Cross Generations at the Workplace Series – Point of view 3 – Veena Venugopal
Welcome back to our series about cross generations at the workplace. This time, we’re going to hear from Veena Venugopal how she experiences her everyday life at work with regards to her motivation, communication habits, the role social media plays, and much more.
I started my journey at SAP in September of 2017 through the SAP IMPACT Leadership Program, a one-year rotational leadership initiative sponsored by the Office of the CEO. I grabbed this exciting opportunity after completing my Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Mannheim Business School. Prior to this, I was working for the Airbus A350 in Hamburg after completing my Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering in Australia. International experience and professional exposure in places such as India, China and UK has played a vital role in shaping my outlook of the workplace, some of which are detailed in the blog below.
Will the new task challenge me?
It was very clear to me early on in my career that the Millennials’ approach to the workplace is different to the generations before them. The days when a stable environment over a lifetime was considered attractive are over. Today, I look at my workplace through the lenses of technology, flexibility and creativity. I remember when looking for the next step after my MBA, the questions I asked myself were: “Will I be challenged here?”, “How closely am I working with the latest technology?” and “Does the company give me the freedom to be myself?”. The primary reason for this change in attitude is definitely not because we have suddenly realized that personal development at work is important but because we now have the freedom of choice, a luxury provided by technology.
Similarly, the importance of creativity in this digital era where innovation is the fuel that runs companies, is clear to us. This realization is crucial for leaders today and a conscious effort to push for creativity in a team earns the respect of Millennials. Personally, I don´t expect a leader to have all the answers; however, a leader is expected to be open. Openness does not only mean being open to new ideas but also being open and patient to the fact that not all ideas come with a clear step by step execution plan. Some ideas need to be nurtured through group discussions and outside input – big endings come from small beginnings. This curiosity in a manager not only encourages employees to think outside the box but also eliminates the fear to step up. Having a low hierarchical system is an unspoken necessity that goes hand in hand with openness. Early exposure to technology and social media has exposed me to vast possibilities, so inaccessibility to bounce ideas with a manager or team could prove to be very restricting and demotivating.
Flexibility is another word that has become popular at most workplaces as more Millennials join the workforce. With the realization that long hours do not necessarily mean better work, Millennials look for ways to optimize processes so that they can find a better work-life balance. Isn´t that a great win-win situation?
The quest for this balance has also broken the stigma of working from remote locations, with Skype and messenger applications in companies playing an important role. These applications have gained immense popularity with the Millennials since most have international exposure which has strengthened their confidence in such applications. Furthermore, these technical advances in communication has also changed the way I communicate with the team. Increasingly, face to face meetings are being replaced in my daily schedule by a simple message or an email. Since I have grown up with the first wave of the instant messaging culture, I am aware of the flexibility and convenience of this for both parties. Not to mention the saving of time which then ties into increasing efficiency for a work-life balance. However, it is too harsh to assume that face to face communication has been eliminated by my generation. In crucial situations and first meetings, there is no better way than to pick up the phone or arrange for a face to face meeting.
Talking about what drives the younger generations today, challenges and promise of professional development are two aspects that come to my mind. Even when looking for a new position, my eyes immediately scroll through the responsibilities to make sure that the task will keep me on my toes. The dread of doing repetitive work is real. We thrive in imperfect and new situations because if there is anything that the endless river of information on the internet has taught us, it is that the possibilities are endless. Drawing from my own experience, being faced with a challenge is when you learn the most and I am constantly looking for means to learn and develop my skills. It is often concluded that since Millennials seek out challenges, a lack of it means they will look for the next positions. This connection with loyalty cannot be derived so abruptly. Yes, I prefer a fast -paced environment. And yes, I need new topics on my plate. This however doesn’t mean that the ship will be abandoned at the first sign of monotonous work.
The truth is that Millennials perceive their relationship with the company as a two-way street, where a company’s Investment in them refers to career and personal development opportunities such as constant valuable feedback, trainings, regular 1:1 with managers and responsibility over tasks. The craving for fast feedback and review might come off as being self-centered however there are valid reasons behind this. The importance of real time information, a key selling point for SAP products itself, should not be underestimated. Like most people my age, I actively seek out feedback, be it good or bad, so I can iterate and grow for quicker and better results. This can be partially blamed on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter where reaction is immediate. It is however mainly due realization of the speed at which the world is evolving and waiting a year to gain feedback on your performance can mean it is too late for change. On a similar note, everyone is aware that negative feedback gives a clear guidance on aspects that need to be improved and hence it is detailed out. However, positive feedback is usually considered just to be an ego booster and therefore is kept very brief. More and more Millennials are waking up to the fact that building on strengths can be more fruitful then focusing on weaknesses. Sadly, this is often perceived as a need for constant praise.
To conclude, there is a change in the work culture for the new generation, mainly due to the necessity to adapt to the changing world. I believe there is no right or wrong way, but to work towards fulfilling the vision of a company, Millennials need to actively use the experience of the generations before and vice versa. What I have learned from my mentors through the course of my career has played a vital role in shaping how I function today. For example, the importance of face to face communication and that attention to detail cannot be denied. It is this amalgamation of a forward-thinking outlook installed in me through early exposure to technology along with the practical advice extracted from the experience of the previous generations that gives me the confidence to handle challenges head on.
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