Part 4 of 6: Blog Series on What Millennials Want from Work, Charted Across the World – “You Got Us Wrong”

This is the fourth of a six-part blog series posted monthly, on Millennials at the Workplace — a joint study by the Emerging Markets Institute, HEAD Foundation, and UNIVERSUM.

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We’re all familiar with the stereotype: Millennials think they should win leadership positions long before they’ve earned it. “They haven’t paid their dues like we did,” is the common refrain. It turns out Millennials are a much more varied group, and while they care deeply about work-life balance, they aren’t against putting in the time and enduring the stress required to get ahead.

We found out:

1. Millennials say Yes to leadership, and the work required to get there

Attaining a leadership position is indeed a goal for most Millennials. On average 40 percent say becoming a manager/leader is “very important.” In Africa in particular, 70 percent say this is true. And overall, nearly 70 percent say it’s either important or very important. This doesn’t surprise us very much. FIGURE 1

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High future earnings stands out as the most dominant theme globally (36 percent chose it across the globe), yet the range was quite wide. Half of respondents from Central/Eastern Europe chose high future earnings as a reason, while only 17 percent of Africans chose the response. African Millennials care most about opportunities to coach and mentor others (46 percent), a response that scored quite low in other regions (15 percent chose it in the APAC countries, and 23 percent chose it in Central/Eastern Europe and the Middle East).

Another interesting point of difference: The opportunity to influence a company/ organization was chosen by nearly half of those in Central/Eastern Europe, and 41 percent of those in North America; the same response was chosen by only a quarter of those in APAC countries and the Middle East. These points of difference matter tremendously for talent managers making decisions about recruiting, onboarding, leadership and development. What’s more, it’s interesting to note what Millennials really don’t care much about. Issues like status and leadership scored remarkably low across the board. Perhaps most expected, Millennials largely don’t feel they require increased access to information probably because this generation already has unprecedented access to information. FIGURE 2

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The importance of titles is also a point of disagreement among Millennials. In Africa a third of respondents say titles are very important. In other regions, titles seem to matter very little; In Central and Eastern Europe, for example, just five percent view titles as very important. In North America and Western Europe, titles are also seen as much less important than in other regions. FIGURE 3

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2. How Millennials want to be managed

Not surprisingly, culture has a strong influence on preferred management style—and Millennials express a wide variety of opinions on the topic. In North America, Western Europe and Africa, for example, managers who empower their employees are chosen by at least 40 percent of respondents. Yet that quality registers positively with only 12-13 percent of Millennials in Central/ Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In Central and Eastern Europe there seems to be relatively wide agreement that technical or functional expertise in a manager is important (58 percent)—even while that response was chosen by a third or less individuals in other regions. In the APAC countries and the Middle East, however, no single response drew more than one third of respondents. FIGURE 4

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On the whole Millennials believe feedback from a manager is very important. Millennials from Africa are most likely to think it’s very important (75 percent), while those from Central and Eastern Europe were least likely to find it very important (40 percent). There seems to be little consensus about how often one should receive feedback from a manager; opinions about timing differed from region to region, and even within regions, there was no clear front-runner to guide managers. Feedback from peers is a different matter. On average only 30 percent find feedback from peers to be very important, and in Central and Eastern Europe the average drops to just 11 percent. FIGURE 5 / FIGURE 6

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3. The challenges and perils of leadership

Particularly considering Millennials’ interest in work-life balance—two-thirds of Millennials (64 percent) are willing to work harder and to accept more stress to have a shot at leadership. Only in the Middle East did this sentiment represent less than half of respondents (46 percent). In Africa, APAC, Central/Eastern Europe, and North America the sentiment was particularly high (70 percent, 66 percent, 67 percent and 67 percent, respectively). FIGURE 7

