Leading Generation Goog
By Dileep Ranjekar
Some of my contemporaries and peers often complain about the way the 'current generation' thinks and responds to various situations. Comparison is quickly made with 'how they used to be' or 'they used to behave' when they were younger. It is conveniently forgotten that they too were dramatically different than their earlier generation.
In most organizations, the first generation leaders are trying to lead the second generation people, who in turn are attempting to manage the 'current generation' of employees. Conflict between generations has been continuing for centuries. My job with Azim Premji Foundation gives me direct access to the future generations that are emerging from the elementary schools. I cannot claim expertise in the socio-cultural dynamics of the emerging future generations, but can surely share some insights that I perceive from the experiences with young students and juxtaposing them with my understanding of business organizations.
A socio-cultural melt-down
A few years ago, a survey carried out by Grey Global revealed three very interesting opinions on young single women in India that would provide a taste of the future: (1) 62 per cent women said it is OK to have faults that others can see (2) 76 per cent women said they would be the sole decision makers on when they should have children (3) 51 per cent young urban women said a big house and a car are key to happiness.
The changes witnessed by India in the past 20 years are far bigger in their significance and magnitude that what the nation experienced for centuries before. These are a mixture of economic, social and cultural aspects. Information explosion, weakening of geographic boundaries across the globe and liberalization of government policies have significantly led to this change.
Our understanding of these changes is of varying degrees. Issues that we probably understand the least are (a) the future of technology and the impact the discontinuities in technology (b) the emergence of a new employee at the work place and more effective ways of dealing with such employees, and (c) solutions to bridge the generation gaps - so that generations of diverse thoughts can meaningfully co-exist.
Quite often, opportunities and challenges are not what we think they are. Therefore, to begin with we need newer ways of analyzing issues and seeking solutions.
Some characteristic of Generation Goog
Fearless, intolerant and impatient: Generation Goog engages in arguments with their parents and supervisors, which the first generation people would not have dared to think of. They are in a hurry to achieve results. They don't want to suffer like fools and buy lame excuses for something not happening for them. Paradigms related to acquisition of assets, relationships, commitment to institutions such as marriage, etc., have undergone radical changes. Sob stories forwarded by the first generation leaders on how they suffered during their times - don't make a dent on this generation.
Fiercely individualistic: Their own interest, freedom and protection of personal choices are supreme. While they would not like anyone interfering with their personal affairs - including making enquiries into their personal issues, they would very much want organization to design programs and benefits that cater to their personal needs. This includes office timings, pay-packets, job designs, etc. It is all about own career, own development, enriching
own resume and enhancing opportunities for self. Any contribution to organizational objectives is purely incidental.
Rationality and logic is all important: Emotions don't work much with Generation Goog. The only things that matter are hard facts, data, and rationale of an issue. So any amount of influencing and convincing has to be backed by strong logic. This also creates a strong need for transparency and sharing reasons behind a particular decision. 'Don't ask why - it is a company policy!' has been shown the dustbin long ago.
Hierarchies, formal organization structures are clear disincentives: Any compliance based hierarchical positions are resented. Democratic and participative structures are most welcome. Generation Goog would like to operate more in the mode of 'entrepreneurs' or 'owners' than just 'employees'. Being in charge of their own destinies is critical for the generation.
Working with Generation Goog
Surveys across different kinds of professionals in the world have thrown up certain synergistic findings. Contrary to common belief that compensation is the key driver among employees, the story of Generation Goog clearly articulates certain priorities that are important for them while choosing an organization they associate with:
Strategic clarity and alignment: This is probably the most vital factor - they choose the organization primarily on this criterion to begin with and are willing to compromise other factors if this
alignment is very strong. It also influences their commitment, hard work, willing to walk that extra mile, etc.
Influence and autonomy: A major aphrodisiac for these professionals - and a part of their agenda to be 'in control' than being 'controlled'.
Innovation and risk: It provides the thrill of working with an organization and creates the possibility of realizing the potential of a member. It allows them to try out newer ideas without taking any individual risk.
Recognition to individual efforts: Being individualistic that they are - any recognition that rewards their personal effort is more important than team recognition. It massages their ego far better than anything else.
Opportunity to learn, develop and enrich own resume: Enhancing selfworth to position them in a more competitive way in the larger world is an important agenda for Generation Goog.
These are just a few dimensions that may help in understanding this new generation which can help to develop strategies to effectively interact with them. It necessitates a paradigm shift in the way we used to earlier manage things.
What leaders need to do?
Special efforts to understand the generation: The first thing that leaders need to do is to spend time with Generation Goog, understand them, understand their paradigms, understand their glossary and
understand what excites them. Be prepared to evolve highly individualized strategies to effectively lead them. This may even mean visiting schools and colleges and observing the way the newer generations are evolving. If you have
young children at home - spend time with them and develop necessary understanding.
Redefine mutual respect: Forget the old paradigms of giving and receiving respect. Don't compare it with the ways when you were younger. The Generation Goog does not follow those traditional approaches of respect. They may appear rude, arrogant and disrespectful in their behaviors, gestures - you must ignore that. Evaluate what they are saying rather than how they are saying it.
Evolve an entrepreneurial culture: Since the Generation Goog loves to be in control of their destinies, evolve a culture in which employees take full ownership of what they do. This would obviously be within the overall
framework of the organizational commitment. Allow employees to make their own decisions and be accountable for their decisions. Use challenges and crisis as major learning and experiential opportunities for employees.
Discard practices that stand for 'business as usual': It is highly demotivating for the Generation Goog to be bound by practices that are stereo-typed, ritualistic and do not add value to their work. Avoid processes that are bureaucratic, disempowering, non-transparent and discriminating. Illustratively, a performance management system that is merely administered as an annual ritual without a precise development plan and transparent understanding of the benchmarks of performance is likely to be rejected by employees.
Flat vs layered organizations: Access to decision makers is critical for Generation Goog. This would mean adopting an equitable approach and not a hierarchical approach. More layers in organization create distances, differences and perceived discriminations. They also at times de-humanize the interfaces. Generation Goog relates to people who they think add value to them and want to be in close touch with them. Leaders need to design structures that will make all the above possible. Finally, leaders who create a sense of possibility (beyond business as usual), a sense of personal responsibility (personal commitment as a source of self-discipline), a sense of unity (shared vision and ambition) and a sense of identity (meaning to everyone's efforts) are likely to be far more successful in interacting with Generation Goog.