First it was the baby boomers, then came the Gen X and just when we were coping with the millenials (born in the mid 80’s till year 2000) following them closely is the newly named Generation Z (born after 2000). With each new generation, the corporate world and especially human resources has seen tremendous changes in various strategies used to attract, develop and retain talent.
I was intrigued by a poster in my mailbox asking for volunteers for a school career fair that was aimed at creating awareness for the younger generation on what options they have for careers after school or college and what they need to do to get into those jobs. Leveraging on what helped me in my career, and what I admired most from leaders in the corporate world, here are some tools every youngster stepping foot in the big bad world would need to succeed. These lessons may be applicable for any generation but seems to be more relevant to those who were born with a sense of “entitlement” in a world that was seeing epic changes in diversity, social systems, technology, and consumerism.
- Never Say “Its not my Job” – In today’s times of specialization and delegation, this may even sound as an ancient advice. Steve Jobs in his Stamford commencement speech talks about how a random course he took in Calligraphy helped him years later when it came to designing font types. We really don’t know when the dots would connect, but until then don’t say “its not my job”. It may be a random report that’s assigned to you, a one month stint in an obscure role. Take it up – see if you can turn it around and put your stamp on it. And if nothing works at least you have given it a try .so now sit back to watch if the dots connect later.
- Salary and designation are not an indicator of success – I love interacting with the “millenials”who are nudging open the doors of corporatedom. And one of the questions I love asking them is “what kind of work are you looking for”? and most of the time the answer has been “a job that pays well”. I wait to hear “I want something where I can learn a new skill”. I would even be satisfied with “I want a job that’s going to pay for my MBA”. But invariably the answer has always been “A job that pays well”. Every company is going to offer you 10% more than what you currently earn. But the question is what is the value addition to your career. Are you moving for a new skill? Is the new role a progression of what you are currently doing? I don’t like my job/boss is not a reason to resign within two months of joining. Don’t quit without giving it a try. Titles don’t matter in your career. It’s the content of your role, your contribution to the role and your learning out of the experience is what truly defines your career.
- Continuous Learning is the tool for survival: My grandfather always thought that success means getting a bank job. You get a bank job. Go to office everyday between 9am to 5pm and come back home. While I appreciate his focus on work-life balance, I am also amused by how the world has changed from his times. Nobody survives in any industry today by sitting at a desk for 25 years. Change is the only constant in this world. Whether you are a doctor, a robotics engineer or a door-to-door salesman, if you are not updated then someone or something is going to replace you. It could be a new technology or a new generation that is savvier with that technology. Be the change maker and not the change. Make sure you stay top of your sphere. Read. Network. Share Best Practices. Be thrilled if you get to learn something new.
Attitude and Aptitude more essential to Succeed than grades .
- Ask and thou shall know – Never hesitate to ask about a new policy, a new process or a new concept. People will be glad that you asked because it reflects that you truly care rather than assuming about it. You will realize that not only do you have better clarity but you also have an engaged stakeholder who accepts your ideas more easily because they know that you understand their business.
- How can I make this better? Let us take an example of Karen. Karen joined an intern at an MNC. Her daily task is to send an attendance report to the senior management. It was the same report that many interns before her had routinely sent. Karen is bored with doing the same task everyday and decides to ask the senior management (of course through proper channels) the purpose behind the report and what is the information being used for. She found out that the attendance report was being used to feed the monthly report on employee trends. She then checked if the report can be sent fortnightly and if she could send additional details of late attendance and overtime. She also started including the HR partners in the report and the mundane report soon became the basis and the feed for identifying loss of productivity due to late attendance and ultimately resulted in automation of the report and creating a big cost saving by implementing strategies to reduce late attendance. This simple thought process also pushed Karen from an intern role to a key role in the HR Analytics team. So remember, all it takes is a simple thought – “How can I do this better” The answer would reward you and the organization.
- Never burn bridges – Diplomacy is an art and a science and is not just restricted to the political arena. There are no permanent enemies and in the world where change rules and maintaining good relations with people and organizations will go a long way in your career. As the tides change, there may be times where you may find your first boss a leading industry consultant, a former colleague can reincarnate as your new boss. Do unto others as you would want it done for you.
These are simple rules that would change the way you perceive the organization. It will present you as an individual who is not limited by prejudices and fixed mindset but an asset to the organization who can take on varied roles and whether you are successful or not in those roles, the experience would still reflect your value.
The new generation brings with it a different mindset, one that defies traditional communication channels, one that is more curious, willing to explore new domains, individuals who thrive technology, and a generation that pushes boundaries. It is time for the organizations also to adapt to this generation and leverage on their strengths.
How do you think Gen Z is going to add value to established organizations and how will the work dynamics differ with the existing workforce from a different generation? How do you think HR engagement strategies would have to change to suit the Gen Z workforce? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.