“Early childhood is the most rapid period of development in a human life. The years from conception through birth to eight years of age are critical to complete and healthy cognitive, emotional and physical growth of children.”
– An excerpt from Early Childhood Development: The key to a full and productive life, UNICEF
Let’s redraft this above paragraph with reference to Gen Y and Z employees (millennials, basically):
“Early days of employment are the most critical period of development in an employee’s life. The first six to 12 months at the first few companies are critical to complete and healthy cognitive, emotional and professional growth of an employee.”
It is during this period that a young employee develops his/ her foundation and vision for their own career and development roadmap.
What insights can an HR professional derive from the science of early childhood development for moulding millennials?
In the first few months, the millennial interacts extensively with the HR team. This period is akin to the postnatal period for an infant wherein breastfeeding is very important along with necessary medical care. In the same way, the HR team should feed the best possible mix of information and experience to the millennials so that they start acclimatizing to the new environment and develop a desired understanding of the job, company, culture, etc.
Just like an infant, the millennial is also vulnerable to external ‘diseases’. The HR team has a critical role to play here. In an organization, such viruses could be individualistic, group-based, systemic and cultural. If the new millennial employee does not receive ‘immunization shots’, they could catch an ‘infection from these viruses’. This could be harmful to their stability and even could cause an ill-informed image of the company and corporate culture in general.Immunization is all about helping the millennial employee understand, inculcate and demonstrate company values, norms and professional ethics.
The millennial’s corporate vocabulary is not yet developed. Typically, this is a period of two-six months after joining, during which the HR team must help the millennial understand the business and transactional dialects specific to the company.
As parents help an infant to walk and talk, the immediate manager is responsible for training and guiding the millennial vis-à-vis the job and associated aspects. Like a child, the millennial goes about discharging responsibilities without much questioning, as she is yet to develop perspectives about the job, company, career and the corporate world. This is the period when the millennial should raise naïve questions and his/her immediate manager should address them skillfully.
To make sure that the millennial is picking up the ropes correctly and at the right speed, they require proper care. Whom to speak, when and how to speak, what to speak and what not to speak - are some of the insights, which the immediate manager and the HR team can help the millennial grasp.
The HR team must not forget that the millennial considers them responsible for his/her birth in the corporate world, at least until the end of his/her first 12 months.
Helping the millennial recognize that the immediate manager (father figure) is responsible for his/her grooming is a vital task for the HR team, else the millennial will keep coming back to the HR department for even simple queries. Moreover, there are other employees (that is, juniors and colleagues, within the function and across functions - siblings, elders, and relatives), who have a definite influence on the millennial’s work, performance and career.
This is a fact, which the HR team must help the millennial realize in a gradual and an amicable manner. This process is akin to an infant recognizing and acknowledging his/her siblings, elders and relatives. The faster and better the appreciation of the roles of the immediate manager and others, the smoother will be the millennial’s transition and stability.
After learning how to walk, developing corporate vocabulary and recognizing various corporate roles, the millennial starts maturing. The time is ripe for the HR team to dissociate. The millennial has now developed his/her own frame of reference for survival and growth in the company and has started aligning himself/herself with the job and the company.
By now, the millennial has also grasped the art of standing on their own feet. However, dissociation by the HR team does not amount to disappearance! The HR team must lend support on a need-basis, but largely stay invisible.
In the initial months, an infant learns more from the parents' behavior. Likewise, in the first few months, the millennial deduces a lot from the behaviors of the HR team, the immediate manager and others at work.
To make sure that the millennial learns only preferred behavior, the HR team should have a synchronized plan in place to impart relevant information/ training/ guidance and they must demonstrate ‘walk-the-talk’ approach.
Briefly, the HR team and the immediate manager plays an important role from recruitment to stabilization. That is, during first 12 months of the millennial’s employment. These roles are delicate and call for flawless tuning between the HR team, immediate manager and the millennial employee to help them settle down, have a desire to excel and look forward to a longer stint with the company.
Easier said than done!
“The millennials have mutated aspirations, priorities and work ethics. They have different perspectives on life and career. Their risk-taking abilities and adaptability are much higher, they want flexibility, they love mobility (geographically and functionally), they are very active physically and cognitively and they want roles that allow them more freedom and space for experimentation.
Most of the work-related behaviors of millennials are vastly different from their previous generations. Hence, yesterday’s solutions need to be relooked for today’s problems and concerns.” - Ketan Bhatt
So go ahead and conduct an audit of your company’s ‘millennial employee care processes’ and am sure, you could be in for a few surprises: some good and some not so good ones!
This blog is written by Ketan T. Bhatt. He is a management graduate (IRMA-92), and over 20 years, has gained inclusive experience and expertise in HR and OD domains. Since February 2014, KT is an independent HR professional.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org