By 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. Are you prepared?


In India, even as I write there are many organizations that have already been performing with a talent mix constituting 50% or more of millennials. As early as 2009, I knew of an organization where 29% of the workforce was made up of millennials and 5 % of leadership positions were also occupied by millennials. In 2014 that 29% had moved up to 38% and the leadership coverage had moved to 14%.

I recently interacted with an organization that was 442 strong had a percentage split of 22:78 between GenX and Millennial staffers.

To engage and motivate this workforce let first, understand parameters in the background that influence them and differentiate them from the GenX population. Here I have restricted the scope of focus to the Indian corporate landscape.  Just to remind ourselves, the Millennials aka Generation Y aka Net Generation are considered born between 1981 to 1995″

A Budding Economy: Most millennials were born into a forward-looking economy in the early eighties. From early schooling to professional studies, most of this population would have had access to similar facilities and standard of education without much of a difference to exposure, invariable of their urban, suburban or rural roots.

So what to expect?

Let’s look at the positive side of having millennials in our workplaces. There might be challenges posed by this generational cohort like any other, but for now, let’s not dwell on them.

Below are some adaptations from scenarios that either I or some of my peers from my professional networks have come across. All names below are fictional and any semblance of these characters to anybody in real life is purely a matter of coincidence.


Nitin comes with close to 20 years of IT technical work experience and is the first choice of his manager for any fire fighting needed to be done at client sites. He is dependable and loyal and has spent 6 years now with his current employer. Once again this year he’s been given an average rating, a lot of verbal praise and an average hike. Nitin is upset but apart from voicing it in a dignified way and bearing a sad countenance for more than a week, he hasn’t really done much, neither did his supervisor expect any differently. Nitin on his part wants to definitely bring this up again but will not push immediately or take any other drastic step. Manav, on the other hand, comes with 07 years of experience is more client savvy, but can be pegged as moderately critical to the team in terms of technical expertise. While he too was rated average and given an average hike, he did not let the matter rest. He brought this up with all supporting data and arguments with his manager and on receiving a lukewarm response simultaneously brought it up with the HR manager and his departmental head.

Millennials have no hesitation in asking where they think they should receive since that’s what they have learned. They do not mix appreciation with monetary benefits. They need both, will ask for both and clearly, one does not compensate for the other.

For all of us HR professionals to bear in mind:-

  • We all get the leadership mandate on “look for non-monetary reward mechanisms – money should not be the only motivator”. When you are dealing with millennials, they have thrived in a consumerist society and therefore they value both monetary rewards and non-monetary rewards. While you look for non-monetary reward options, also keep scanning for new and varied monetary rewards being introduced by other companies, else your millennials may take it on themselves to inform you.
  • It is imperative that you conduct a very customized, role level compensation benchmarking exercise (preferably Internally done) each year so that you are very well aware of compensation trends.  HR will definitely stress on confidentiality associated with compensation and most millennials will adhere to it within the organization. However, they tend to maintain cohesive bonds with their peers from college and are quick to network across companies and levels. It will just be a matter of time for them to have access to statistics of pay scale ranges with prospective employers.
  • Most millennials display a higher level of self-assurance compared to their predecessors the GenX. Their self-image is not as much boosted by seeing their name on a hall of fame board or by being handed a certificate of appreciation as much as being chosen for a critical or complex assignment or being offered a career growth opportunity in line with their aspirations.


Rekha has come to meet her HR business partner. She seeks clarity on the recent trend of “redundancies” or “layoffs” that she has been noticing across the organization. Her position is not affected, but she can’t wait to see if it will affect her before she can do something about it.

She likes her job her team and her organization and she knows she is valued by them as well. Hence this conversation is all the more crucial for her.

Now the HR business partner cannot divulge much in line with all the confidentiality maintained around these redundancies. Hence Rekha is given the picture that some of these redundancies are due to the performance of some of the employees involved, some are because of some roles ceasing to exist. While HR knows that there is a slow fear psychosis gripping the employees, nothing is being done at a leadership level to quell it. Neither has there been communication on the background of these actions by company leadership nor are the company financials hinting that the company is in the loss.

