The ‘Z’ fac­tor

The Smart Manager - - Contents - HEN­RIK BRES­MAN IS AS­SO­CIATE PRO­FES­SOR OF OR­GA­NI­ZA­TIONAL BE­HAV­IOR AT INSEAD AND ACA­DEMIC DI­REC­TOR OF INSEAD GLOBAL LEAD­ER­SHIP CEN­TRE. VINIKA RAO IS EX­EC­U­TIVE DI­REC­TOR OF THE INSEAD EMERG­ING MAR­KETS IN­STI­TUTE.

Hen­rik Bres­man and Vinika Rao, INSEAD, talk about how work­place dy­nam­ics will evolve when three gen­er­a­tions func­tion to­gether.

To­day’s or­ga­ni­za­tions are al­ready in the process of on­board­ing Gen Z who are go­ing to make up about 20% of the work­force by 2020. For the first time, three dis­tinct gen­er­a­tions work­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously. What does this sig­nify for em­ploy­ers?

The fu­ture of work and the dy­nam­ics of the work­place are chang­ing con­stantly—are em­ploy­ers ready? Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances en­sure that the phys­i­cal as­pects of work en­vi­ron­ments will be far re­moved from what we see in of­fices or home work sta­tions to­day. But there is an­other change, less ob­vi­ous but no less im­pact­ful—the dy­nam­ics in­tro­duced by a multi­gen­er­a­tional work­force. Much has been writ­ten about the im­pact mil­len­ni­als have had on the work­place. Now, as Gen Z pre­pares to make up about 20% of the work­force by 2020, more up­heavals are to be ex­pected.

For the first time in hu­man his­tory, we will have three dis­tinct gen­er­a­tions—X, Y, and Z—work­ing to­gether. In­creased life ex­pectancy and ad­vanced med­i­cal care are post­pon­ing re­tire­ment and keep­ing older work­ers in the

work­place for longer pe­ri­ods. On the other end, young peo­ple are start­ing busi­nesses and be­com­ing em­ploy­ers and bosses, some­times even while they are study­ing.

Tech­preneurs have changed ev­ery­thing, even the way ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists eval­u­ate busi­ness plans for po­ten­tial fund­ing. In fact, these days, they do not even ask for busi­ness plans. De­velop a rough pro­to­type of the planned prod­uct, do a pi­lot re­lease, demon­strate re­sults—and the first tranche of ven­ture funds may be al­lot­ted. Change is hap­pen­ing at break­neck speed, across the busi­ness ecosys­tem. And the tra­di­tional con­structs of work, of­fice, em­ploy­ers, and em­ploy­ees are all be­ing sum­mar­ily de­con­structed.

The INSEAD Emerg­ing Mar­kets In­sti­tute, Univer­sum, the HEAD Foun­da­tion, and the MIT Lead­er­ship Cen­tre con­ducted a sur­vey re­cently of over 18,000 stu­dents and pro­fes­sion­als from nine­teen coun­tries, cov­er­ing these three most re­cent gen­er­a­tions: Gen X (born be­tween 1965 to 1983), Gen Y (born be­tween 1984 to 1996), and Gen Z (born be­tween 1997 to 2002).

In an ear­lier global sur­vey in 2014, we looked ex­clu­sively at mil­len­ni­als. Com­monly held per­cep­tions about them were busted and new trends re­vealed, es­pe­cially re­lated to their ca­reer de­ci­sions, lead­er­ship be­hav­ior, and work styles. With this sec­ond it­er­a­tion of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, we broad­ened the scope of anal­y­sis to also in­clude Gen X, which has wielded influence over the work­place for some two decades, and Gen Z which is poised to take up jobs and re­shape the fu­ture of work in its own unique way.

