GNcareers, from Gulf News

Middle East workplaces need a 'generational' makeover

Middle East workplaces need a 'generational' makeoverImage Credit: Supplied

Organisations in the UAE continue to launch employee engagement initiatives in an attempt to attract, engage and retain their talent. But as the workforce evolves to make way for the next generation of leaders (millennials), do organisations need to re-evaluate their approach to ensure they are successfully engaging this employee group?

With millennials forming around a third of the global workforce, having a real understanding of this demographic is key if organisations want to make engagement happen. Our data shows that the organisation's reputation, a sense of accomplishment, and people/HR practices are the three most impactful drivers of engagement for regional millennials.

These drivers also have some impact on Gen X and Baby Boomers' levels of engagement, but despite these similarities, a 'one-size-fits' all approach will not work. Organisations need to consider changes in the way they address engagement to take into account the generational differences:

Driving engagement by enhancing the organisation's reputation

Our studies indicate that an organisation's reputation is the most impactful driver of employee engagement, not just for millennials but across all age groups. Additionally, millennials are a self-expressive bunch.

They are not afraid to share experiences, views and ideas with their various connections, therefore creating a powerful — and very public — imprint of the organisation. So how can this be leveraged to raise engagement internally?

• Stand out as an authentic place to work: Instead of scripted website testimonials, upload videos filmed by your own employees talking about their job, their day and the organisation.

Encourage expressiveness: Set up a group (or groups) that meet regularly to identify opportunities for improving the workplace experience. Be sure to follow up on the outputs.

• Reconsider your expectations of the management role: If your managers feel that their major contribution is to be 'content experts', they may be way off the expectations of their teams. The managers' added value is in coaching and mentoring their teams for performance.

It is the right time to develop your managers so they may take on this higher order role.

• Don't discourage younger employees' questioning of the organisation's strategy and results. Be as transparent as possible and solicit input proactively.

Nurturing a sense of accomplishment

In the Middle East, sense of accomplishment is the second most impactful engagement driver and our data shows that 72 per cent of millennials agree that they get a sense of accomplishment at work. However, in many instances, millennials' desire for a sense of accomplishment has been misinterpreted to indicate unrealistic expectations for rapid advancement.

What if this signifies a reluctance to sit on the sidelines and a desire to shape the organisation's direction? To leverage this and drive engagement further, consider:

• Structuring work so that employees can participate in 'projects' not just engage in 'business-as-usual'. Projects have a structure, clear objectives and measures of success, hence providing more tangible accomplishments.

Additionally, the achievement of project milestones often merits a celebration... business-as-usual rarely does.

• Analyze some of the most typical career paths in your organization and measure how long it takes to achieve key career milestones. According to our research, 91 per cent of regional millennials know what skills they need to focus on to develop further, but only 35 per cent believe there is an effective process within their organization to help them identify these needs.

Ask yourself — Is there a rapid and clear pathway for advancement? Is the organisation committed to the career progression of current employees or are external candidates more likely to be parachuted in?

Delivering people and HR practices that work

In multiple engagement surveys we've delivered to our Middle East clients, HR Policies and practices were identified as a key driver of employee engagement; and 70 per cent of millennials agreed that the organisation's policies and procedures contribute to the achievement of organizational goals.

Unfortunately, in many regional workplaces, HR policies and practices do not actively promote employee engagement and often do not make sense for employees. If your organisation's HR policies and processes have not changed for a long time, it is likely that some of them are well out of date.

Leverage millennials' enthusiasm and fresh thinking to identify innovative policies and processes that energise, not restrain, your workforce.

The millennials who are entering the workforce now are a great potential source of untapped and fresh energy. They are in tune with the world, want to make an impact and are not yet completely embedded in current ways of doing things.

While they might have a different mindset from older workforce generations, all generations share a desire for accomplishment, an organisation to be proud of and a job to enjoy.

Given the chance, millennials may well be your key to unlocking the genie of your organisation employee engagement.

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Source: Dr. Markus Wiesner, Special to

The writer is CEO, Aon Hewitt Middle East