Ideas for Leaders #559

Millennials 5: Attitudes and Aspirations in Different Regions of the World

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Key Concept

Millennials, poised to become the biggest generation in the workforce and the leaders of tomorrow, are less homogenous in attitudes and aspirations than commonly believed. A global survey of Millennials highlights the differences among this generation in the different regions of the world, and even with different countries in those regions. (Editor's Note: this article is based on Part 5 of the survey.)

Idea Summary

Many business leaders tend to paint all Millennials with the same brush — as young people who on one hand refuse to compromise on work-life balance issues while at the same time expecting fast-track careers without ‘paying their dues’.

A global study of 16,000 Millennials in 43 countries — conducted in 2014 and co-sponsored by the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, the HEAD Foundation and Universum — reveals that Millennials not only differ from region to region, but even from country to country within those regions of the world. Here are some examples:

  • More than 40% of Millennials in the Asian Pacific (APAC) region said they strongly believed that they expected a standard of living higher than that of their parents. However, only 9% of Japanese strongly agreed with the statement.
  • In comparing Nigeria to South Africa, the two largest African countries, the survey found that South Africans were less likely to see themselves as entrepreneurial. Millennials in both countries, however, described challenging work as work that takes them out of their comfort zone.
  • Focusing on the Central and Eastern European countries of Russia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, the survey found that becoming a leader was much more important to Russian Millennials, while Millennials from the three countries agreed on the top priority in life of growing and learning new things.
  • Latin American Millennials were not as diverse as Millennials from other regions. For example, they agreed on the value of job titles (63% in Latin America compared to 55% globally) and nearly 50% believed that becoming a leader was important.
  • The three Middle East countries in the survey — the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Lebanon — surprisingly shared many views, such as the importance of working in innovative companies and the belief that not working is better than working at a job one hates. Differences did exist. When asked who or what influenced society the most, the top choice was ‘government’ in the UAE, ‘private business’ in Turkey and ‘individuals’ in Lebanon.
  • American and Canadian Millennials shared many opinions and viewpoints, such as less optimism about achieving a higher standard of living than their parents and the importance of work-life balance. The two North American countries were divided on societal influences: private business was most influential for Americans (42%), while Canadians believed that government (25%), private business (29%) and individuals (39%) all had an important role to play.
  • Covering 14 countries in the survey, Western Europe was the most diverse region. The results showed some clustering of viewpoints: Spanish and Italian Millennials attached importance to titles, while Germans and Austrians shared a concern with empowerment at work. Europeans were united in their concern for work-life balance but not to the extent of leaving a job they hated.

In analysing the results, the researchers found four categories of respondents from the different regions (listed from largest to smallest):

  • Strivers and climbers hope to follow the traditional path up the corporate ladder. Strivers and climbers are prominent in Latin America, as well as countries as diverse as Italy, Russia, Turkey and Singapore.
  • Work-life balancers don’t sacrifice leisure time for work and want jobs that fit their personality. Many Western European Millennials are work-life balancers, but so are Millennials from Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • Technical experts who are cautious about fit. Trained in IT, engineering or management, Millennials in this category look for jobs that have a culture with which they are comfortable. Many Millennials from Nigeria, Lebanon, and China fall into this category.
  • Socially ambitious but pessimistic about corporate life. These Millennials are ambitious but don’t see the corporate ladder as a path to success, and are pessimistic about having a higher standard of living than their parents. This pessimism is found in countries as diverse as Japan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Poland and Russia.

Business Application

Although part five of this seminal survey reveals the differences in Millennial attitudes that exist even from country to country, it would be difficult for a global company to tailor its talent communication strategy to every country. However, it is possible, for those in charge of talent recruitment and retention, to take into account Millennials attitudes and aspirations at the regional level — or perhaps even for clusters of countries when dealing with regions as disparate as Western Europe or the Asian Pacific region. In Europe, for example, Millennials from Sweden and Norway, Germany and Austria, and Spain and Italy share many of the same views and preferences. Of course, even within a single country, Millennials are not going to be a monolithic group of people. Nevertheless, the regional and clustered-country differences highlighted in the INSEAD survey can help provide some general directions and goals for a company’s efforts to attract and keep Millennials.

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Idea conceived

  • January 2014

Idea posted

  • October 2015

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