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Webinar transcript on Understanding a misunderstood generation

Hi and welcome everyone to this webinar on our report “Understanding a misunderstood generation”, which is all about Millennials as a group – their preferences and priorities, especially as these differ in regions across the globe.

My name is Jacob Andelius, I’m a senior consultant at Universum, and I have been the project manager for this study.

As most of you will have seen, this is a joint effort between INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, The Head Foundation in Singapore and Universum. This has been a great collaboration where we really felt each partner was playing to its strength!

Considering the fact that Millennials are expected to make up three quarters of the work force in just a little bit more than 10 years (which is a Deloitte estimate by the way), it’s clear that as employers we need to get a handle on this generation. It’s imperative that we are sensitive to their particular profile and their needs – starting with talent attraction and recruitment all the way up to leadership and development when they are already part of the organization. But you may be forgiven for thinking: Do we really need one more study on the Millennials? Don’t we already know all there is to know about them? (And by the way, just so you know, we define them as people born between 1984 and 1996).

Well, to be fair, there are lots of interesting studies out there, but they are all somehow limited in scope. To begin with, there is lots of research done on Millennials in the US. Also, PwC does a huge Millennial survey, but it’s targeted mainly at its own employees and that’s a strong bias in itself. Spanish Mobile giant Telefonica did a really big survey a year ago, together with Financial Times, but that one was focused mainly on technology adoption. And the ones that are indeed global, like the Deloitte Millennial Survey, we felt needed a much bigger sample size.

So the goal of our project was to investigate some of the established notions – or the conventional wisdom if you will – about Millennials as a group. You could probably recount some off the top of your head right now – I think we all can.

And to do just that, we collected more than 16,000 responses in more than 40 countries. A lot of that came from our own database (because as you may know, we poll more than 700,000 people this year), with the rest coming from external panel providers and other sources such as Facebook. So what is some of the conventional wisdom that we want to probe deeper into?

As a basis for our study we went through many, if not most of the major studies conducted on Millennials recently, and found that we could group the insights into five major themes: Millennials believe government has an impact in today’s society, they rely heavily on friends and family for input on career issues, they are interested in leadership and expect rapid promotion, they are not typically up for hard work in the classical understanding of putting in lots of hours and, finally, they seem to put soft factors like personal development and work-life balance ahead of things like money and status.

Okay, so at this stage I would like to go through some of the insights that came out regarding these notions and we’ll start with the question of whether Millennials really are as keen on leadership as we think.

I think it’s fair to say that at least to me personally this one was a big surprise. Since I’m based in the Nordics I was expecting perhaps Millennials in other parts of the globe to be interested in becoming a leader, but I had not expected such a high interest in Western Europe. For years we have thought that Millennials focus on other things than leadership, at least in certain fields such as IT and in places like Sweden and Norway, but it’s clear from the research that we have underestimated them.

Also, in the separate e-book on leadership that is available for download on our website you can also get insight into what Millennials in various regions find attractive about leadership and how they want to be led. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the differences between regions are staggering!

Obviously, this will need to impact leadership strategy within your organization, suggesting that you cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach across various geographies.

The next thing I would like to show you is how Millennials think around the concept of challenging work:

Because we have found that it is not necessarily the case that they shy away from hard work. From other responses in the study, it seems Millennials are actually quite open to working hard at times, but as you can see they typically view challenging work in terms of innovation or having a steep learning curve. In other words, they are looking to work smarter, not just harder.

We believe there is a shift underway when it comes to flexibility in the work place – around working hours, the possibility to work remotely etc. that has to do with this notion of working smarter. Of course, all industries will be different, but we believe it will make sense for you to be on the forefront of this development in your particular industry.

The next one up is work-life balance versus money and status:

As you can see, we asked the question whether Millennials would consider giving up well-paid job in order to improve their work-life balance and as you can see almost half of all respondents globally agreed. It’s really only in Central and Eastern Europe (and in Russia in particular) that they feel differently, putting money ahead of work-life balance.

So don’t count on being able to lure Millennials with a package that is only or mainly focused on compensation. Nowadays people look to the whole offer, and that of course includes elements such as work hours, flexibility and other benefits.

Also, we wanted to know more about how Millennials viewed government and whether or not they think government has a stronger ability to influence society than, say, private business.

And, really, the numbers don’t really bear this out. If we look only to China, Hong Kong and a few other places, Millennials seem to agree, but across the world as a whole tend to have greater faith in individuals or in private business.

So, depending on whether you represent a private employer or a government one, in all likelihood Millennials are looking to you and not just the government to have a positive impact on society.

And, finally, we turn to the much-touted question of whether Millennials rely on their friends and family to secure input on career decisions and here the answer was surprisingly clear – no, they don’t. In fact, it’s really only in Africa where we are able to not that more than half find their input important. In most other places one’s family is seen more as a support, but the actual decisions Millennials want to make themselves.

So what does this mean for employers? We would like to suggest a number of recommendations based on the insights that we have mentioned, the first one (and perhaps even the most important one) being

  • The need to approach Millennials at the right level. Basically, considering the differences that we have been able to note within regions (and APAC is probably the most notable example) you are bound to hurt yourself if you work only with regional averages when devising your talent strategy. It’s really important to address this target group at least at the country level in order to get traction.
  • In fact, why not even turn these country-based differences into competitive strengths? If you arm yourself with an in-depth understanding of Millennials across different countries you will be in a position to recruit job profiles where you stand a better chance of finding them. As an example, you want to hire people who care deeply about innovation? Then look to Latin America or Asia-Pacific where Millennials were most likely to define challenging work as just that.
  • Also, we would strongly advise you to address the topic of leadership within your organization. It’s certainly not enough to arrive at an understanding of how to train and promote leaders only on a global level. The preferences in different regions are so disparate that you need to be able to maintain lots of flexibility in the system in order to harness the energy and ambition of up-and-coming Millennials! Perhaps it would even make sense to echo the work that you have done in your Employer Value Proposition in a sort of Employer Leadership Proposition as well?
  • Finally, we want encourage you to make sure that the way you talk about Millennials within your organization is based in fact and not in rumors or hearsay. It’s so easy to end up in group-think or even your own sets of conventional wisdom when it comes to what Millennials are all about. But by feeding recurring insights based on hard research into the organizations you will be able to mitigate this and hopefully find that your strategies become more effective as a result!

I would like to thank you for giving us the most precious commodity there is – your attention and your time – by joining us for this webinar. Again, if you want to find out more please refer to the existing e-books that are already out on the different topics and make sure you register to receive the full report as that comes out in a few weeks! Now, we will be going into Q&A to make sure that we are able to address any and all questions that you have!

Thank you!

Understanding a misunderstood generation

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The first large-scale study of how Millennial attitudes & actions vary across the globe, and the implications for employers.

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