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Workforce of the Future – The need to look beyond Millennials


Workforce Of The Future

If you read our previous blog post, you know our affection for Hollywood and our craving to draw parallels between Hollywood and the HR industry. For this particular post, we would like to return to a classic, the 1983 George Lucas classic, Star Wars – Return of the Jedi. In this sixth episode of the epic Star Wars series (spoiler alert), Luke Skywalker emerges as a ‘Jedi Knight’ to fight the Imperial dark forces. Bear in mind that the ‘Jedi’s were supposed to be wiped out but not quite.

This particular movie reminds the Generation X of their youth, the Generation Y (or the millennials) of their childhood and the Generation Z consider Stars Wars as a classic. Yet, all three generations are familiar with this, and most enjoy the series in different ways – much the same way, how the Generations X, Y and Z share the same workplace today but have different work-related perceptions, needs and aspirations.

We will examine how the future looks very similar to the past. Gen Z is looking more and more like Gen X (the Jedi Knights who were supposed to take a bow now and leave!). But most importantly, we will examine why improving employee engagement and performance management needs to take a holistic look at the composition of the present-day workforce and the need to stop fixating on Gen Y (the much revered Millennials) alone!

Millennials? The Big Deal?

Indeed. The industry is hyper focused on Gen Y. The millennials have already taken over the Gen X in terms of percentage of the total workforce in 2015. They are also the way of the future – it is estimated that 50% of the workforce in 2020 will comprise of the Millennials. So, it makes sense to understand and cater to their needs. Brought up in a world that lay somewhere in the middle of the Gen X (tech was still up and coming and a new, ‘bizarre’ sort of thing) and Gen Z (tech is as common as coffee, and it is hard to imagine a day without snapchat and facetime), millennials developed many unique traits – they value work-life balance, are genuinely optimistic and in general mistrustful of authority.

While it is important to have these unique features of Gen Y in mind while creating HR strategies, millennials are still only 50% of the workforce. Engagement, and thus performance, cannot be truly driven unless the remaining 50% (and growing!) percentage of the workforce is also properly engaged.

Gen X and Gen Z – Going back to the future?

Something strange and remarkable is taking place! Gen Z is closer to Gen X in their workplace behaviours, drivers and needs than their predecessors Gen Y! Yes, you read that right! Unlike Gen Y who are more entrepreneurial, independent thinkers, freedom oriented and innovation seekers, Gen Z:

  1. is looking for stable career paths,
  2. is willing to become a part of large corporations
  3. appreciates the need for training and mentoring.

If this sounds familiar to the 1980’s workplace, that is because it is! The report underscores how both Gen X and Gen Z are similar in that they are stability focussed. Both Gen X and Z place high value on commitment. They are both attracted to a competitive salary and respect employers that have a good training and mentorship culture. Gen Y will comprise about 50% of the employment arena; however, Gen Z’s growth (and impact!) cannot be denied or ignored by an organisation aiming to build a workforce for the future.

Employee Performance and the HR Balancing Act

In the coming 20 years, organisations will become increasingly dynamic workplaces because of the combination of Gen X, Y, Z working together, each with different working styles and preferences. Business requirements, hence, are also changing because of this different type of workforce which is more contingent in nature. Hence, adaptability is key.

HR leaders will need to find common denominators in these three generations that coexist in the present-day workplace. Some common elements that could be utilised to drive engagement and performance for the three generations could be:

  • Planning for growth – all these three generations value professional and personal growth in their unique ways. HR should keep this requirement in the centre while strategising performance policies.
  • Remuneration is a significant driver – all these three generations look at remuneration as a key motivating factor.
  • Flexibility – Gen X appreciates the flexibility, Gen Y demands flexibility, and Gen Z assumes flexibility. Flexibility in every process and culture is key to driving engagement and performance.
  • Training and Mentoring – While Gen Y may be slightly more rebellious than other two, everyone at the present-day workplace appreciate training and mentorship if delivered in a tailored fashion.
  • Embrace Digital in Every Process – Be it mining big data for insights or including technology in performance and remuneration management, technology must become an integral part of every HR process.

Do you agree or disagree? We would love to get your feedback on this post. Do comment and share this article and let us know what you think could be the way of the future.

May the Force be with you!

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