The power of Gen Y is that it recognises no limits and has the ability to let aspirations become reality through single minded pursuit of seemingly impossible dreams. Meet 27-year-old Akaash Shinde, a Bachelors of Science from Ferguson College Pune and a Post Graduate in Management from the Zensar Center for Business Innovation. Born into an army family – his father was a Colonel in the Special Forces –Parachute Regiment, he had a chance to see life and the hardships faced by local people very closely during his father’s various tenures in remote mountainous areas of the country. It also gave him the courage to undertake an Uttarakhand adventure after the recent floods to alleviate the sufferings of the local people.
Joining his brother, himself a mountaineer who had undertaken relief work in the cloud burst episode in Ladakh in 2010, Akaash recently fought for leave with his boss in Zensar, where he works and spent weeks in Uttarakhand as part of a relief project. His role has been to manage the inventory of relief supplies received at remote villages near Uttarkashi, manage transshipment from bigger vehicles to smaller transport and eventually to porters and even occasionally personally carry loads to villages in addition to taking responsibility for administration, fund raising and keeping the relief efforts going. Where does Akaash find the motivation? In his words “As an IT professional who is normally ensconced in an air conditioned environment, I always feel that I can be the change by adopting the “feet on the ground” approach and not just donating money sitting on my chair. Rendering a hands-on approach to help fellow human beings in dire distress will help soothe my inner conscience and also achieve my larger aim of being a useful member of society.”
While many progressive companies have realised that young people have their own unique aspirations and make attempts to integrate organisation development and talent management with the career and life goals of each individual, it is probably the IT and Business Process Management companies with their large pools of Generation Y associates that have really gone the extra mile to attract motivate and retain millennials. At Zensar for instance, young people go through a customized “Jugnu” program which enables them to dig deep into their motivations and craft individual paths to excellence. There are many forums including vision communities and CSR volunteering that enable folks like Akaash to combine their work with their personal aspirations and also contribute to the strategy development process for the organisation. And managers are trained through an “iZen” process in connectedness, development and feedback mechanisms to ensure that they are always conscious of the needs of their young team members.
The vision community initiative is now a popular case study taught regularly at Harvard Business School demonstrates the power of youth in all respects. Every September an invite goes to all six thousand plus employees to join that year’s vision community. In the initial stages, each of the hundred or so members are encouraged to ideate freely around a chosen theme. A peer group rates all ideas on the corporate Internet and a cluster of vision community members take on projects that are mentored by a senior member of the management team and shepherded to a logical conclusion. We credit many of our strategic and tactical successes to bright ideas generated by the vision community. Even the Digital Enterprise initiative which is helping many existing and new clients to explore the power of cloud computing, mobility and enterprise social media for business benefit was an idea created by the vision community. At a process level, many of the new HR initiatives, employee induction processes and CSR program have been successful because they were originated by the vision community and seen through with passion by a shadow executive board whose responsibility it is to ensure that there is success in implementation.
In the corporate sector we often assume that today’s young job entrants are mercenary, self centred human beings with a sense of entitlement and very little of the humility that possibly existed in Generation X and older people who studied and worked in a different era. However, many young people like Akaash demonstrate that the need to strive for a larger good exists even today in most young hearts and it’s really up to organisations and line and human resource leadership to recognise the cause that truly motivates each individual youngster and provide them the opportunities to realise these aspirations. And the positive correlation between work performance and the desire to excel in their chosen field of extra-curricular endeavour make a very compelling argument for organisations to find and motivate more Akaashs with a view to enabling their quick success dreams!
Dr Ganesh Natarajan is Vice Chairman & CEO of Zensar and a member of the Chairmen’s Council of NASSCOM. This column emanates from research done for the book “What we really want – Aspirations of Gen Y” by Ganesh with Lavanya Jayaram, to be published in November 2013.