The Rise of the Generation ‘R’

By Shaakun Khanna, Head of Human Capital Management Applications, Asia Pacific, Oracle Corp.

As the world anxiously waits for the lockdown to end, a new generation of workers is evolving and getting ready to take on the new world of work.

The global workforce as we’ve known it has been made up of five diverse generations — each with their own unique working styles and preferences. However, recent worldwide lockdowns have forced these individuals into a new, but identical, lifestyle of remote work. These generations, who were vastly different, are now all facing similar professional demands and common limitations. In a matter of weeks, a large majority of workers adapted and developed new habits, beliefs, and ethics. For the first time, different generations are starting to think alike.

I have been speaking to multiple business leaders and employees across a variety of industries and regions. What I found was, in response to this pandemic, people are learning, unlearning, and recalibrating themselves. These individuals seem to have reset themselves according to our new circumstances and have evolved into a new generation. Let us call them Generation R.

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What is Generation R?

Generation R is the group of individuals who, during the course of the lockdown, have developed new skills, embraced new paradigms, and have re-adjusted their worldview. They have given up their old way of thinking and have developed a new point of view.

This generation feels much more in control, more resilient, and more comfortable with ambiguity. They are preparing to work harder than ever before and are finding new ways to achieve productivity, balance, and a sense of purpose.

Based on my conversations, I believe Generation R workers share these four characteristics:

  1. They are proactively preparing for a new normal of work: Gen-R workers believe that the world of work is going to change significantly when the current challenges are solved, and they’re preparing for it now. They feel the future workplace will become more competitive, impacting their career direction, and future opportunities. But instead of just waiting for it to happen, Gen-R workers have committed to learning at least one new skill during the lockdown. They plan to have multiple sources of income and try new roles and jobs once the world returns to normal.
  2. They are finding productivity in remote work settings: While many workers prefer working in pre-defined, fixed office hours, Gen-R actually prefers the remote work options. They believe the flexible schedules and technology available allows them to be more productive when working from home.
  3. They are prioritizing a balance between personal and professional: Despite the lockdown blurring boundaries between home and work, Gen-R workers have learned to juggle both personal and professional lives successfully. With managers showing an understanding of new schedules and offering appreciation for hard work, these employees are finding new ways to achieve a work-life balance.
  4. They are becoming more environmentally conscious: Interestingly, as a result of the lockdown, Gen-R perceptions around the environment and sustainability have shifted. Having realized the impact that humanity has on our environment, they believe they owe more to society and the environment than before.

So, what does this mean for organizations?

  • The future workforce will be coming back to a post-pandemic world with new beliefs, skill sets, aspirations, and work ethics. They will have new expectations and priorities as employees, forcing organizations to adapt and evolve in order to meet new demands. Here are four ways HR can do that:
  • Revisit employee mobility: When employees return to a state of somewhat normalcy in the workforce, many will want to try new challenges, test out new skillsets, and find new roles. Organizations should find ways to provide these types of opportunities within the enterprise. Offering mobility to pick up projects for new teams and try new roles in addition to their usual jobs will provide the growth opportunities they’re looking for. It is like opening a gig economy to existing employees so they don’t have to look outside.
  • Enable true flexible work environments: For those who find increased productivity and efficiency in the remote work setting, organizations should consider supporting these working conditions with the right technology and processes. This would mean removing functional limitations for remote workers and providing high-security platforms and cloud applications that can run full force anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
  • Strengthen workplace culture: Employee expectations toward empathy and understanding will be permanently altered once normalcy returns. Worklife and personal life have become one and the same, and the importance for teams being understanding and flexible for personal matters will continue. Leaders and managers will need to evolve their leadership and managerial styles accordingly. It will be important for organizations to identify and strengthen their workplace culture by empowering and supporting their employees through whatever “new normal” we find.
  • Provide purpose-driven opportunities: The current situation is placing a new sense of purpose in people’s minds. Employees will be looking to their organizations to assume greater corporate social responsibility to support the greater good. Companies not being responsible corporate citizens will find it increasingly difficult to attract, recruit, and retain Gen-R talent. Simple things like wellness and volunteering initiatives can help support organizations in this shift.
  • How the world of work will evolve after the current crisis is unpredictable, however, some of these trends will signify the beginning of a new era. Generational differences are losing relevance and Generation R commonalities will be front and center in the future of work.