WE ARE in the midst of a digital revolution — technology is here to stay and is changing the way we interact and do business. We live in a time when the new “online” environment is challenging traditional human interactions and business algorithms.

The “like” generation thrives on social media. Everything important is to be said and shared in 140 characters or less, and then they move on.

Facebook consists of a majority of Generation Z users who click “like” several times a day. Generation Y comes a close second with daily “likes” followed by Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers.

The Generation Z is estimated to spend an average of about 20 to 30 per cent of their lifetime on social media. They are relentlessly in pursuit of attention, validation, empowerment and engagement.

We all admit that our brain reacts positively to our content being “liked” on social media.

As a child, I put up posters in my bedroom of what I liked, developing my identity over time. It was only my close associates who validated my interest or tastes. But today the “Linkster” generation connects with a much larger, often global, audience.

They are much more open to sharing information and want their voices to be heard. Their online influence has made them the currency for marketers driving the “Economy of Likes”.

Four generations

What does this mean for workplace interaction?

In a survey commissioned by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (Tafep), Gen X and Gen Y make up 60 per cent of the workforce. This means that 40 per cent of the workforce is over 45 years of age.

As this will be the first time that leaders and human resource managers are seeing four generations working in the same office, they face accelerated rates of complexity in managing this new multigenerational diversity.

Each generation comes with a different set of values and their thinking affects their behaviours and the way they interact with other generations.

The following are the distinguishing characteristics of members of Generation Y and Linksters who will eventually become the next generation of leaders:

 They grew up with technology;

 They see promotions and climbing the corporate ladder as a way to demonstrate their worth;

 They are not happy with long working hours and are motivated by benefits that give them flexible schedules;

  Their Boomer parents told them they are the best and they believe it;

  They need to be constantly validated and recognised; and

 They call attention to themselves by suggesting bold ideas and challenging the status quo.

Business leaders are optimistic about this most educated cohort but are concerned that there is a lack of focus and discipline at the workplace due to their digital addiction.

To communicate effectively with this next generation entering the workforce, we must acknowledge that they are relatively young in the workplace. There is a need for mentoring and coaching.

The key to successful communication today is influence, not authority. Constructive feedback has become a powerful tool for employee motivation and engagement.

Leaders can adapt to giving feedback according to:

  Attitude — for example, the employee shows a strong commitment for his work;

  Skills growth — He shows signs of development; and

 Knowledge — He demonstrates a greater understanding of how an innovative method works.

The key strategy is to guide the hyper-connected digital natives towards self-reflection, including drawing up targets and goals. It is useful to direct them into a routine they can master.

It is the responsibility of each generation to understand the benefits of the other generation and find common ground for a successful synergy. Younger employees can learn from the experience of their seniors and experienced managers can integrate fresh new ideas and perspectives for an effective and collaborative work environment.

It all begins with trust, respect and empathy. The successful organisation of the future will be the one where all its employees are agile, capable and willing to implement strategic change regardless of generational factors.

Article by Anjali Parmar, assistant director of Training Edge International. She has 13 years of global professional industry experience and has worked on projects in the United States, India and Singapore. For more information, e-mail Anjali@trainingedgeasia.com or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com