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Book Review: Managing Millennials

The book lives up to its expectations and exposes what could be the world like with the Gen Z employees entering the workplace, and in full force

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What do organisations  need to do to accommodate  Generation Z at workplaces?  How can senior managers help in bridging gaps? Could the human resources team go the extra mile in understanding the situation? Father-son duo David and Jonah Stillman answer these questions and more in their extensively researched book Gen Z @ work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace.

Even as the world and India specifically braces itself for the challenge of placing an overwhelming number of college graduates, there is also the need to understand the generation who come to workplaces armed with their technology know-how and the readiness to conquer the workplace. Workplaces should be prepared to work with the arrival of Generation Z aka Gen Z, which comprises people born between 1995 and 2012. The numbers are huge and they have started entering the workplace in a small way, which would eventually become a considerable population.

David has written books such as When Generations Collide and The M-Factor  and in Gen Z @ work, he collaborates with his 17-year-old son Jonah in order to articulate how certain behaviours and attitudes shape up this generation. The authors  also emphasise on the workplace implications of such behaviours and what organisations could do to be prepared for such differences in behaviours. The book is based on thorough research and provides early peek into what is about to hit the organisations. Again, there are some serious learnings even in the Indian context considering that a large segment of  influences highlighted in the book are very relevant to us.

The authors clearly distinguish the differences between Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. There are seven distinguishing traits, which will be brought to the workplace by the Gen Z: Phigital (blurring lines between digital and physical world); Hyper-custom (strong emphasis on customising and tailoring brands, career paths, job titles and even job descriptions); Realistic (world events like 9/11 and recession have influenced both the parents who are from Gen X and kids from Gen Z); Fear of missing out (Gen Z likes to stay on top of various trends so that they don’t miss out and will always worry about not being fast enough); Weconomists (being comfortable with shared economy with an intense zeal to break down silos); Do-it-yourself generation (independent versus the collaborative millennial workforce); and Driven (intense competition and understanding that there will be winners and losers, makes this generation very driven).

The narrative is made very interesting by subtly highlighting the point of view from the father and the son – both looking at the same thing with their generation lens. A good example is the case of  idols and superstars for each generation. Gen Z sees more YouTube stars coming out within their own niche spaces while Gen X was all about following and idolising stars in movies, sports, etc.

From a workplace standpoint, there are few themes that will impact immediately – workspace, learning, and feedback for performance management. Gen Z doesn’t distinguish between the  digital and physical worlds and they are comfortable using technology to connect with fellow employees while also coming together in physical spaces. There is no clear preference in terms of workplace but a high priority on culture.

Similarly, when Gen X was trained using multi-day workshops at the workplace, companies like Panera have modified their approach towards learning. They have made it bite sized for this YouTube generation so that it fits into their attention span. There are also good examples to illustrate why Gen Z would be looking for more on-the-job trainings.

Last, Gen Z is used to receiving feedback instantaneously and their expectations at the workplace might follow their personal life preference. They would like to receive feedback instantaneously for each task or activity and can be very short. This has implications for how managers need to be trained to best utilise this generation’s capabilities while also delivering the right feedback at the right time.

The book lives up to its expectations and exposes what could be the world like with the Gen Z employees entering the workplace, and in full force.

It also makes the reader (company heads, future HR executives) think on what steps organisations need to take in order to create an employee friendly environment without losing the focus of the organisation’s inherent goals. Ignoring this generation will be to miss out on an opportunity to transform the workplace!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Vipul singh

Singh is Vice President & Head of HR, ADP

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