As a kid, I used to visit this famous bazaar in Old Delhi where parrots were openly sold in cages. Only after the Wildlife Act came into action (it was always present on paper) did the plight of these animals improve, and they were set free into the skies. The story of India’s millennial generation (those born after 1980) is more or less the same: A parrot imprisoned by centuries old traditional practices and prejudices, is now finally set free as India opens its doors to the world.
Birth of the Millennial State of Mind
India has experienced two independence struggles, one with the British Empire which ended in 1947, and one from the country’s age old customs that is still going on. While the 1947 struggle saw physical boundaries changed, the present struggle is seeing a change in the psychology of a people. But what prompted the second struggle in the first place?
It was in the 1990s that the government opened its doors to the world, hoping to bring in oustide investment. Initially, multinational corporations (MNCs) came to India to tap its cheap labor for industrial purposes, but after 2000 we saw many technology giants landing in India as the country shifted from an unskilled economy to a skilled one.
We produced engineers by the bushel, and you could hire four in India for the rate of one in the U.S. MNCs widened the horizons of youngsters, and exposed them to a world they hadn’t seen before. A world where you were independent, where you could do whatever you want, where money was not a problem — a world that broke every cordon of uncertainty we as a nation faced.
Result: A more modern state of mind. Women became independent, centuries-old festivals became less relevant, youngsters started moving out of their parents’ houses, and, yes, we started to question our elders. In short, the millennial generation had started changing India’s identity, one based on the force of customs and traditions.
Millennial Generation Couldn’t Accept Traditional Teachings
All parents want to teach their children the best, but what if the teacher is a byproduct of an outdated ideology? Almost everything that we were told in our childhood didn’t make sense. Things like, If you don’t study regularly, then God will punish you; if you don’t touch your elder’s feet, then God will get angry; if you don’t listen to your parents, then bad things will happen to you.
Surprisingly, we were never taught to do good, we were never taught about karma, we were never taught about humanity — and that’s where the difference came to a head. On one hand, we were fed false traditions and customs, and on the other, we were given world class education. The two were bound to collide.
I mean, how could you accept child marriages or racism in the name of religion? It was only when the younger generation starting questioning these practices, that the situation improved. Meanwhile, relations between the millennial generation and elders worsened dramatically.
Go to any industry — IT, retail, automobile — and millennials don’t accept something just because you say so. We need proof, figures, substance. Millennials believe that competence is greater than relationships, that age shouldn’t equal value, that what industry wants is results, not friendships.
In a country where 54 percent of the population is under 25 years of age, and every third person is a youth, millennial power can’t be understated. The rising prominence of youngsters in the IT industry gave way to a war of ideas that continues today.
The War of Opinions in IT
The older generation is insecure about the rising millennial power, and differs with them on belief systems and traditional practices. While the older generation is trying hard to defend its kingdom, the youngsters are trying even harder to break their empire. With 48 percent of IT employees changing their jobs because of poor management, the war is now out in the open. Some of the major differences between the two groups, one young and one old include:
- Millennials’ questioning of everything is seen as a big problem: Senior and older employees are used to working in the same routine, with the same set of practices. When young employees question their method, or suggest some other alternative, they are actually seen as trying to act above their pay grade, and viewed as a threat.
- Value for millennials is performance-based, not relationship-based: There is less value to having good relationships in today’s competitive world. So if someone is seen as a weak resource who offers less productivity, but still wants to maintain authority, then he had better be ready to take some flak.
- Millennials want rewards sooner: Gone are the days when the promotions could be given on the basis of accrued experience alone. If a millennial is delivering, then he needs instant recognition, and a swift ladder to the top.
- Millennials are more flexible: Think of this, the millennial generation is willing to work 24/7, willing to learn new technologies, and willing to put in those extra hours. So why would they not question those who have been locked into the same routine for years, and are not willing to adapt to change?
- Respect is earned: While seniors think that millennials should show them some respect, youngsters want that respect to be earned. It’s as simple as that.
- Seniors never like youngsters making important decisions: Senior employees don’t often see the need for youngsters to be part of important meetings, as they would like to run the ship themselves. The young employees, meanwhile, will keep knocking on the door till they get entry.
How Can Relations Be Improved?
India is one of the world’s top IT outsourcing destinations. This means that youngsters have loads of choices on offer. On top of that, they are impatient and hungry for success. So if you don’t manage them well, then attrition is only going to rise. One of the top priorities to retain young talent is to bridge the gap between senior management and young, entry-level employees, a task that needs proper planning and implementation. Here are six steps to help bridge the gap:
- Show faith in youngsters: Employers need to prove they’re ready for change, that youngsters will be given chance to perform at the top level on the basis of talent and not age. Make career paths visible to millennials, and maintain a balanced ratio of the young and the experienced in management positons.
- Encourage upgrading: Be transparent. In the field of IT, every year a new certification comes. Only those employees (whether young or experienced) who upgrade should get the chance at the top.
- Train the new generation of leaders: Experience matters, but so too does new thinking. If you want to enjoy decent growth you’ll have to train the new generation of leaders from the younger lot. Their innovative ideas combined with the disciplined approach of the experienced can prove to be an asset for any company.
- Create a rating system: Have a rating system for every employee, whether entry level programmer, or senior manager. The system should be transparent, so that no one feels cheated.
- Include millennials in decision making: Hand them responsibility, and you’ll be amazed how well they’ll perform. The only way to avoid competition is by working together.
- Choose senior management carefully: If senior management is insecure, the whole process can go for a toss. That is why tests that evaluate psyche and nature of mind are pretty important for these positions. You need someone who can groom the youngsters, not someone who wants to cut their wings.
The millennial generation is rising fast and won’t be stopped. By 2050, India’s young workforce will be in demand all over the world because of its massive numbers and outstanding talent. If Indian companies don’t want the young talent to move away to other lucrative locations, then they’ll have to create an environment based on competence and not relationships. Millennials are the future, and time has come for the baton to be passed on to the younger lot. Only those companies which balance the existing power with the rising power will survive the coming years of global competition. The message for IT is simple — adapt to the changing business climate, or perish.