Generational change: rethink hiring policy

Generational change: rethink hiring policy

Workplaces across the globe are experiencing a widening generation gap. Given the demographics of our country, this is an inevitable shift. As the workforce in India gets increasingly younger, corporations will need to prepare themselves to blend in a multi-generational dynamic.

Today, we have the baby boomers (roughly aged between 51 to 69), generation X (35 – 50) and of course, the much talked about millennials (18 to 34) making an attempt to coexist.

The baby boomers are looking for stability as they brace themselves for retirement, gen X is focusing on expanding their family and creating a secure future for themselves while the millennials are hungry to explore the world, want greater disposable income and are constantly chasing better opportunities. Whether it is skills, mindsets or the approach to work, this multi-generational tapestry is a complex one and poses a significant challenge for employers to establish a synchronised work culture.

Organisations will have to provide flexibility and adapt to the needs of different generations and bring in a certain amount of focus and agility in customising the offerings. A challenging task undoubtedly, and one that requires sincere efforts and ingenuity to manage a diverse workforce. For instance, there will be jobs on-the-spot and fast delivery and there will also be those that call for experience and a mature approach to handling a situation.

Some of the generational difference is also industry specific. For instance, IT and software firms are more likely to have a younger population as against the manufacturing sector that will have a diverse set of people working together. It’s important to remember that a generational shift runs the risk of loss of knowledge.

A classic example of this is that HR professionals today have never been exposed to unions and will, therefore, not be comfortable to handle challenges that come with them. Organisations should ensure that they create a knowledge bank which can be accessed for reference by the generations to come.

Besides the generational mix, organisations are also grappling with cultural diversity. With the digital barriers breaking the social divide, a lot of the rural and semi-rural population is crossing over the fringes and moving into mainstream. For employers, this adds another layer of complexity. To ensure that everyone can work in harmony in order to achieve the larger goal, here are few ways that everyone can pitch in:

Leave your biases behind: There is no place for age-based assumptions. Just like lack of experience doesn’t warrant a talk on the era gone by from veteran employees, similarly the younger lot will be at loss if they judge their seniors on the time they take to adapt to new technology.

For organisations, it is important to foster a culture of mutual learning and constantly invest in building bridges between the diverse generations. Cross-generational mentoring is a great way to promote a learning culture where both sides stand to benefit.

Age is a number, ability is not: This is especially true in emerging sectors like digital or startups. There could be times when your reporting head is perhaps significantly younger.  The still-in-his-20s CEO, in all likelihood, knows the business better than anyone else in the room, her/his knowledge of the sector, comfort with technology and the passion that s/he can bring to the table might be unparalleled. But this leader is well aware that s/he also needs the experience of people who have been around for decades and is more than happy to take your suggestions.

Engage and encourage: Beginners and young employees feel encouraged when there is a personal touch to the recognition that their work gets. Experienced employees, on the other hand, appreciate recognition that is tangible, specific and is a direct reflection of
their performance. No matter, which generation they belong to, if there is one element that drives every employee, it is exciting and challenging work that, when achieved, provides a sense of gratification.

Every generation brings with it a distinct set of values, attitudes and behaviours. For businesses to foster, they need to manage this diversity prudently to optimise the output from each of these distinct groups.

This calls for managers to rethink their hiring practices, management approach, rewards and recognition styles as well as their retention policies. With a well thought out strategic approach, businesses stand a lot to gain from the best of both worlds.

(The writer is Vice President- Human Resources and Services, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia)
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