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Economic Times: Here is how companies are learning from millennials’ mistakes


NEW DELHI | BENGALURU: How do you manage the young and restless employees of the future when they constitute 80% of your workforce? As millennials become the largest demographic at work, companies are focusing on grooming them and keeping a close eye on the mistakes they make. 

So critical are millennial employees to the corporate ecosystem today that companies are devising work practices around the 20 and 30-something workers. 

Mentorship and coaching can be especially beneficial in the early stages of one's career, but millennials may dismiss it as being unimportant. 

That's the mistake a 28-year old communications manager made at a consulting firm. In her two years at work, she took for granted the value of regular interactions with her manager and other seniors, and was not proactive about scheduling mentorship sessions. 

When her career growth became stagnant and she was passed up for promotion, she realised the folly of her actions, and is now particular about actively seeking mentorship and coaching from seniors to actively grow her career. 

Companies such as PwC, Mobikwik, Intuit, Lemon Tree, Tesco Bengaluru, Synopsys and NetApp that have a growing number of millennial employees, are addressing the mistakes as well as taking away their own learnings from them. 

Over the years, ways of mentoring and coaching have changed, simply because millennials expect everything to be accessible at all times. As a result, Tesco Bengaluru focuses on not just classroom training but app-based and online trainings so that colleagues can learn at their own pace and use their time productively. 

Leaders at the company are also informally reverse mentored, which helps millennials share their perspectives and allows leaders to appreciate their thinking. Recently, one employee at Tesco taught an executive member how to manage social media, while he picked up project management, leadership and public speaking skills. 

Similar is the case at PwC. Chaitali Mukherjee, partner, people and organisation for the firm in India, said employees can give feedback without having to route the query through their managers. 

"Millennials can be vocal about the choices they are making in their careers. This can be misconstrued by seniors as a lack of alignment to organisational vision but it is really a difference in choices," she said. 

She said that the company now has an inclusive approach and makes sure that all the different generations working together at the company get equal opportunity and representation. They make sure millennials can give organisational feedback without having to go through their managers. 

At Intuit, the early careers team engages with students at the institutes it hires from and conducts sessions on chalking out career paths and structuring professional growth. 

"Millennials sometimes think salary is everything, but it isn't -- you have to learn on the job. We help students get insights into the career progression they can expect with us and how they will have the opportunity to work with multiple technologies," said Naina Agarwal, talent acquisition manager - early careers, Intuit India. 

The company also focuses on showcasing its benefits package as a holistic one so that students realise that there's much more to joining an organisation besides solely the compensation offered. 

NetApp has its challenges too, with discipline topping the list. "Earlier work from home was considered shamming the company. But now you can be productive from home too, since there are more options for communication," said Anil Valluri, president of Netapp India. He said the company has had to change itself as per the changing needs of the younger employees. 

At Synopsys, employees are told to self-regulate their social media usage. A third of Synopsys' 2400-plus employees are millennials. The company does not regulate or restrict social media usage among employees but fully expects them to be able to balance out their day. 

But some team leads say it is only a matter of getting used to the millennial way, which isn't necessarily incorrect. And that a balanced engagement between the two leads to a healthy work environment. Today, conversations are less formal than ever before and companies have accepted that. Rattan Keswani, deputy managing director, Lemon Tree Hotels, says, "Informally, our manager and millennials must have the flexibility to understand which method works best for both of them." 

At Lemon Tree, over 80% employees are between 20 and 35. That's not surprising since India will become the youngest country in the world by 2021; as on date we have 440 million millennials and 390 million Gen Z (born after 2000). 

"This generation doesn't contend with a job for the sake of making a living. They are looking at social and emotional contracts in addition to a job contract," says HR consultant Jappreet Sethi, who is also the co-founder of YoStartups.