The ‘DIY’ Generation

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Side view of a man's hands using smart phone in interior  at his

According to Anthony Raja Devadoss, Asia Pacific Vice President of Kelly Outsourcing & Consulting (KellyOCG) and Deputy Chairman – Outsourcing for Outsourcing Malaysia, the DIY generation (otherwise known as the Millennials) is going to be the most influential workforce ever in the history of Mankind. “There are many myths out there in the market about this group of talent that are not necessarily true, and I want to make sure that we share the real picture of what’s happening,” he adds.

Globally over next 5 years, the DIY generation will form more than 50%-60% of the workforce. Devadoss revealed that they will have an average of 9-14 jobs in their lifetime – if they seek traditional employment at all. Their interest in staying in one company is therefore minimal, and if not kept challenged (work-wise), they will shift to another employer. “73% are thinking of a new job every day,” he stressed.

“Employers have to be pro-active and approach them before they approach the employer. Employers have to be prepared to accept risk because there’s going to be higher churn. The DIYs’ biggest focus is on learning and development, so leverage that.

DIY Generation Profile

In profiling the DIY generation, KellyOCG found out that they like to be independent, and their idea of loyalty has changed. “To use an analogy; is the bee (employee) loyal to the flower (project) or to the beehive (employer)? The bee’s function is to collect nectar from flowers everywhere and then come back to the beehive. We’ve discovered that for the DIY generation, their loyalty is attached to the projects, and only indirectly attached to the company. Therefore, the loyalty has to be engendered through teamwork and projects,” Devadoss (pic) explained.

Anthony Raja Devadoss, Asia Pacific Vice President of Kelly Outsourcing & Consulting (KellyOCG) and Deputy Chairman – Outsourcing for Outsourcing Malaysia

He suggested that building DIY-generation loyalty meant cultivating the DIY’s teamwork via collaborative environments, meeting the individual DIY’s skills development needs (whether they are directly relevant in terms of the current job scope or not), and strengthening their people management capabilities via leadership opportunities. “There will always be individual contributors and people managers, and you have to build both. You can’t do one without the other.”

The DIY generation is also a highly-informal and socially-connected one; hence, employers should be using social engagement and building social capital. “Instantaneous engagement is taking place today. I use the illustration of Facebooking/Instagramming a photo of a coffee, and by the time you finish it, hundreds of people have commented on it to show instantaneous gratification; which is what DIY is all about.

“Don’t give appraisals every year or every 6 months; that’s too long a time frame. Instead, it should be after every milestone, or even informally every week. It should also be one-to-one, even if you use their line managers or supervisors for that. Performance management is no longer KPI or SLA discussions, it’s these frequent, regular career discussions. It’s not the norm yet, but will be the new norm.”

The key to working with the DIY generation revolves around employee engagement above everything else, Devadoss explains. “Let them work the way they’re most comfortable with, based on what they’re used to in everyday life. That may mean you support BYOD and use social media more freely in the office. The DIYs like having two devices, so if you can afford to provide them corporate smartphones (or other mobile devices) for their work, that can help retain loyalty. You may need to consider more flexible IT policies, and to use their preferred method of communicating (be it via WhatsApp, or similar); better if it’s informal.”

Work/life Design

Devadoss acknowledges the reality that SMEs mostly use their founders/CEOs as the yardstick for their corporate culture; if the CEO is a micromanager, the SME as a whole follows suit. “The problem is, then the DIY gen will leave. This reluctance to let go of authority is perfectly understandable, since the founders’ equity is at stake; but this will stifle the DIYs and increased churn is inevitable. Therefore, there has to be a conversation about understanding and managing the DIYs; this is where the work/life issue comes in.”

As Devadoss sees it, the DIY generation doesn’t have the need for work/life balance; work both is an extension of, and extends into, their lifestyle. Instead, it’s about work/life design or integration. This is where both employer and employee have to be very clear about their expectations. “A holistic employer is all about designing employees’ own workstyles and lifestyles together with them.”