Rekha comes back and has informal chats with her peers and friends in her team as well as the other teams.

Some of her older colleagues like Roopa, Prakash and Seema think that they should not worry since surely this will not affect them. After all, they have been with the organization from the early days and they have been doing well. In case such a situation comes up, there might be a considerable severance pay and time enough to look for another opportunity and then they will also have a genuine reason to look for a new job.

Some employees have concluded that there is no job security and that the company leadership and management will do what is in the best interests of the company and the employees’ interests may not be an impacting factor. So in the next week, many like Rekha have started actively looking for opportunities and giving interviews. Now there is a buzz in the industry that this company is downsizing for whatever reasons.

  • This is the era of startups and many of the founders and their investors are interested in an early exit strategy. While that’s all good where investment and returns are concerned, the overall business evaluation is also based on the talent on board – especially true for knowledge-centric companies. Process centricity and its new-age counterpart – AI and machine learning said and done, one human error or sabotage can deeply impact the brand and its evaluation. Leadership communication and bonding efforts are very important. A clear communication strategy while effecting redundancies coupled with a reasonable and humane approach is a must.
  • Your millennials are savvy with online global activism, crowdfunding and have a strong ‘sense of justice’. They take to the internet and online review platforms to write reviews about company culture and ethics without a second thought. They may not be as long-suffering as your Gen X employees were. They may not wait around hoping that they will be spared the axe of a layoff. They may be more proactive in such situations.


Ravi heads global HR for this data analytics-based start-up and is about to put in place some important systems. He shares with his team, his observations on Change Management from previously heading HR with a reputed company in the service sector. My previous workplace, he tells his team, was mostly made up of the baby boomers and around 40% of Gen X workforce. Implementing the biometric system, the online HR self-service portal or implementing an online performance management system was a year-long project with close to half the year spent on carefully structured communication on why it was important to move to an online service and what would change and what would not and then the other half spent in repeated training and parallel systems running. We even had to think of a WIIFM statement (What’s in it for me) relevant to the workforce, in order to encourage them to adopt the new system. Today, as we are planning to implement a new travel booking and expense reporting system, our timelines are much shorter. We target moving completely onto the new system with no parallel system within a quarter. Now, this is good, since this means we can move on to further new and interesting projects.

  • For technology and gadget savvy generation of millennials, technology is not the exception but the norm. The more technologically advanced the enablers at work are, the more this workforce can relate and connect to the organization, its goals and the more productive they will be.
  • If the company is working on introducing cutting edge technological solutions through their products and looking at hiring talent strong on technology, make sure your GenX leaders even at the CXO level show the effective use of advanced technological systems in the workplace. Even today we have CFOs and CEOs who refuse to use an HRIS system to approve leaves and expect someone in HR to do so in the proxy. If your systems and processes apply to all except the leadership level, then your millennials see through these double standards rather quickly. They are highly inspired by technologically savvy leaders and you may even have a large fan following if you blog or give talks in your area of expertise as a thought leader. The millennials are more egalitarian in their approach and appreciate the same from their leaders.
  • The level of conformance to processes and policies is much higher in millennials compared to their predecessors many of whom need a motivation factor to conform.

They also show a higher preference for kinesthetic learning and seem to be fast learners as they go. The energy in the workplace is going to be a strong motivator. Be it exercises on the work floor, or a trekking club formed at the workplace or prep for a run or walkathon, you can expect a lot of active participation.

They’re at their best when made to participate in cross-functional problem-solving activities so long as they are convinced that the company is seriously listening to what solutions they have to offer.

It’s good for any management to ask themselves, how ready are they for this. So long as corporates expect the millennials to fit into a pre-existing mold we are going to run into trouble. However many workplaces today lay high emphasis on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and this must definitely help our corporate readiness to embrace a new generation at the workplace and all the experiences that come along. 


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