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4. Career aspirations

We also wanted to understand whether Millennials prefer a career as specialists or generalists, which has broad implications for how businesses grow across regions and choose locations for highly specialized divisions (e.g. research and development, or manufacturing). Outside of Central and Eastern Europe, on average Millennials prefer the role of the specialist roughly two to one. When asked whether they prefer the position of an expert or a manager, sentiment was more evenly split … except in North America and Africa, where Millennials strongly prefer the designation of expert. FIGURE 8

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5. Work-life balance

We asked specifically what Millennials thought “work-life balance” means to them. The answers were very interesting. Overall the dominant definition was enough leisure time for my private life (57 percent), followed by flexible work hours (45 percent) and recognition and respect for employees (45 percent). Which responses or regions were outliers? In both Central/Eastern Europe, as well as Western Europe, overtime compensation scored relatively highly (52 and 45 percent respectively) indicating greater awareness of and interest in regulated labour issues. Flexible work hours was chosen by 59 percent of those in North America, but just 32 percent in the Middle East, and 39 percent in Africa. FIGURE 9

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To test the strength of Millennials desire for work-life balance, we also asked how it scores relative to other important factors, such as the speed of one’s career progression. A significant share of Millennials is open to trade longer working hours for a chance to progress in their careers. With the exception of Millennials from Central/Eastern Europe, there is no region where the share of disinterested respondents is higher than 30 percent—meaning they are either agnostic or positive towards the notion. FIGURE 10

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Millennials are open to making the reverse trade as well. Overall 47 percent would consider giving up a “well-paid and prestigious job” to improve their level of work-life balance. Here again, only Millennials from Central/Eastern Europe stand out with their unwillingness to part with a well-paying job. FIGURE 11

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African Millennials underemphasized certain priorities that were chosen relatively often in other regions. Having many good friends and having time to enjoy hobbies both scored relatively few respondents in Africa (5 percent and 11 percent), while the same choices drew significantly higher numbers in other regions. Some 29 percent of those in Western Europe would prioritize having many good friends and 38 percent of those in the APAC countries would emphasize time to enjoy hobbies. FIGURE 12

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When asked specifically whether they would dedicate more time to family or career, the results were quite interesting. Overall, 57 percent would dedicate more time to family, and that number never dips below 50 percent across every region surveyed. In many regions, the split is nearly even between family and career. Are Millennials signalling they value one over another by that answer, or are they bemoaning that they currently do not have enough family time, for example, and wish for more? The responses are unclear. FIGURE 13

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Implications for employers

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For employers, the findings should awaken their thinking about how to recruit, onboard, and retain Millennials across different regions. What inspires (and worries) a Millennial in North America is quite different from that which inspires those in the APAC countries. Among the important lessons from the research:

• What motivates Millennials in their careers varies widely by region. How will your organization customize your recruiting and training programs by region to ensure you engage Millennials properly? For example, Millennials in Latin America have vastly different ideals for their managers than those in North America. How will your leadership development program account for it?

• Companies must think carefully about cross-cultural awareness and training. Procter & Gamble offers an interesting model, where fast-track candidates rotate between job functions and geographies before they can assume senior management roles. Others require extensive cross-cultural training before allowing employees to be promoted into multi-region leadership roles.

• Employers will need to account for Millennials’ desires for better work-life balance. The desire for more balance in life is a stereotype that—when tested—is very real and deeply felt by Millennials. (If nearly 50 percent of Millennials from North America, Africa, APAC and the Middle East would give up pay and prestige for better work life balance … employers must pay attention.) Most global organizations are still figuring out what “balance” looks like, and whether benefits like flextime or virtual work are tenable. It’s clear Millennials will demand more attention for these emerging issues.

• Measurement deserves a special note. While most employers have some sort of engagement survey in place, we recommend you employ specific measurements with regards to internal movement and each employee’s sense of progress. Regardless of individual leadership ambitions and skill-levels, employers should implement development programs that are all encompassing, for each and every employee, supporting individual development and growth. Popular employers will be the ones that empower their people to fulfil both career and personal goals simultaneously, without one pre-empting the other, and helping employees define their own specific career paths.

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