From the currently-embargoed Kelly Global Workforce Index 2015 study, Devadoss shared some indicators of what DIYs considered important in terms of work/life design. “Globally, 63% of employees look for flexible work arrangements; 49% for annual leave; 11% focus on flexible benefits. 43% desire wellness programmes (depends on life stage); 53% on a collaborative environment; 82% continue to demand better career development initiatives from the organisation; 37% on restrictions on work beyond typical business hours.”

These views on work/life design, as well as the change in how DIYs demonstrate loyalty, point to a larger shift in the employment and talent management markets. “Talent supply chain management falls into the general categories of Build, Buy and Borrow: Build new talent (professional training) when you have sufficient spare time and resources; Buy talent (headhunting) when you have no spare time but have resources; Borrow talent (freelance/outsource) when you have neither spare time nor resources. Or mix it up using a JV or related model.” As the DIY generation becomes more numerous in the workplace, however, the move towards ‘borrowing’ talent – freelancing – will completely change the talent acquisition and retention paradigms.

The Mobile Workforce

Devadoss thinks freelancers are going to change workforce dynamics worldwide. “The concept of the workplace is going to change; people can work from anywhere. There are two types of mobile workforce; telecommuters who work for a particular company only but work from home, and the freelancers (or free agents, as Kelly calls them). They can work for anyone from anywhere.” He recalls speaking to PEMANDU CEO Dato’ Seri Idris Jala, who strongly supported the ‘work-from-home’ freelancing or telecommuting model to be brought to Malaysia.

Devadoss also recounts an anecdote on a woman who joined Kelly OCG 9 years back (and was single at the time), and how KellyOCG worked with her through each stage of her life changes; the move to Penang (and thus to the Penang office), as well as her having a baby (so allowing her to telecommute so that she can take care of the child). The woman found out that working from home meant she was doing more work, as she was effectively on call 24/7, so he agreed to certain restrictions on contacting her outside regular ‘office hours’, as well as to her requests for pay increases and so forth.

“We’re looking at this same sort of arrangement being replicated with TalentCorp for flexible work arrangements. This requires KPI and performance monitoring (much like that done with PEMANDU and the ministers’ scoreboard). If you work with the employee on the life side of the equation, chances are good you will have no problem with the work side, although nothing is perfect. It also requires trust to be built between both parties. Technology is a great enabler of this decentralised workforce (cf. Microsoft Continuum which allows you to have your Windows 10 Mobile-powered phone work as your computer as well).”

Devadoss used the example of a global pharmaceutical giant that did an R&D programme with freelancers, using a crowdsourcing initiative which brought the freelancers together, worked on the project and successfully delivered it – by no means an isolated occurrence. “That is going to be the new generation of workforce modelling. Knowing Malaysian culture, I think it will be easily adopted; people love to be where they are if they could do the work – they could be at Starbucks and get the work done. And I will tell you it’s going to boom.”

In fact, KellyOCG employs – or rather, uses – freelancing services from over 100 freelancers. “Imagine the 300,000 people who don’t have jobs out there – imagine if we could give them an opportunity to do this (available via the eRezeki programme); how much advantage we would have. Malaysia has a good amount of broadband penetration, technology support, so people can work from anywhere. If that shift happens, then it’s a game-changer.”

Devadoss cautions that in this scenario of harnessing a mobile workforce, work governance is where the challenge is. “Online video interviews would likely be the way to go forward, to validate the person’s identity. Risk management is also critical. The person’s background has to be screened. There’s scope of work, payment structure, income tax, delivery of work. SOWs must be clear. Regulations must be clear. Taxation must be clear.”

Nevertheless, Devadoss is upbeat about this new world of talent. “Kelly employs a distributed workforce who work from home doing tech support for Apple’s latest iPhones (6, 6+, 6S etc.) – the first of its kind in the world. If such a model is replicated in Malaysia, a huge market for labour is created; there would be a positive social impact.”

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