The coun­tries cov­ered in­cluded both de­vel­oped and emerg­ing economies.

work­place se­niors

Sand­wiched be­tween the baby boomers and the mil­len­ni­als, Gen X-ers have taken up po­si­tions of power in multi­na­tional C-suites as well as in the ranks of suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs. They ex­pe­ri­enced child­hood with­out com­put­ers and wit­nessed the shift from ana­logue to dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy in their adult­hood. At work, they are tak­ing over the man­tle from the baby boomers and men­tor­ing Gen Y. At home, they are car­ing for their boomer par­ents on one hand, and their mil­len­nial chil­dren on the other, who of­ten do not seem ready to leave home.

mil­len­ni­als, gen­er­a­tion me, the Peter Pan gen­er­a­tion, the boomerang gen­er­a­tion

New la­bels are still be­ing coined for this most vis­i­ble gen­er­a­tion. Gen Y-ers have forced a new look at ev­ery­thing. Grow­ing up with un­prece­dented ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy, they have used it to bring about mas­sive changes in the work­place. Com­monly per­ceived to seek work-life bal­ance, fre­quent ca­reer ad­vance­ment, and con­stant feed­back, while be­ing so­cially con­scious, open minded, and ea­ger to make a dif­fer­ence, they are also seen as de­lay­ing the com­mon adult­hood mark­ers like mar­riage, moving out of parental homes, and start­ing ca­reers.

the post-mil­len­ni­als

Gen Z-ers were born into a VUCA world and that is the en­vi­ron­ment they are used to. They fear for the fu­ture of the planet, value their ed­u­ca­tion, worry about their fu­ture ca­reers, and want to make the world a bet­ter place. They are the quin­tes­sen­tial dig­i­tal na­tives—quite help­less in a non-dig­i­tal world.

What are the im­pli­ca­tions for the em­ployer or HR man­ager who is try­ing to at­tract, man­age, and de­velop these dis­tinct groups—should they de­velop three dif­fer­ent sets of poli­cies for them or find a way to in­te­grate them op­ti­mally?

There is also the question of whether the three gen­er­a­tions re­ally have a per­ma­nently dif­fer­ent out­look, or is this just about age. Are we over­think­ing the gen­er­a­tional piv­ots? Are Gen Y and Gen Z truly dif­fer­ent from Gen

X in their ex­pec­ta­tions and pref­er­ences at the work­place? Or, will they be­gin to be­have much like their older peers

as they grow older and gain ex­pe­ri­ence at work? There are un­doubt­edly some dif­fer­ences that are about age and ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, our re­search did re­veal that not all the dif­fer­ences can be ex­plained away in this fash­ion— some are gen­er­a­tional and will not go away with age.

Let us con­sider an ex­am­ple of each. Our sur­vey showed that in terms of their out­look to­wards the fu­ture of their work, there is a clear gen­er­a­tional di­vide with one gen­er­a­tion feel­ing in­creas­ingly hope­ful and an­other in­creas­ingly fear­ful. Gen Y is more op­ti­mistic in their ex­pec­ta­tions re­gard­ing their fu­ture ca­reers and work than Gen X, across the ge­ogra­phies sur­veyed.

On the other hand, one dif­fer­ence that is prob­a­bly re­lated to age and may go away with ex­pe­ri­ence is that Gen Z seems to be less con­cerned about flexible work lo­ca­tions and timings than the older gen­er­a­tions. There is a good chance this may just be be­cause they take a cer­tain amount of flex­i­bil­ity for granted, treat­ing it as a given rather than a perk. Hav­ing never ex­pe­ri­enced what it feels like to be desk bound from 9 to 5, they prob­a­bly can­not vi­su­al­ize such a sce­nario, so this dif­fer­ence may go away with ex­pe­ri­ence as they ac­tu­ally start work.

main in­sights from the sur­vey:

job-re­lated fears

■ “I won’t get a job that matches my per­son­al­ity”— this fear of not find­ing their ‘fit’ is par­tic­u­larly great among younger peo­ple who have not yet en­tered the work­force. Al­most 53% of Gen Z chose this as their most sig­nif­i­cant job-re­lated fear. les­son to em­ploy­ers: A com­pany that is able to ar­tic­u­late its vi­sion, cul­ture, and val­ues clearly and con­vinc­ingly will have an eas­ier time at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing top tal­ent.

