Millennials are a rave today. The media features them in some context or the other almost every day. Brand advertisers and marketers have them on their radars. Academic journals bring out socio-psychological studies on them every now and then. Economists, Sociologists and trend-watchers say millennials will make up 75% of the Global Workforce by 2025.
Demographically speaking, millennials are people born after 1980 – which would put the older millennials in their early 30s today. The younger ones are leaving high school to enter college or enrol in a skill-based vocational course. Needless to say, millennials make up an important segment of the workforce and are already visible on the radars of organisations.
As an executive search firm, millennials interact with us on a daily basis. Not only do our clients hire millennials into their organisations, some of our clients are older millennials who are as concerned with managing millennials joining their organisations as their senior colleagues are. The overall gestalt (flavour) of the issue is to understand ‘who millennials are’ in order to better manage them.
In our previous post, Millennials: Re-defining the organisation, we have addressed this very issue, quoting from published research and articles in the media. We have talked a good deal about who millennials are and how they are infusing their thinking and behaviour into the organisation. And, of course, we deliberated on how some Indian organisations are responding to this change.
Although the term ‘millennials’ suggests a demographic with certain characteristics, they are people and that concerns us even more. After all, we interact with people every day, not with a demographic statistic. In our interactions with people through a series of dialogues for this post, we have discovered how people who (otherwise) are described as millennials perceive themselves in relation to their work and the people they work with in Indian organisations.
The following conversations are edited excerpts from dialogues with a group of working millennials, selected randomly, from various organisations in India:
- Ruchi – manager, retail sales, luxury brand, manage team of 30 people;
- Devika – team lead, IT outsourcing and consulting, manage team of 16 people;
- Nitin – senior marketing executive, digital marketing;
- Amit – product designer, industrial design, product-technology interface;
- Sonal – manager, marketing communications, hospitality industry;
- Tarun – project lead, IT solutions, software development, manage team of 10 people.
YPP Advisors: What’s your point of view on being called or labelled a millennial?
Ruchi: I was born in 1990. A year later India gained economic liberalisation. I’ve grown up in a time that has been extremely exciting for my country. It’s fantastic being a millennial in a globalized world – there’s so much opportunity and optimism. It’s exhilarating. We’re a bit spoilt honestly, but every now and then the economy gives us a reality check.
Devika: I’ve never thought of myself as a millennial. It’s just a term – it doesn’t give me an identity really. I identify with being ‘Indian middle class’ – this sheds light on the way I was brought up, the struggle I face now to grow economically, etc.
Nitin: As far as the term millennial goes, frankly speaking, to me it’s just a term with no significance. I feel it is just a way to categorize people.
Amit: It’s something I’m indifferent to. But then, I do realise that this era is an important one, looking at the rate at which technology is progressing.
Sonal: Millennial is a tag put on by time on me. I feel millennials are just caught in between two generations. Taking values from one, and shedding it for the other. I feel being a millennial is this feeling of sitting at a very important juncture of time, radically changing, fast evolving.
Tarun: It’s okay being called that; gives some sense of belonging. Apart from that the term doesn’t have any specific significance for me.
YPP Advisors: What are your expectations from your present job, your employer, your career?
Ruchi: I am very happy with my job, I have no expectations really. I feel very loved/contented in the organisation.
Devika: Stability, progressive career chart, horizontal/vertical growth, pay hike in line with market trends; and last but an important expectation – a fun/relaxed environment to work in.
Nitin: Expectations are simple: learn and earn.
Amit: I expect to define new standards in Indian design. For long it has been lingering in philosophies that belong way back in the past.
Sonal: Freedom to make critical decisions; skills to handle different kind of work; great hike. To finally contribute to something meaningful using my expertise and experience.
Tarun: I want to do good work (enough to not get randomly sacked :)) and earn a lot of money. I expect that my employer will hopefully send me abroad for better opportunities. As far as my career is concerned, I see myself as a Project Manager in a couple of years. I haven’t planned anything further than that.
YPP Advisors: In terms of attitude to work, do you feel you are different from your colleagues who are 10 or more years older than you?
