The entry of millennials into the workforce has been observed by many as a source of conflict or tension. Differences in work styles and habits, grasps of technology, and lifestyle preferences have contributed to a widening cultural gap between gen Y and its predecessors. As a result, much attention has been placed on how to “put up with” or “deal with” the onslaught of millennials in the workplace — and the dialogue is often riddled with negative stereotypes.
But what if corporations reframed that perspective? Rather than approaching a multi-generational workforce as a challenge to be overcome, what if corporate cultures embraced it as an opportunity?
Capgemini Canada, provider of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, works to recognize employee strengths and then harness them to benefit the individual, the group and the company. This is especially true when it comes to the ever-changing face of the workforce. As more millennials carve out their own territory in the workplace (they are currently the largest generation in the workforce), and as baby boomers work for longer (with life expectancies growing), the time to nurture cross-generational collaboration is now.
The benefits of collaboration cannot and should not be understated. For example, younger employees gain valuable mentors who have decades of experience to share. Gen Xers and boomers gain a foothold with emerging tools and technologies. Companies also stand to benefit from cross-generational partnerships. Open communication, co-operation and collaboration lead to more innovative products and services, and higher levels of productivity.
However, to foster such partnerships, employers must provide the necessary tools, platforms and resources for employees to thrive. This belief inspired Capgemini to create a Millennial Innovation Council (MIC) — one of 11 employee resource group (ERG) initiatives created to support the company’s diversity and inclusion program.
The purpose of the MIC is to encourage collaboration across generations by providing a community for millennials to innovate, create and lead. Based on its founding principles to nurture an open environment, encourage engagement and establish a sense of equality through fun social events, employees of all ages are invited to join if they want to connect with their younger counterparts.
The MIC opened its Toronto chapter in 2016, co-founded by Stanley Rao, a passionate 20-something senior consultant at Capgemini Canada, who knew he and his peers energized the company through their innovation and sense of community, but also strongly valued balance, engaging work, team-based culture, and fun.
Rao recognized he and his peers had something special to offer Capgemini. They all had a willingness to travel, collaborative personalities, were technology-savvy and were ambitious to grow. With this in mind, Rao and his co-founders sought to incorporate these principles into the MIC’s engagement efforts to ensure millennials felt valued and their voices were heard.
MIC has hosted several successful events such as Pokémon Go battles, an Ultimate Frisbee contest and a haunted house visit during Halloween. There was also a “Social Good Hackathon” that took place from March 31 to April 1. This collaborative effort was led by the MIC and included CIBC’s Enterprise Innovation Team, Sandbox by DMZ (the community arm of Digital Media Zone, a business incubator at Ryerson University in Toronto) and RED Academy, a design and technology academy in Toronto and Vancouver. The purpose was to provide three local charities with critical business and technical solutions to help solve their organizational challenges.
Furthermore, the Capgemini council works to help demystify the workplace experience for this much-stigmatized generation while providing a space to elevate the positive qualities each generation brings to the table, in a casual, low-pressure environment.
Part of the MIC’s mandate is also to engage new employees from the moment they start so they have access to the resources they need to succeed from the onset. For example, some initiatives include: a hackathon in support of local Toronto charities, networking events to connect consultants and senior management and workshops discussing the latest trends in consumer technology.
The MIC’s efforts also recently helped Capgemini Canada secure a standing among Canada’s Top Employers for Young People for 2017 by Mediacorp Canada. This award underscored the company’s belief that investing in employees of all ages helps attract top talent and encourages them to invest their time and passion back into the company.
A connecting thread for young employees is Capgemini’s Advanced Innovation Discover Centre, a 5,000-square-foot innovation hub where young employees are encouraged to immerse themselves in technology and help shape ideas and insights into business models. These young employees have an opportunity to work directly with top clients and partner to create prototypes and rapidly evaluate new ideas. They also gain access to Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange, a network of 14 innovation centres in cities around the world, including Paris, Munich, Singapore and San Francisco.
ERGs like the MIC give employees the opportunities to engage and connect with other like-minded colleagues. These groups include Canada’s Women LEAD (Leadership, Excellence, Action and Development), A3 for African-American and African employees, and OUTfront for LGBTA employees. All activities planned by the ERGs are required to connect with one or more of Capgemini’s four Cs — commerce, culture, career and community — to ensure maximum benefit to employees and the business.
ERG groups are important for diversity and inclusion, as well as for the company’s overall business strategy. One main advantage is that different perspectives at the table limit the prevalence of groupthink and improve creativity.
With a broader, collective mindset, Capgemini can expand the services it offers for different segments of the population because it understands these diverse audiences.
Welcoming a new employee to an ERG also facilitates a smoother integration into the company.
As a global company, Capgemini is always striving to be more open, more innovative and more impactful. The Millennial Innovation Council and broader range of ERG programs are a reflection of the company and an example of the value it places on diversity and inclusion.
Sanjay Tugnait is the Toronto-based CEO of Capgemini Canada. For more information, visit www.ca.capgemini.com.
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