltd

A qualified Medical Doctor and an MBA holder with more than 22 years of practical experience working within progressively senior leadership roles for Abbott, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi. With P&L management experience, Suleman offers a wealth of knowledge across marketing, sales and business development at a country and regional level for Primary & Specialty Care.

He has completed his MBBs from Dow medical college in the year 1995 and has done his MBA from Lahore management studies in 2007.

Between them they shared a common viewpoint: For leaders and executives, managing multiple generations in the workplace may not be as easy as it sounds. Each defined generation can have different expectations, communication styles, and perspectives. Nevertheless, adopting a management strategy that addresses the distinctive characteristics of different generations in the workplace can allow employers to harness the respective strengths of their workforce and better compete in the marketplace.

We provide you with an excerpt from our interaction with them

NamanHR : Based on your observation, what percentage of workforce is currently constituted by millennials and Gen-Z put together?

  • Dr. Alvi : In Asia and especially in South Asia the work force is younger, and the combined number between Millennials & Gen-Z will be somewhere around 60%
  • Ms. Perez : In North America and in Europe, it’s around 50-55% as the retirement age is about 65 years in most of the countries and for some countries it is as high as 67years

NamanHR : What best describes the behaviour of the millennial and Gen-Z work force?

  • Ms. Perez : Millennials seems to be more idealistic and prefers a greater work-life balance. For them meaning and purpose of the work weighs more over fancy pay checks. However, Gen-Zs, are a generation who have seen their parents struggle in recent years and are more realistic to their values and prefer a strong pay cheque above everything else to be more stable and rooted to survive in today’s time.
  • Dr. Alvi : They have a different way of expressing themselves in the organization; – Gen-Z wants their voices to be heard, their opinion being counted; – they are generally well oriented to social issues and relates closely to diversity and inclusion; – Millennials on the other hand are more adaptable to organizational norms; – however are more resilient to change than Gen-Z due to their history.

NamanHR : We have some rapid fires for you! – Loyalty, commitment, and values please tell us how these two new generations look at them?

  • Dr. Alvi : Millennials seem to be more loyal as they don’t fall under the category of job hoppers. On the other hand, Gen Z has a different set of orientation for values, commitment, and loyalty. They seem to prefer organizations which culturally believe in development of employees and provides learning opportunities. They appear to remain loyal and stay committed to such organizations.
  • Ms. Perez : Millennials are more objectively driven than possibly the Gen Zs are, and they often exhibit reciprocal commitment to the organizations they serve. Gen Z on the other hand are more insightful about things happening at a macro level and ponder about the impact they would have in their lives. If things do not align with their values, they wouldn’t think twice before leaving.

NamanHR : Embracing Change; – How they respond to it?

  • Ms. Perez : Gen Zs are noticeably clear about outcomes and expectations, and they understand that change and evolutions are part of organizational realities, and they relate to them comparatively easily than other generations in the workforce and can adapt well to change. Millennials are more cautious about the change and their resultant impact, while they may not express their views openly but may not board the change process with urgency.
  • Dr. Alvi : Millennials are more resistant to change as compared to Gen Z because they want to keep things more stable in their professional life. Gen Zs too want stability however they can multitask easily and believe in challenging the status quo often which makes it easier for them to accept and embrace change. Millennials, often lack courage when it comes to questioning their leaders about the rationale of change which is the opposite for Gen Zs

NamanHR : What about Technology competence? – and what they exhibit respectively?

  • Dr. Alvi : Gen Zs are super comfortable as they invite themselves to get involved in sharing ideas for technological solutions. They seem to be more well versed than millennials when it comes to technological aspects
  • Ms. Perez : Gen Z are natural to technologies being nurtured in that environment and sometimes their dexterity can act as a threat for the managers. The non-tech-savvy managers on the surface may appear less competent and that can breed a sense of inferiority. However, the best a manager can do is to have a learning mindset and ask questions to the gen Zs with an aim to collaboratively develop that competence.

NamanHR : “Integration to the prevailing work environment”- how do they measure-up?

  • Ms. Perez : Gen Z are more independent in their approach than millennials and believes in competence driven workplace which values individual for the quality that they bring along. They also don’t much care about structure and processes. They have mentioned this to me a couple of times while having performance dialogues. Millennials, on the other hand believes in working with the prevailing structure and looks at integration as an important need for self and organization to thrive together.
  • Dr. Alvi : Millennials want to work in an environment where inclusion is a priority, and where everybody works together to advance goals. Gen Zs, on the other hand, are said to be defined by their competitiveness. They want to work on their own and be judged on their own merits rather than those of their team. They integrate better to the flatter organizations having disregard for bureaucracy.

NamanHR: “Adhere to hierarchy”- how do they respond?

  • Dr. Alvi : For Gen Z adherence to hierarchy is driven more through personal influence and expertise of the manager whose capability and competence defines for them the degree of their acceptance of hierarchy. Inspiring and influential leaders in hierarchical position, especially if they are prepared for mentoring are easily accepted. For millennials, it is differently tailored as they identify more closely with organizational structure and systems and adheres easily to the hierarchy.
  • Ms. Perez : Everything is equal for Gen Zs, and they are more outspoken about their views, ideas, and perspectives. They wouldn’t think twice and would skip hierarchy to speak with top management. Not that they are not rule abiders, but they would challenge managers by asking tricky questions to gain more clarity and won’t follow anything without understanding it deeply. Millennials on the other hand are more circumspect, would rather work with the system to adhere to the hierarchy as in many instances they are part of the defined hierarchy.

NamanHR: Do you consider that the millennials and Gen-Z represent a distinctly different challenge for the managers to understand them, especially if these mangers are from the era of baby boomers and Gen-X?

  • Ms. Perez : Gen-Z and Millennials have different expectations from their experienced and elderly managers belonging to different generation. Both these generation expects their managers to offer them more space and autonomy and to avoid micromanagement. Gen-Z especially enjoys being valued by their manager for their individuality and expect them to accommodate their newer ways of being and not judging them by work experience but by individual competence. They expect their managers to look at them more as individuals rather than as a group.
  • Dr. Alvi : I have seen a loss of productivity and performance due to the unconscious bias of managers to the new generation’s working style and approach. I sometimes wonder how my 17 years old son thinks the way he does, had I been there at the same age I would not have thought in the similar manner. This is nothing but a generational gap which should be embraced and not opposed. My only recommendation to all the managers struggling with this new generational workforce would be to have an open mindset towards their approach and ensure they include their thoughts, views, and perspective as much as they can in any decision-making activity

There are some clear generational differences between millennials and their younger counterpart in Gen-Z who are just entering the workplace today. Of course, every member of a generation is an individual and will have their own unique traits but keeping these insights in mind may help organisations prepare better to welcome this new generation to the working world.

Stay tuned with us for the next and the final part of this interview to better understand, manage, and lead this hugely significant workforce spread between Millennials (Gen-Y) and Gen-Z.

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