Ruchi: I wouldn’t say my attitude is different compared to others. The thing is, I have zero liabilities and I’m living each day at a time; so my attitude is to enjoy and do it or not do it at all. I can afford to do this because I am unattached and free. This makes me different. I’m also very ready to experiment with profiles and locations, something that works well with my company and provides me growth as compared to others who are immobile.
Devika: Yes, I’m more flexible to new ideas, open to discussions and criticisms from all bands of colleagues, senior or junior.
Nitin: Actually it’s more people dependent. But more or less attitude-wise I don’t find a difference. It’s just that when someone is older to me, I seek to learn from that person’s experience.
Amit: Absolutely, but on occasions I do meet people who’re twice my age with similar visions of the future of our industry. I don’t believe it has anything to do with age, just with attitude.
Sonal: Yes, I can think more contemporary, work more smartly and efficiently, multitask better.
Tarun: In terms of delivering the projects on a deadline, the excruciating work hours that follow, everyone turns out to be the same in terms of attitude. You are cool as long as things are in the realm of the possible. Once they go out of balance, everyone behaves the same: my seniors press me for results, as I do my juniors. But then it’s the cynical part of me talking! I think I look at work as work (if that is a difference). In my early years I used to believe that I’d escape into doing something else. But then, you learn to snap out of it and start liking what you do eventually.
YPP Advisors: In terms of your key strengths and qualities, do you feel you are superior to your colleagues who are 10 or more years older than you?
Ruchi: Not really, but I think I have proven to be superior to those of my age. In the designation I am in, I am the youngest person in the company; others are at least 10 and even 15 years older.
Devika: I’ll say I’m not superior because where I score on fresh outlook, quicker ways, innovative ideas, I lack in experience.
Nitin: I actually never compare myself to others, be they older or younger.
Amit: There are good designers and there are bad ones. Age only plays a factor in cases where having a younger body and mind allow me to perform tasks in a more efficient way.
Sonal: I may not be superior in terms of sheer experience. I may not possess certain skills at an individual level that my superiors may possess.
Tarun: Speaking strictly in terms of the software industry, we have to constantly update ourselves. And I am surprised sometimes to notice how my seniors who are quite older than me are so well-versed in all the latest updates in technology. Apart from that, I feel I can handle a project better: manage client issues and am good in designing, the initial pen and paper phase before the actual software coding starts.
YPP Advisors: What do you value most in your present job, your employer, your career?
Ruchi: I love my boss and I love the product. He was an entrepreneur and a rebel in the 70s. His passion is what drives the company. I don’t have a clear career goal but I’m happy being where I am now.
Devika: Peaceful work environment, open-door policy, periodic policy refreshers, new growth opportunities.
Nitin: At my current job, I feel it’s both opportunities to learn and work in an exciting environment. In my earlier job it was simply building my career by learning on my own.
Amit: I value the potential of creating better quality of life for our target users. My greatest opportunity lies in the deficiencies of our present system and societies. I love the fact that as long as there are human beings, I will have a job to do.
Sonal: In my present job, starting everything from scratch. My career presents creative and stimulating opportunities.
Tarun: That I have come to like what I do finally!
YPP Advisors: Do you have a personal leadership style?
Ruchi: The bosses/professors I have really loved were always democratic, inclusive and unbiased. I try to be the same. Being a young manager, my staff also finds me more approachable.
Devika: Realistic motivation, setting of expectations and positive criticism can help an individual go a long way. At the same time, encouraging ideas (even if they are not in line with the process) and discussing those makes the teammates you lead feel more involved, motivated.
Nitin: Allow people to err and learn from the experience and don’t impose restrictions until it is extremely necessary. That’s my leadership mantra.
Amit: I think it’s absolutely essential to back your team no matter what. In times of disciplining and guiding it is very important to pick one’s words carefully. And, most important of all is to be able to show your team the way out of difficult situations by taking charge and doing what you think is needed to be done.
Sonal: Cordial, co-operative, collaborative.