“I’ll get stuck, not be able to re­al­ize my ca­reer goals”— more than half of Gen Y pro­fes­sion­als and 47% of Gen X pro­fes­sion­als cited this fear of stalling with­out devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. les­son to em­ploy­ers: De­vel­op­ing ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly for younger work­ers is im­por­tant. Con­sider both the con­tent and the mode of de­liv­ery. The as­sump­tion that younger work­ers pre­fer on­line train­ing is not true. The sur­vey showed that all three gen­er­a­tions pre­fer in-per­son train­ing. In fact, Gen X is more likely to opt for on­line train­ing than Gen Y or Z— pos­si­bly be­cause of the per­ceived ef­fi­ciency of this mode in terms of fit­ting in with their busy work cal­en­dars.

women’s con­cerns at work

Women’s fears about their pro­fes­sional lives vary sig­nif­i­cantly, both by coun­try and gen­er­a­tion. The ge­o­graph­i­cal di­ver­sity is more than for their male coun­ter­parts. for women in In­dia: ‘No one will lis­ten to me’ was the most com­monly cited fear. They also feared mix­ing up their per­sonal and pro­fes­sional lives in a way that their male col­leagues just do not seem to worry about. les­son to em­ploy­ers: Blan­ket ini­tia­tives for ‘women in the work­place’ have lit­tle util­ity. If your or­ga­ni­za­tion launches women-tar­geted ini­tia­tives that vary lit­tle coun­try by coun­try, they are prob­a­bly not hav­ing the de­sired ef­fect. Most com­pa­nies tend to at least re­gion­al­ize their gen­der di­ver­sity ef­forts, but the sur­vey shows im­por­tant dif­fer­ences within re­gions too. For in­stance, women in In­dia face dif­fer­ent chal­lenges and have vary­ing ex­pec­ta­tions from the work­place as com­pared to those in China or Sin­ga­pore. Cultural val­ues, so­cial norms, state of eco­nomic devel­op­ment, avail­abil­ity of child care, fam­ily sup­port for child rear­ing—all play a part in defin­ing how women feel about their fu­ture in the work­force.

work for your­self or for some­one else

The startup mind­set is here to stay with all three gen­er­a­tions and will have an im­por­tant im­pact on the mod­ern work­force. Al­most 25% of stu­dents and 33% of work­ing pro­fes­sion­als sur­veyed ex­pressed a pow­er­ful in­ter­est in start­ing their own busi­ness. Oth­ers want to work for star­tups. Rapidly evolv­ing tech plat­forms are mak­ing re­mote, flexible, and free­lance work more vi­able and cost ef­fec­tive. Busi­ness in­no­va­tion to­day is com­ing more from start-small tech­preneurs from all over the world than from es­tab­lished MNCs. Lit­tle won­der then that they are los­ing their cache as em­ploy­ers of choice. lessons to em­ploy­ers: Har­ness­ing en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­ergy or the best tal­ent does not nec­es­sar­ily mean you must hire it. Em­ploy­ers must think more broadly about how to en­gage tal­ent. Op­ti­miz­ing the gig econ­omy, con­tract­ing work out, in­creas­ing flexible work op­tions—es­pe­cially when it comes to the much-re­quired dig­i­tal tal­ent, these op­tions will work bet­ter than the tra­di­tional hir­ing of full­time em­ploy­ees.

Each gen­er­a­tion brings dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions to the work­place—hopes and fears re­gard­ing how their jobs will be de­fined, how their ca­reer paths will evolve, how they will lead and be led, and in­creas­ingly, what role tech­nol­ogy will play in their work lives. Em­ploy­ers and lead­ers who un­der­stand these ex­pec­ta­tions and work to­wards meet­ing them will have the edge in at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing the best from each group. ■

Gen Y-ers are also seen as de­lay­ing the com­mon adult­hood mark­ers like mar­riage, moving out of parental homes, and start­ing ca­reers.

Gen Y is more op­ti­mistic in their ex­pec­ta­tions re­gard­ing their fu­ture ca­reers and work than Gen X.

The as­sump­tion that younger work­ers pre­fer on­line train­ing is not true. The sur­vey showed that all three gen­er­a­tions pre­fer in-per­son train­ing.

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