Business Today

Changing The Goalposts

As more millennials join the workforce, many of the old theories are being tested and found wanting.
twitter-logoProsenjit Datta | Print Edition: April 7, 2019
Changing The Goalposts

What makes for a great workplace? If you had a choice, what kind of an employer would you like to join? How would you choose between two organisations that offer similar compensation and perks?

As more millennials join the workforce, many of the old theories are being tested and found wanting. Some things have changed because companies cannot offer or promise things that employees looked for in yesteryears. Others because the world has changed and with it, the aspirations of the people joining the workforce. Finally, because entire sectors and businesses are being redefined, workplaces are changing quite dramatically. All of these show up in the results of the Business Today-PeopleStrong Best Companies to Work For Survey this year.

Take the first one. Earlier generations valued stability in an organisation highly. Few in the current generation of employees, though, rate stability as an important factor. Before we rush to blame them as a restless generation, consider this: does any company on earth offer a stability anymore? Not really. Not even the government-run enterprises. Industrial Revolution 4.0 has meant that hundreds of once venerated employers are today out of business. Even tech giants of a decade ago - Yahoo, for instance - have faded to oblivion. Those who have survived the multiple disruptions - technological and otherwise - have done so by dramatically redefining their own businesses. They have merged, downsized, and entered new markets. They have changed directions frequently and hired new people while letting go of others who lacked the requisite skills. Millennials have not seen the kind of stability that older generations aspired for and often got. In turn, stability has become less important in their scheme of things. That also explains the allure of gig working for both employers and employees.

Given the sheer competition in the market, compensation has also ceased being a factor simply because all companies in a sector regularly benchmark themselves against peers and offer matching compensation.

So, what does the workforce really want from an employer today? One is, of course, how interesting and fulfilling the job is, and whether it teaches new skills or not. The second one is a more diverse and inclusive workplace, one that allows both individuality as well as a sense of belonging to a group. In fact, inclusivity of the workplace translated into a much more desirable employer in the survey. The final one is the sense of higher purpose.

This, incidentally, has been shown in recent research as being ahead of even self-actualisation which was the highest point of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

What does a sense of higher purpose mean? It is simply that millennials are increasingly choosing workplaces where they feel the organisation has a bigger societal goal than merely maximising profits.

Tech companies, especially those at the cutting-edge, used to get rated highly earlier because of their pay and perks. Now they are chosen because they are working on tech that will "change the world" or "solve a problem" or "disrupt a sector". That does not mean other companies in more traditional industries need to despair for talent - if they position themselves towards a sustainable earth, they get rated equally highly.

The workplace and the bar for a great workplace is rising ever higher.

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