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How HR can navigate evolving generational demands

By Emma Musgrave | |7 minute read

There are several strategies HR can look to in order to mitigate the challenges brought on by changing work expectations coming from younger employees.

Speaking to HR Leader, Amrita Das, senior vice-president and head of HR at HCLTech, shared how changing generational demand has led to a rethink of how employers interact with their employees.

Younger employees, in particular Gen Z, are driving the change, said Ms Das, who noted what they want from their employer is vastly different from their predecessors.

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“This is the first instance where we’ve found new hires asking for purpose-driven work [that] is aligned with their personal values and aspirations and creates impact,” she said.

“This means that our need to communicate proactively and offer clarity on the job, evaluation parameters, transparency of process, and continuous assurance has never been higher. We’re also finding that new applicants are placing a higher weightage on an organisation’s sustainability mission while evaluating their job options.”

Indeed, recent data released by Workmonitor found 59 per cent of Gen Z employees wouldn’t accept a job with a business that doesn’t align with their values on social and environmental issues, compared to a third (33 per cent) of Baby Boomers.

The same research found 50 per cent of Gen Z employees would rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job, compared to 42 per cent of Millennials and 28 per cent of Baby Boomers.

While Millennial employees are “extremely committed to the assigned deliverables”, Gen Z employees are “not only quite enterprising, but inquisitive on how and what would be the impact of their work on the overall organisation’s growth”, according to Ms Das.

“We’re also finding that Gen Z is less likely to be burnt out as they manage their time better and have a better work/life balance,” she said.

A big reason why generational demands have changed so quickly comes back to the influence technology has had over our day-to-day lives, Ms Das said, who noted: “Gen Z has been born and raised in the digital age – meaning that the exchange of ideas and good practices has opened avenues for newer and better ways of managing themselves and their career.”

“They have started to differentiate between a career, a job, and their livelihood – placing exclusive values on each of them, and working towards nurturing each of them as and when they need be,” she added.

“For Gen Z, their job is not their life, meaning that their approach to work has been quite different from the earlier generations where job, career, [and] livelihood went hand in hand, and the job was an essential source of livelihood in their life.

“Some of this change will be down to the social media age and constantly seeing what their peers globally are doing differently, and some of it is down to the fact that the pandemic made everyone think differently about what they wanted in life, shifting the emphasis away from living to work, for Gen Z to working to live.”

The challenges

An ever-changing workforce, coupled with heightened employee demands, are forcing businesses to look at their systems and processes.

More so than ever, employers have had to adapt in order to effectively meet employee demands while ensuring their business goals and objectives remain uncompromised.

“With more autonomy being provided to employees, especially the younger generations, we have to be careful to ensure that there is no impact on the business outcomes. The focus on customers, output and delivery shouldn’t be impacted,” Ms Das said.

“The changed work dynamics are also posing a challenge for talent attraction and retention. HCLTech has two specific programs that we have created called TechBee and Rise. TechBee is our offering aimed at high school and university students. It’s a 12-month training program subsidised by the Australian government that allows students to start their careers early. Rise supports those who are returning to the workforce and offers reskilling and career coaching to ensure a smooth transition back to work.”

When asked what her advice would be to business leaders in responding to evolving employee expectations, Ms Das said: “My main advice for those who aren’t willing to respond immediately to generational change is to adopt a more gradual transition by picking one or two key processes to focus on changing initially.

“For example, by transitioning the recruitment process to a role-based one and not a hierarchical one, and offering remuneration at the market rate and not at the prior salary package (as most businesses do) would enable the organisation to gain an employee’s trust from the outset.

“These are small steps that instil confidence in the workforce as well as an assurance of its upcoming efforts of moving in this direction.”

HR needs to be key in leading this change, Ms Das said.

“The business model, structure, systems and process have to be ever-evolving and be responsive to the changing asks and expectations. The tougher problem to solve will be to transition the culture into one that is more entrepreneurial, connected, and inclusive. These would need to be imbibed at the leadership and HR level first and gradually trickle down along with the offerings at work,” she said.

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