How Purpose Can Transform India’s Multigenerational Workforce

Fostering a purposeful workplace for multiple generations is essential in the quest to retain talent and stay competitive at every inflection point


India’s economic evolution is a story of bold undertakings, hard-won progress and the extraordinary promise of multiple generations working toward a shared goal. 

At first glance, this progress might seem paradoxical. Each generation was raised in singular historical and economic circumstances. Because of this, they define purpose differently and that poses complex challenges for leaders who seek to inspire workforces with diverse motivations to march toward the same goal. 

Older generations – Baby Boomers, for instance, find purpose in the stability and dignity their jobs offer, while Gen X may value compensation and recognition. Today, a freshly minted generation of hybrid workers, the Gen Z seek more freedom and flexibility in careers that connect to a greater good. 

Despite holding different definitions of purpose, finding meaningfulness in work is essential to most employees and companies should prepare to meet this need. For modern leaders, these trends are a reminder that traditional relationships between companies and employees are radically transforming. Fostering a purposeful workplace for multiple generations is essential in the quest to retain talent and stay competitive at every inflection point.

India has rapidly grown to become one of the world’s largest economies, building an ecosystem that allows Indian workers to innovate at the intersection of opportunity and purpose. It has the youngest and largest workforce and a significant middle-aged demographic that could remain employed past the conventional retirement age. We must view this diversity as an asset.

As the Indian leader of an IT services company that’s actively transforming its own culture, I see a groundswell of support for building more inclusive, transparent and empathetic workplaces, and I’ve witnessed first-hand how purpose can fuel this evolution. Here’s what we have learned:

Normalise reverse mentorship at work: Experience and insight are often considered interchangeable in a workplace, but this is not necessarily true. While industry veterans bring wisdom to the table, younger generations contribute fresh approaches to solving our customers’ biggest problems. I’ve found this dynamic to be especially true in our reverse mentorship programmes that challenge the conventional corporate pecking order. We learn critical 21st century skills from our younger employees for whom these are second nature. On the other hand, India’s Baby Boomers, a generation that had limited or no access to technology during their tenures, offer treasure troves of lessons in problem-solving and critical thinking. When organisations consciously steer away from a prescriptive leadership style, each cohort can play off the other’s strengths. I strongly believe that building a culture that stands on trust and transparency helps us challenge and reconsider pre-conceived notions about one another and the world. 

Customise the workplace for each employee: Companies often walk a tightrope between optimising the individual employee experience and the overall workplace experience. In the early days of IT services in India, the industry had a homogenous workforce, characterised mainly by burgeoning entrepreneurs. Today, the workforce is more vibrant and diverse, with full-time employees, developers, contractors, and freelancers. Each group experiences the workplace differently, with varying levels of connection with the organisation’s culture. When it comes to tailoring experiences, technology companies can learn from innovations in the hospitality and automotive industries. Despite the number of customers, they serve over time, each is offered a hyper-personalised experience thanks to highly standardised processes. In the workplace, hyper-personalised experiences are possible when employees are empowered to act in a flat and fast manner, allowing them to make decisions that drive this level of customisation.

Communication is everything: A majority of organisations believe that articulating their business purpose and impact is one of the most promising ways to retain talented professionals, according to this year’s Future of Jobs Report. This finding emphasises the need for leaders to communicate with clarity. Professionals want to know that employers are invested in their futures and feel that the meaning they find in their work maps back to a company’s broader impact. Employers must engage in conversations with employees across generations on how their role contributes to business success. More importantly, leaders must genuinely listen, understand and represent each generation’s unique voice in business decisions.

Aligning the goals and values of diverse generations is a journey that demands a great deal of time, sustained engagement, and empathetic leadership. Complete alignment is sometimes impossible and even unnecessary. What matters in a purpose-led culture is making space for views and goals that are different from our own and working together to find a middle-ground. 

India is creating a workforce of the future that bridges functions and industries around the world. But our success will stand on more than productivity and performance. It will be measured by the number of lives we change for the better through our collective and varied purpose.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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Kyndryl Lingraju Sawkar workforce


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