Tarun: I am very approachable. I see managing a team as scheduling properly, to see that no one is free enough and on the verge of getting bored; but to also make sure that they don’t get over-worked for a day. Otherwise they will end up hating me and the job. I code along with them to make them feel that I am no different from them. I share some of their work even when the load is less. This way, I can also guide them out of their difficulties and not just boss around about unrealistic deadlines.
YPP Advisors: Is your personal leadership style very different from – or contrary to – that of your colleagues who are 10 or more years older than you?
Ruchi: I have found many middle-aged bosses require validation of their superiority, e.g. they want to be called Sir or Ma’am. I just want my job done excellently, it doesn’t matter what you call me.
Devika: Not very different, but certainly more flexible and in line with the thought process of my colleagues (who are around the same age as me).
Nitin: Some have been different. Some have been more or less the same. The difference I feel is the autocratic nature some of them display.
Amit: Yes, people around lack the basic sense on how to take charge; either they’re too aggressive or haven’t a clue how to tackle a project. It is also very important that one takes note of all the valuable feedback coming from each member of your team.
Sonal: Yes, I do not like to maintain unnecessary divides in hierarchies that stymie ideation and free conversation.
Tarun: Yes, it is different. Like I said earlier, I have learnt to be like that by observing my own seniors and what I had expected from them but didn’t get. And yes, somewhere I have been influenced positively also. It’s not complete black or white.
YPP Advisors: What do you value most in a leader?
Devika: His/her ability to think through a tough situation, steering the teammates on the right path while taking care to see that their professional lives do not affect their personal lives. And the fact that when the people under the leader are recognised for good work – that’s the real reward for the leader.
Nitin: The support and guidance they can provide and their experience that they share.
Amit: The ability to perform the same or similar tasks they ask of us. If not, understand that you are professionally equipped to do the same and encourage you.
Sonal: His knowledge and acumen.
Tarun: That he should lead by example. Show them how it’s done rather than simply telling them that he wants it done.
YPP Advisors: What does recognition and success mean to you?
Ruchi: There’s always a warm fuzzy feeling when you’re recognised and praised but I often prefer doing things in stealth minus the limelight rather than having to face the envy of colleagues.
Devika: Acknowledgement if not appreciation for a job well done, and when it is due. If a person is doing the right work and hard work, he/she will get recognised. Success is never based on a single person’s efforts. If I say I am successful today, it has many people’s help/wishes/work; it’s a collective effort.
Nitin: Recognition is something I don’t really care about. If I get it, it’s fine; and if I don’t, it doesn’t bother me. But success and failure are measures of my efforts.
Amit: They are by-products of doing my job well.
Sonal: Being praised for work, achieving results through efforts.
Tarun: It makes me happy. To be honest, what I do is not going to be remembered for long. A client or two will appreciate it, a team member or two will cheer about it over beers and then it will get lost in oblivion. I am not making movies that will be watched over and over again. So small, quick pleasures are always welcome!
YPP Advisors: Is your present job helping you to achieve your career goals?
Ruchi: It’s constructive and keeps me content, for now that’s all I want.
Devika: Yes, my company has and still does provide me growth opportunities.
Nitin: I feel it is, but it’s too soon to say.
Amit: It’s all a part of a bigger plan, so yes.
Sonal: No. Since most work is rudimentary, it doesn’t allow me to move on to bigger projects soon.
Tarun: Yes, it is in a way. I am handling 3 projects simultaneously. And since it is a small company, we have to shuffle between most of the stuff ourselves. This gives me good exposure. And, as for my goal of climbing up the management ladder, I think I am gathering the right tools.
What’s reassuring about these dialogues is that they present these Indian millennials as more level-headed, open-minded, tolerant, collaborative, communicative, satisfied and happy people than how they are projected in the global mainstream media. Considering the economic recession they have been enduring for the past seven years, which covers almost the entire tenure of work for these millennials, they seem to be more confident and optimistic about their work and the future than their older colleagues are.
We see these millennial qualities as good reasons for organisations to welcome them on board.