Generation M


We have recently published a second global survey into the workplace perspectives of the generation of young employees, the so-called Millennials. It reinforced many of the findings from the first survey, however, some new and particularly relevant issues given the current economic challenges, were highlighted.

Wikipedia says "the Millennials" are also known as: Generation Y -- a term used to describe someone born immediately after Generation X. There is much dispute as to the exact range of birth years that constitute Generation Y and the Millennials, but for the purposes of our survey we refer to Millennials as those who entered the workforce after July 1, 2000.

The survey sought to identify key priorities for employees entering the workplace for the first time in 2008. Over 4,000 graduates were surveyed from a total of 44 countries, including Russia.

As the global economy continues to suffer the impact of the slowdown, some might ask why the priorities of the newest generation of employees should be of concern. Many companies are looking to cut back on people related expenditure. Some may be reducing their graduate intake or introducing a total hiring freeze. But in order to achieve long-term growth objectives, it is critical that organisations have the right talent to help them through the economic cycle and out the other side.

Balancing short-term goals with long-term objectives is not easy, but understanding the needs and aspirations of the workforce will help get that balance right. This is no less true in Russia than elsewhere.

So how did the Russian Millennials respond? Most surprising of all was the response to the question asking what benefits, other than salary, they would value most over the next 5 years. Almost 40 percent of the Russian respondents said training and development were the most important employee benefits, outweighing cash bonuses by more than 2 to 1, and leaving such "trendy" benefits as flexible hours and free private health care even further down the list of must haves.

And in the current environment knowing what is important to a particular group of employees can help target cost reductions. There's no point cutting a popular employee benefit when a less popular one can be taken away instead.

The Russian respondents also indicated a strong desire to work internationally, with 85 percent saying that at some stage in their career they would like to work outside Russia. This was consistent with many other nationalities, although as many as 93 percent of the Indian respondents indicated a desire to work abroad, and as few as 62 percent of the Dutch.

The most popular destination for an international assignment amongst the Russian respondents was, not surprisingly, Western Europe, however just 5.9 percent said North America would be their preferred destination. Despite this clear desire to work abroad many companies struggle to fill international vacancies and when they do the costs can be three to four times greater than for a local hire. Might the results of this survey suggest a strong case for targeting more global mobility at junior levels?

In the context of corporate social responsibility 73 percent of the Russian respondents indicated that their employer's policy on climate change and the environment was important in deciding the suitability of employer. This contrasts with just 40 percent and 55 percent in the U.S. and U.K. respectively. The graduates in China, though, were similar in their views with 68 percent stating that employer policies relating to climate change and the environment were important. An even stronger message to Russian employers, though, was that 80 percent of the respondents indicated they would consider changing employer if corporate responsibility expectations were no longer met!

And who will be looking after the Millennials when they retire in 30 to 40 years? Few, indeed just 5 percent both globally and in Russia, believe respective governments will be funding their retirement, with 57 percent of the global respondents believing their retirement will be funded entirely through personal investments and savings plans. However, just 43 percent in Russia thought their retirement would be funded in this manner with as many as 13 percent believing they will have to continue working beyond retirement age to manage through old age.

Although, the survey does not claim to represent the entire Millennial generation some indicative themes emerged. The similarity in responses across the globe to a number of issues was also striking. Should companies rip up their people strategies and start again? Probably not, but it may make sense to approach this group of employees differently. A tailored approach to the employee workforce, rather than a one size fits all approach, would make most sense.

But the overriding message, in these difficult times, is to continue investing in talent, so as to be certain of having a strong footing when the market recovers.