The view from here

24 October 2016

Author: Cheryl Liew-Chng


The view from here

Millennials need to be managed in a particular way. Are you ready?

Asia is seeing unprecedented demographic shifts in the talent pool. From established economies like Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand to emerging economies such as Vietnam and the Philippines, this is a crucial time for firms who want sustainable growth and a more inclusive and agile work culture.
 
The challenge is that the new talent pool is more diverse in terms of culture, gender and age than it has ever been before. And millennials - who will form more than half the workforce in the near future - have vastly different work expectations. We need a work culture that still delivers high performance, but we need to look again at what it takes to cater to this group.
 
This is a critical time for firms to embrace a modern, inclusive and agile work culture. Performance of individuals and teams is likely to be impeded by mistrust, disrespect and poor collaboration due to differences in expectations and ability to be flexible.
 
There are three cultural habits which work well in evolving a contemporary, inclusive and flexible work culture. The first is authenticity. People instinctively look for a workplace that values their personal identity and self-expression. When they are free to be themselves, they emit positive energy and become engaged. They know who they are, and know they are being valued and respected.
 
The inspiring workplace is one that allows people to express their personal identity in a manner that makes useful contributions. When an individual can bring their whole self to work, there is authenticity and true emotional connection.
 
The second habit is autonomy. So often, we hear organisations saying: "People are our greatest asset." Yet the culture and management norms in these same organisations rob people of their greatest motivation - autonomy to turn in their best effort. As influential tech entrepreneur Jeff Gunther realised, management is about creating conditions for people to do their best work on their own terms.
 
Finally, there's flexibility. Empowered employees will desire more flexibility, as they want to make a difference but seek to do so without compromising their personal life. They will leverage flexibility to navigate the maze of forces all around them, within the firm and outside it.
 
In the words of Scott Adams, creator of comic strip Dilbert: "Nothing is more important to my success than controlling my schedule. I'm most creative from 5am to 9am. If I had a boss or co-workers, they would ruin my best hours."
 
This means flexibility or agility not just in terms of work schedule but in when, where and how work is done. It also means flexibility for millennials to manage their careers in tandem with their life. What does that mean for the organisation? Flexibility in workforce planning, leadership development, benefits, career development plans and more, managing with mass customisation where the philosophy is the guiding principle to be applied and not just a rule that is dictated to the dot.
 
Embedding such habits in the work culture means changing the way we work. It's about gaining greater understanding of the team we are part of, and moving away from face time to performance-based measurement.
 
There are a number of steps you can take as a leader to show the way: demonstrate you are embracing your team and bringing your authentic self to work; allow people to do their best work through autonomy and full accountability; and be flexible, by coming up with collaboratively designed solutions. Most of all, it's time to recognise there is no quick fix - but equally, no better time to get started.
 
Cheryl Liew-Chng is a strategist, author and high performance coach based in Singapore