Articles // June 21,2021

Millennials as future leaders – can the business climate take it?

By Meenakshi Girish

With business progressing and expanding at an astounding rate, are millennials ready to take on as future leaders?

Millennials have been exceptionally changing the business atmosphere ever since they entered the scene. While some consider millennials to constitute the latest generation – aka Gen Z or the post millennial generation – an account by Pew Research sets its inception as 1981. These individuals are indubitably highly qualified and have earned their positions in leadership and management through their merit and hard work. But are they qualified enough to be trusted as the future leaders of business?

A recent Forbes article stated that millennials are prepared to take on leadership roles, mainly owing to their flavorful blend of youth and exposure. Millennials notably take up the largest percentage of the workforce and their urge to outperform their peers has earned them the tendency to seek recognition and value feedback.

While most millennials don’t outright ask for feedback, they are known to take criticism constructively and use it to their advantage.

“There have been many instances where a millennial has taken up a position of leadership. Most recently, a very bright young engineer who joined us from campus worked very spontaneously. He adapted very quickly to the new environment and didn’t display any defensiveness when it came to collaborate with customers. Barely in the first month at work, the individual contributed independently by filling in for a senior customer associate, who wasn’t even one from our own company. He stood in for some contingency that the customer’s engineer had and showed us that there need not be any minimum experience that one has to attain before being trusted with a major project,” says Mr. Girish Sundaram, Associate Vice President, HCL Technologies.

What we are looking at is a competitive generation that has extensive social media exposure and is thriving to make positive usage of technology in shaping work culture. They have been known to trust and value technology and its advancements, which add to more efficient decision making and productive organization of resources – thereby putting their man power to its best possible use.

“Today, with the way the IT industry has matured and given the market situation coupled with the rate at which disruptive technologies come up, life cycles have shrunk and the time by which a product has to hit the market is restricted. Product cycles today are in the order of months, if not weeks. Everything – be it food, clothing or any online delivery system – has become instantaneous. There is virtually no room to recover from mistakes,” says Mr. Sundaram.

These are individuals who value being inspired and to be inspiring as leaders. Hence, they put integrity first and give paramount importance to leaders who put service before personal gain. They are willing to take risks and a notable growth in freelancers and entrepreneurs is one that cannot be overlooked.

“What you will find with more experienced people is the process vigour, the controls, enough proactive reviews, systems in place where you do not rely on an individual. A person fresh out of campus might perceive this as overbearing, as they don’t like tabs being kept on them. But it exists for a reason and although systems like the attendance system and strict controls might be resisted, they need to be respected and followed. Consider the most vital resource in a construction/manufacturing industry. Every brick is monitored and only the ones of the best quality are retained. Similarly, be it any industry, the most vital resource has to be monitored and maximised. In the case of the IT sector, that resource is people and time,” Mr. Sundaram says.

Millennials are driven by purpose and have strong values and ideals that they meticulously adhere to. Team work and collaborative leadership are taking the driver’s seat, as millennials keep in mind that embracing a network-centric system of democracy is critical in an office. They pay attention to incentives and ensure that all members of the team are dedicated to the mutual goal at all phases of the project. In other words, they prioritise job satisfaction and maintain a friendly rapport with their employees.

This is a generation that has acknowledged the importance of flexible working hours and customisable rules in the workplace to establish a work-life balance. They are a generation who are willing to work, but try their best not to carry work home.

Youngsters are quicker to adapt to new technologies and improvise when changes and disruptions blossom. Even when a new television arrives at home, it is the youngest child that begins experimenting first and understands all the controls. The older members of the family are a bit more sceptical and careful while they approach the new device. It is the same even in a formal workspace. Compared to the fatigue that sets in with age, it is important to acknowledge the youthfulness and tech savviness that youngsters possess. We have ideation systems and systems that will help guide youngsters to fructify their ideas,” says Mr. Sundaram.

Companies of today are trying to create a fun work environment, that is creative and unoppressive. Workplaces are being designed to be open and there are various interventions by the HR department. Working from home, flexi hours and other systems are being designed to ensure productive work flow. These ensure that employees don’t experience burn out. “With maturity, one values and understands that they deserve to be incentivised when the organisation does well. During hard times, they don’t mind even giving up some of their incentives. The younger generation does not understand this and want their expectations to be met. Managers need to understand the expectations of their employees better and design incentives to satisfy them. Millennials must not feel like robots and production facilities. They must feel like they are in a creative environment, where stretch efforts are valued, appreciated and incentivised accordingly based on individual contribution as well as team work,” adds Mr. Sundaram.

The business industry is indeed developing at an incredibly fast rate and it is evident that efforts from both millennials as well as their older counterparts will be required to make it successful. Youth without the application of knowledge and experience is of no use. At the same time, an aversion towards risk taking and to not acknowledge the tech savviness of millennials would be a crime. It is time for both parties to come to common ground and respect each other’s pros and cons, thereby creating an environment of harmonious coexistence that brings out their best. “The older generation may show some resistance towards the younger generation, as they may perceive their approach as too brash and hasty. The way to bring them together is to make them aware of where these perceptions are coming from – be it process control, time monitoring or anything else. The more we can get people into a dialogue and make them aware of why these measures are necessary, the more people will think rationally and not cause a gap between the generations,” Mr. Sundaram says.

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