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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Sabby Gill

Why change-hungry young generations are the key to unlocking growth

BY SABBY GILL

The struggle to recruit skilled workers is a recurring concern for manufacturing businesses in Singapore. A study by the Singapore Management University (SMU) and JP Morgan shows that the manufacturing sector currently faces a skills gap, which is set to widen with the move towards newer engineering fields like robotics and digital manufacturing.

An analysis conducted by Accenture and Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) revealed that manufacturers are increasingly demanding a cross-trained workforce who have industry expertise, data analytics capabilities, and an understanding of the business.

As technology reshapes Singapore’s traditional manufacturing sector, digitalisation has created a demand for high value jobs and opportunities for tech-savvy workers. This is particularly good news for the millennial generation that is entering the workforce today, who are already adept with using technological skills and education. A study by human resources company Adecco emphasises as the Singapore manufacturing sector transitions to a digital economy, it is critical to support the skills development of workers to ensure greater value creation in the manufacturing industry.

With new generations entering the workforce there’s light at the end of the tunnel. These younger generations bring with them a fresh outlook and a desire for personal growth that, if harnessed properly, could be the injection that businesses need to succeed. However, attracting this new talent is not always easy.

Changing workplaces
Younger generations are entering the workforce at a time of technological change and economic disruption. These forces are shaping the choices they make and the experiences they seek when applying for jobs. What’s more, the career choices this generation makes now, will in turn eventually shape the global economy.

Organisations face a unique set of challenges in integrating new generations into the workforce, and balancing their needs and expectations, along with those of existing workers. For example, the Baby Boomer generation (born before the sixties), has very different ways of working compared to Generation X, currently aged around 36-55. Studies have characterised Baby Boomers as motivated by position, perks and prestige, making them believe that Generation X and younger generations should similarly conform to a culture of overwork.

Some members of these generations may be soon to retire, but they will need to work alongside much younger generations first—including Millennials (currently under the age of 37) and members of Generation Z (born in the late nineties). This group grew up in an environment where diversity and the need to balance multiple tasks at once was the norm. Thus, they seek flexibility, team work, and the acceptance of their ideas.
As these younger generations come up through the ranks, they are becoming the most dominant population in today’s workplace, bringing with them innovative ways of working, fresh ideas and challenges for their older colleagues.

Renewed focus on growth
Based on a recent survey regarding attitudes to business growth amongst different generations, Millennials and Generation Z, referred to as Gen ZY in the research, want to know that work is a place of growth and development, where they can find their purpose and be passionate about what they do.

The survey found that these generations are more “excited” about the growth experienced in their company than Baby Boomers (29% versus 27%), and that they are also a lot more optimistic about growth trends. Three quarters (72%) believed their business’s growth prospects had improved in the last 12 months, whereas just 50 per cent of Baby Boomers felt the same.

This optimism of youth can be harnessed by organisations looking to drive growth. For example, we are seeing the proliferation of creative office design, short term office leases and co-working spaces across regions around the world, as well as increases in flexibility in work schedules, work attire and human resource policies at both large and small companies.

The use of technology is also a factor, as having access to the latest tech goes a long way towards attracting the best talent, boosting morale and driving operational efficiencies. Many of these ideas and trends are refreshing and useful to growing innovative companies.

New generational challenges
Generation ZY is likely to have to confront obstacles to prosperity that their parents didn’t face. They are better educated than previous generations—but in today’s world, will be forced to retool and switch careers several times throughout their career.

IT advancement is in many ways a double-edged sword for young people. The digital economy has enabled the creation of millions of new jobs, but artificial intelligence and robotics may soon displace many traditional manufacturing roles.

However, many younger people are aware of these challenges and often look to the application of the latest technologies to overcome their problems. The survey found that younger generations are more likely to embrace new innovative technologies, and see better technology as a solution to current stresses and challenges, compared to the previous generations.

But beware of the ‘one size fits all’ mindset, because not every employee will fit the description of their generation. Mark Zuckerberg, who was born in 1984, is arguably too old to be classed as a Millennial but is renowned for being on the cutting edge of social technologies. Many Gen X and Baby Boomer employees are also technologically forward-thinking and excited to adapt to today’s digital world.

As the generation of digital natives makes waves in the work environment, organisations that play to these young people’s strengths will ultimately gain thriving and motivated workers, allowing them to grow in the long term.

This involves engaging with young workers on new, social and truly interactive platforms, such as using social enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools to collaborate on projects, or by using gamification methods to motivate teams and drive results. Also important is the need to utilise the latest technology for training, for efficiency, and for automating manual tasks that might otherwise leave younger generations bored. This is the future workplace. Is your business ready?

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Sabby Gill

Sabby Gill

Sabby Gill has over 20 years of international sales, operations and enterprise software experience to Epicor. In the role of executive vice president, International, Gill leads the sales and professional services organizations in EMEA and APAC with a focus on channel expansion and accelerating growth. Prior to Epicor, Gill was senior vice president of International Sales for IGT, a gaming technology company.

He has also held executive management roles with leading technology companies including HP, CA Technologies, Oracle, PeopleSoft (acquired by Oracle), and DEC.

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