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Part 2: Designing a modern workplace for Millennials and Gen-Z

To better understand the Millennials and Gen Z in their workplace related expectation and behaviour in the milieu of a multigeneration workforce which comprises of baby boomers and Gen X members as well, we continued our exploration with two of the leading minds Dr. Suleman Alvi, currently working as Country Head, Life Science, Martin Dow Specialities Pvt Ltd and with Ms. Milagros Perez, CHRO, CHS Therapy & Rehab who have extensive first-hand experience in this area cutting across various geographies around the globe and working with various other global organizations.

In the first part of our conversation with them which is published earlier, we investigated into some critical element of workplace dimensions like loyalty, commitment, value system, adherence to hierarchy etc., and we observed from their rich perspective that decoding the differentiating dimension across this evolving workforce demography would help industry to better manage the workplace environment with a positive slant to productivity and other key parameters that measure the success of the workforce. As we delved further, in this second part of our conversation with them, it become even more clearer that these two generations- Gen-Z and millennials, being oriented around a differently tailored cultural dimension and value system which possibly governs and separates them from their predecessors (Gen X & baby boomers), would certainly require much closer attention by the industry.

About Our Guests:

Milagros Perez, CHRO, Therapy & Rehab

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.

We provide you with an excerpt from the final part of our interaction with them.

NamanHR : You mentioned they have different motivational orientations; do you see a different perception and expectation of compensation mechanisms too?

  • Ms. Perez :Yes, absolutely. Gen Zers are more indulged in instant rewards and are very much sensitive to workplace experience. They want a feeling of fulfilment and excitement at work that helps them connect to their co-workers. For example: Gen-Z is more interested on Friday virtual games sessions than millennials to create their own worlds, unleash their creativity and share the same with their colleagues. These types of digital world experiences are almost expected by them, who have turned to workplace experience more than pay to create long-term relationships with their co-workers.
  • Dr. Alvi :The female population amongst Gen-Z believe in an equivalent compensation structure as that of their mail counterpart and overall, the Gen-Z population would like to equate their pay packet to the skills and competencies that they bring to the workplace. They are short thinkers and big risk takers as compared to Millennials. And hence they prefer instant rewards. It is like giving twenty-five each quarter rather than one hundred at the end of the year.

NamanHR : Effective communication for the industry to its workforce is a critical success factor for achieving organisational goals: What kind of communication (form & media) would appeal or communicate better to the millennials and Gen-Z?

  • Dr. Alvi : As we know the young generation is termed as the technophile generation, they have now moved from emails to WhatsApp messages. As compared to millennials, Gen-Z are more open for having face-to-face conversations. Gen-Z want to keep communication short and crisp, for them WhatsApp messages are more welcomed. In case of emails, the way to get their attention is to mention the critical information in the header itself. They like video calls too, however when it turns out to be with a larger group where only one person is speaking, it becomes more like a lecture to them.
  • Ms. Perez : Now more than ever is the time for businesses to refine their communication tactics for both Gen Z and for Millennials. The connectivity of our younger generations even surpasses technology-obsessed Millennials. And that interaction, whether social, professional, or personal, is primarily carried out in a digital environment. An organisation with a fully functioning intranet is entirely expected from Gen Z. They want multiple channels to chat with their colleagues, often finding emails too formal and face-to-face interactions impractical after being raised in a world of digital and instant gratification. On the other hand, Millennials still prefer to communicate over calls more than text messages.

NamanHR : Is there a differentiated approach to the planning process and project management between Gen-Y and Gen-Z?

  • Ms. Perez : While basic approaches to the planning process and project management are shared among the Baby boomer, Gen X and newer generations, conflicts can still occur owing to differences in expressions and behavioural protocols. Gen-Z wants their voices to be heard out in the open while discussing a project which is quite contrary to the others. To manage varying expectations, organizations would need collaborative and complementing approaches with them. Managers who can accommodate, rather than overlook differing work styles of people belonging to different generations, will find their team members working more collaboratively for better success. We have seen millennials now entering senior positions which gives them the opportunity to make it right at the workplaces.
  • Dr. Alvi : Leaders of the organisation should understand that a multigenerational workforce can bring-in significant positive impact in managing projects and planning process if the strengths of each generation are allowed to flourish and leveraged. Millennials seem to be more analytical, patient and experienced with their approach whereas Gen-Z are risk takers and technophiles; giving equal opportunities and having a team of diverse generations together in managing a project would provide organisations a much-needed competitive advantage. For example: a Boomer would put up with a terrible boss, Millennials would for balance that is perfect for them, and the newer generations are more likely to ask questions and expect to know the reasoning for dealing with this situation.

