Rohan Silva is a very smart guy (well worth following on www.standard.co.uk/author/rohan-silva by the way), with a track record of making things happen and interesting views about the future. Although his recent article in the London Evening Standard was focussed on young professionals in the UK, many Indian ‘millennials’ (roughly speaking people between the ages of 18 and 34) may well share his point of view.
Rohan believes as more qualified school leavers and graduates enter the workforce, they’re bringing with them the language and attitudes from classroom and campus debates – and changing workplace culture in all kinds of ways.
This is partly due to sheer weight of numbers. According to KPMG, millennials already make up 35% of the UK workforce (in India, the figure is even higher at around 50%). But it’s also to do with a gradual shift in attitudes. “Countless reports and surveys have shown that [UK] millennials are – on average – more socially-engaged, more relaxed about diversity, and more committed to important causes such as gender equality”. In India, a 2018 World Economic Forum/ Observer Research Foundation survey found the influence of family and peers on the career choices of India’s youth is in decline. “Young people are increasingly seeking productive employment opportunities and career paths that reflect their individual aspirations.” Reetu Raina further noted “perhaps no single value exemplifies [Indian millennial’s] expectation from an organization than the persistent and universal demand for equality. They are resolute in their support for equal opportunities and practices and want bold and transparent policies that complement this ethos.”
In Rohan’s own business Second Home, the youngest employees have pushed the organisation to ban plastics at work, make recycling policies much stricter, and introduce a literacy and work training programme for refugees and asylum seekers at the company’s East London bookshop. In his words, socially engaged young people aren’t just agitating for change, “they’re also putting in the hard yards to start new projects and make them stick”.
It’s a similar story in India. Tamanna Mishra has highlighted the deep positive impacts on business, society and politics young people are making as “crucial and articulate narrative shapers”. Examples include: job creation and upskilling in Kashmir (Nazir Ahmad Ganaie, Umar Maqbool, Ishfak Ahmad and Shabir Ahmad Ganaie); a social network of trusted donors, hospitals and blood banks (Karthik Naralsetty’s Socialblood site); and Womenite – a youth-led initiative founded by Harshit Gupta that works for women’s empowerment by “fighting the social patriarchal setup”, and has so far reached over 10,000 students.
Organisations are ultimately made up of people working together towards some common goal. So, when the identity and outlook of those people changes, organisations change too.
As workplace cultures start to evolve, the implications for so many important issues – from sustainability to gender equality – can be profound. With new ideas, energy, and an open worldview, millennials can be the breath of fresh air needed to help solve not just immediate organisational problems but wider social and economic challenges too.
It’s clear a generational shift is happening right now in the UK, and quicker than many people realise. It may well be happening in India too.