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Define expectations for 'why' generation

Last month, I was asked to provide career counselling to a client's daughter, a bright and qualified young lady who had dabbled in communications and research and now was considering a career in recruiting.

Sonal Agrawal        Last Updated: October 4, 2010  | 16:20 IST

Last month, I was asked to provide career counselling to a client's daughter, a bright and qualified young lady who had dabbled in communications and research and now was considering a career in recruiting. I ran her through my early days in the profession, throwing out anecdotes of the heady days of the 1990s , when the first foreign brokerage set up shop, the Disinvestment Commission, the faxes coming in from American companies setting up shop... when I stopped short. She had no context about what I was saying. She was five years old then. While I gave her some advice on how to navigate her career, I started thinking about what India Inc. needs to do to manage GenY.

First, understand the context. Their expectations from careers, life and the environment are shaped by their teen experiences, which are very different from those of GenX, or the post-Independence experiences based on which the classical workplace is still structured. While these youngsters may have grown up in a relatively more privileged context, they have an appreciation of the world which is very different from GenX. We wrote letters, sent telexes, faxes, emails - and now we all fret if the text or the BlackBerry Messenger message is not responded to instantly.

When things don't work in India, we know how much better we have it today, because in the good old days, it took us four months to get a phone line. Our parents witnessed Partition and the Chinese aggression; we saw anti-Sikh riots and the demolition of Babri Masjid. For GenY, their horror stories are the 26/11 attacks and single parent families.

Brought up to ask questions, the "Why Generation" will do so with authority and confidence. Teach them how to do it appropriately in the corporate context. As opposed to the relative command-and-control type of management of yesteryears, there is a greater need for them to understand their role in the organisation and how it all fits in.

Define expectations. Don't assume that they already know the unspoken rules that we take for granted - from work hours, dress codes, use of technology, appropriate communication to timelines for job rotations and development opportunities the organisation can provide.

Instant responses are the norm. An instant messaging style response is expected. They need attention in the form of feedback and guidance. You really don't want to wait for the traditional annual appraisal cycle to give feedback or set development objectives.

Accept technology. Understand the place that technology has in their world, our world, work and play. Ignore online networking at your peril. Do you have a Facebook strategy? Or a LinkedIn strategy? Have you ever reviewed a video resume? Have you heard of KineticGlue?

The concept of loyalty is different today as many employers no longer provide employment for life. GenYers will experiment, reinvent themselves and try different things. Think about how to harness this within the context of the firm. Some firms offer sabbaticals, study subsidies, flexitime or projects.

Leverage their strengths. Their comfort with technology, their concern for the environment, their global connect, their confidence, their impatience. Godrej Industries has a GenY shadow board that works with its main board.

Eventually, much of the advice that one can give companies for managing GenY reads suspiciously like the advice they received for GenX. Provide challenges, accept change, mentor youngsters, allow flexibility, encourage development, make work fun, and above all, communicate.

- The writer is Chief Executive India & Member - Global Operating Committee, AltoPartners and Accord Group

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