NamanHR : Is there any difference in the attention span for the new generation workforce from that of Millennials?

  • Ms. Perez : New generations are adept to multi-tasking, while they might appear inattentive, they in fact, do listen or observe like the members of their previous generations who behaves more formally, showing respect and attention to the communicator. I have seen the multi-tasking approach in my own children back home to understand this phenomenon.
  • Dr. Alvi : Millennials tend to give more importance to listening to their managers as compared to Gen-Zs. Gen-Z have shorter attention span because of the constant flow of information through technology causing distractions. While younger millennials grew up with some of the same technology used by Gen Z, but it was much less pervasive. Gen Z are very much used to their virtual environment, being bombarded with information through advertisements, videos, and search engines. This compelled them to spend less time on a single subject and use the available hours in processing as much information as possible.

NamanHR : With your input we understand that workforce members from different generations are quite different from each other. Do you think managers and leaders would require some new skills to manage them better?

  • Dr. Alvi : For a business to thrive, it’s essential for its leaders from older generations to learn new skills to best manage both these generations. They should build that self-consciousness to be aware of the fact that their values, priorities, and ideas about what work means are different from those of any generation that came before them. One important skill they will have to implement is to stop judging them and try to avoid unconscious bias to take them over while dealing with them to ensure they provide a growing and a thriving workplace culture. Leaders will also be required to keep themselves updated with newer technologies to be on par with these generations. Apart from this, encouraging a culture of ‘unplugging’ and providing flexibility and autonomy will ensure a satisfied and happy workforce.
  • Ms. Perez : Each generation in the workforce operate from their own perspective which is different and makes it difficult for them to understand each other’s viewpoints. A tangible program that organisations can embark on is to encourage open conversations among all generations to discuss, express and respect each other’s opinions, ideas, and perspectives. That will help shape the right climate in the organisations to create a positive dynamic. As the new generation enters the workforce, organisations will need to create an environment that appeals to them and evolves with their needs. Managers should have that self-awareness and show humility to manage and understand this new generation and should be open to follow the path of inclusion and acceptance to let them be who they truly are. Giving equal opportunities will help them shape a thriving culture and to make one, leaders will have to understand how to tap on to those learning moments and grow collectively to manage and lead both these generations.

NamanHR : To your observation, what are some of the big challenges for the line and staff managers to manage Gen-Y and Gen-Z?

  • Ms. Perez : Managing members of these generations can be difficult but would be highly rewarding if managers can find a way to connect with them and keep them engaged. Often Managers haven’t been trained to move away from their idealistic stance, and this is where the problems start within a team that includes multi-generational members. HR and Leadership teams need to understand the social and behavioural attitudes of Millennials and Gen-Zs and devise programs to create an environment that clearly sets out what needs to be done to get to the next step on the career ladder. It needs to be supported by regular and periodical reviews and short-term career targets.
  • Dr. Alvi : The biggest challenge for line and staff managers is to understand their mindset and tailor their strategies according to their needs. I have seen managers often show biases towards their own age group which can cause concern in retaining members from other generations. Managers will have to ensure that they create the right tools for motivation, rewards & recognition so that these young generations can come out more confident, satisfied, and happy. Interestingly, it appears that each of the Gen-Z members caters to some different set of motivators, so it’s hard to figure out what exactly drives them. For some, it’s the idea of growth, while for others, it’s a good pay package. So, dealing with Gen-Z employees is a constant learning process and you need to adapt to lead them better,

As we all know Human Resource is the ultimate key to the success of any business and retaining the talent which will become the leaders of tomorrow for the company is the defining process for any aspiring organization. Despite all the challenges that goes with management of Millennials and Gen Z; – they come with high energy, creativity, and talents to contribute significantly to the development of organizational objectives.

With an insightful interaction with these two global leaders, we were able to understand the real-world work environment and that has helped us to create a set of recommendations for the managers and leaders to better manage and lead this hugely significant workforce spread between Gen-Y and Gen-Z. These two generations, known for disrupting the status quo, are just moments away from becoming the majority of the full-time workforce. Those organisations who can connect with and manage them effectively would be setting themselves up for long-term success.

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