Study confirms that Millennials are misunderstood

Millennials value personal development and work-life balance over money and status. However, they are still ambitious and believe in their own ability to steer their career. This is one of many new insights from a large survey conducted by the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute (EMI), the HEAD Foundation and Universum. The project was undertaken to challenge stereotypes about Millennials, those born 1984-1996, and soon to be the bulk of the future workforce.

Of the 16,000+ global respondents from 43 countries, 73% prefer work-life balance over a higher salary and 82% value work-life balance over their position in a company. Unlike generations before them, 42% agree or strongly agree they would rather have no job than one they hate. Although some broad themes prevail, the research identified key regional differences as well as differences between younger and older Millennials.

The study not only points out key trends driven by Generation Y, but also shows that treating Millennials as a homogeneous group is too short-sighted. „An important aspect of successful Diversity Management is mastering the fine line between a focus on difference and stereotyping“, explains Diversity expert Michael Stuber also referring to other D&I topics. „We have to integrate a new understanding of global trends arising from generational differences and the impact of growing diversity within the generations themselves“, he adds.

Family and friends are not key career influencers for Millennials. Only 5% said their friends strongly influence their choices. For Millennials born closer to 1996, their friends’ opinions are less important than for older Millennials. For only 10% of respondents the opinions of their parents are important. This highlights a disconnect between the notion of ‘Helicopter Parents’, who hover over their children guiding their choices, and the impact they actually have on their children’s career decisions. The Millennial generation is more independent than many thought at first.

Becoming a leader or manager is a key career driver with 41% confirming its very important to them. The primary drivers for becoming a leader are money (35%), influence (31%) and the opportunity to have a strategic role (31%). This demonstrates that for Millennials, the driver to become a leader is inward-focused, not related to the traditional leadership role of managing and coaching other employees. The exception to this is in Nigeria and South Africa where an average 70% of Millennials say it is very important for them to be a manager or leader of people. Younger Millennials are also relatively more interested in coaching and mentoring as part of a leadership role.

As important as becoming a manager may be, only 24% strongly want a fast-track career with constant promotions. Most Millennials’ focus is to grow and learn new things (45%) – the second most important goal in their life after work-life balance. The biggest fear for 40% of respondents globally is to get stuck in a job with no development opportunities.

Stark differences exist between regions in relation to the image of the perfect manager. Empowerment is valued in North America, Western Europe and Africa, whereas fairness and expertise is key in Central & Eastern Europe. Millennials in Latin America value a role model able to give advice and in the Middle East managers should have all the answers. Managers able to act as role models is an important expectation of younger Millennials and women. When asked how often they expect to receive feedback on their performance from their manager, an average of 26% expect weekly feedback. This climbs to 35% in Central & Eastern Europe, 31% in North America and 30% in the Middle East. This is a far cry from annual personal development plans – Millennials expect a high-touch approach to management.

“By reaching out to a large number of respondents in these dynamic economies, this study provides an interesting comparison on millennial behavior in mature and emerging countries. It shows why over-simplified generalizations about them can prove dangerous to organizations and policy makers, and debunks some of the common perceptions about them,” concluded Vinika D. Rao, Executive Director at INSEAD EMI.

More information about the study is available on this website.