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Andy Price

Sift Media

Technology Editor

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Engaging the Millennials: one HR director’s modern approach to technology

Photo_Virtusa_Sundararajan Narayanan CMYK

Businesses have found themselves grappling with a workforce that has increasingly become saturated with millennials, or Generation Y.

While preconceptions, whether accurate, positive or otherwise, have been assigned to this group of workers, the certain thing is that they aren't going away – in fact, they'll only increase in number for the foreseeable future.

The challenges this creates for the HR director certainly isn't being understated by Sundararajan Narayanan, VP and Global Head of HR, Virtusa Corporation, which has an employee base that is 86% millennial.

Narayanan explains that these employees "want to live and breathe technology", and as a result, the HR head embarked on an employee engagement program.

Below, he explains the nuts and bolts of the project, and outlines the key elements that led to its success.

What can you tell us about the project?

We wanted to design a successful employee engagement program that met the increasing expectations of employees, especially the Millennials. We did this with a HR technology project called ‘V+’ which used the latest technology to drive millennial engagement through use of social media, and was designed to transform our ecosystem on the way we work, learn, share and connect.

Can you talk me through the implementation process?

V+ is an in-house technology application that embraces Web 2.0 solutions. We used a three-phase approach for implementation of the seven modules of V+.

  • In phase one we launched Vingo, our internal search engine which enables search across all internal systems and desktops.
  • As a next step we implemented Yammer, a social platform for business which acts as the ‘Virtusa Facebook’; vInnovate, our internal idea portal through which employees can share ideas and suggestions; and Mysite, a business profile platform which gives each employee a profile page.
  • In the final phase we architected and deployed V-Tube, an internal video sharing website; Vchorus, project management automation; and Team Wiki modules.

The three phases were monitored stringently on their usage and objective outcomes in terms of connection and engagement. These platforms were welcomed and leveraged by our millennials. 

What techniques did you use to encourage employees to use it?

We used various techniques for V+ adoption, including ‘Leading by Doing’ where our leadership team were the first adopters of V+. We had a ‘Big Shout’ campaign of email, video and ads to alert employees. We found the best way to popularise adoption was to ensure teams actually worked on V+ and enjoyed it.

All HR activity took place through V+, for example, our regular Town Hall sessions are now ‘Yam Jam’ sessions held on Yammer. To really step-up innovation and encourage adoption, we disabled legacy systems. For example, we implemented Chorus, a project management tool, which meant we could disable our legacy recording and tracking systems. Consistent and deliberate transformation is the key to success. 

What were the pitfalls or challenges of both adoption and implementation and how did you overcome them?

Today’s workforce is multidimensional. We have three generations working together: Baby Boomers, Gen-X and Millennials. They have different needs and they focus on different aspects for their development. Baby boomers view technology as ’the end to personal contact’; Gen-X embraces technology as ‘a way of life; and millennials, as the world’s first true digital natives, believe ‘this is life’.

In platforms where there was low usage or non-adoption we built in robust levers to showcase individual and team contributions, appreciation, reward and recognition. This social pressure in the ecosystem motivated teams to adopt and use the platforms.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

No, I am happy with the outcomes so far.

What were the challenges of working with the millennial generation of employees? And how did their presence influence the project?

Millennials aspire for instant recognition; they tend to look for opportunities to showcase their talents. They leave jobs when they do not see opportunity to grow; hence retention is always a challenge. V+ being a techno-social platform catches the eyes of our millennial team members, and is a huge factor in their active engagement.

Millennials like variety and have high aversion to monotony. Keeping them involved in a single project for an extended time is a challenge. In case of the V+, the various features provided diversity which attracted their interest to successfully implement the project.

Millennials don’t like huge labyrinthine processes. They like an open environment and appreciate collaborative working. V+ is one of our big projects with big processes, however we overcame this with a user friendly platform that is simple and quick to function and engage.

What do you see as being the key technology trends in the HR space for 2014?

There are four main technology trends in the HR space we see impacting in 2014:

  • Mobile: The new generation of talent is the mobile generation, HR must revamp to be in pace. Talent hunt, engagement and retention through mobile should be the smart HR mantra.
  • Social media: Social media is living up to its hype. Branding, talent management, employee engagement tools in this platform have wide scope for talent attraction and retention.
  • Big Data: Big data analytics is today’s weapon. Big data is an unparalleled communication and cohesion tool if understood and utilised correctly by our HR fraternity.
  • Cloud:  Cloud can make existing processes technologically highly efficient. Customisation of HR tool with cloud technologies will rule this space in future.
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Andy Price

Technology Editor

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