The Gen Y Workforce: What Causes Differences Around the Globe?

There has been a lot written recently on Generation Y (or Millkennials) in the U.S, but today I’m focusing on Gen Y globally.

You may not realize it, but Gen Y actually exists in other countries. It is not unique to the U.S.

They may not be called Gen Y or Millennials in other places. They may not have the exact same birth year range. But they do exist.

You may think that the concept of Gen Y is all a bunch of “hooey,” but there are differences in how young people act, think and what they believe around the world.

What causes differences worldwide?

Generations are defined in each country by major historical events — social, cultural, political and economic — that occur in people’s formative years. Each of the following events had big impact on children/young people:

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall impacted young people in Germany.
  • The Cultural Revolution affected children in China. No academics were taught which had long-ranging impact on their lives.
  • The Vietnam War had a huge impact on young people in the U.S.
  • The Great Depression in the U.S. had a tremendous impact on the attitudes, beliefs, etc. of young people growing up in its aftermath.

Powerful events such as these shape how young people act and think from country to country. By understanding the differences, companies have a better chance to attract, retain and motivate them.

What are the differences?

The table below provides a good picture of how Gen Y are similar and different by country.PastedGraphic-1

China

China’s Gen Y were born between 1980 and 1989. China’s One-Child Policy, put in place in 1980, radically impacted the traditional family structure and resulted in a generation that grew up in a family environment of high expectations and minimal competition for attention.

In other words, as children they were spoiled.

Many Gen Y job hop for bigger salaries, more status, promotions and more opportunities. Promotions, typically every two years (employers’ attempt at retention), lead to shallow depth of skill at any given job level.

Job titles are often inflated and interviewers need to probe deeply in job interviews to understand what the candidate’s true skills are.

Japan

Since the economic decline beginning in 1990 and the death of the centuries-old “job for life,” the Yutori generation has grown up in a time of high economic anxiety unlike that of their parents’ generation. They have lived through massive layoffs in the 1990’s and again in 2008. The tradition of “life-time employment” and the “loyal corporation” have evaporated.

United Kingdom

Gen Y in the UK were born in the 1980s during the height of the United Kingdom’s economic boom. As a result, Gen Y there were spoiled on the good life. Since 2008, reality has come as a shock.

Russia

Beginning in 1983, the first truly post-Soviet generation to enter the workforce under the presidency of Vladimir Putin was the so-called “Generation Pu” — Russia’s Gen Y. “Generation Pu” were born from 1983 to 2000.

Kenya

Gen Y account for roughly half the total workforce in Kenya. They are one of the least understood Gen Y segments of the workforce worldwide. They were born between 1990 and 2000.

Brazil

Gen Y in Brazil are defined as individuals born between 1981 and 1995. Gen Y employees have high expectations of their employers’ CSR values.

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They are known for a lack of employer loyalty. High inflation certainly doesn’t leave a lot of room for much optimism, which affects how Gen Y view their future.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Gen Y were born between 1980 and 1999. They grew up in times of social and economic stability. The oil-based economy funded Saudi Arabia’s extensive social welfare and benefits programs while the Saudization policy guaranteed employment for all Saudis.

Final thoughts

Hopefully you now have an idea of how attitudes, beliefs and work expectations differ by country.

In order to build effective talent management strategies, companies need to understand them. Because of these differences, one single global talent management strategy/program will not work.

To repeat a much used adage: “One size does not fit all.”

  • Scott Span

    Jacque – Thank you for sharing this info. Though I’ve come across some cultural related information in doing cross generational work, I like the way you presented so clearly in the chart. Though I agree, culture and environmental factors play a huge part in shaping the views of the generations, I also see many similarities (more so in Gen X and Y) regardless of culture. Perhaps this has to do with globalization and the increase in technology and communication?

  • Jacque Vilet

    Hi Scott — I wanted to include another point in this article but ran out of room. If you interact with Gen Y in other countries it is very easy to assume they have been Westernized. They wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, social media, etc. But don’t get lulled into thinking they are just “Americans that live in another country”. Beneath the surface is their home culture. It’s like peeling an onion —- the top layer may be Westernized but the layer below is different.
    I myself have been fooled that way by interacting with engineers in their 20s/30s in China. To complicate things, Gen Y (just like any other age group) are different individual by individual. Not everyone is the same. So you will find some Gen Y that are more Westernized than others But I advise it is safer to err on the safe side than be sorry.
    Example: If you get buddy-buddy with a young man in the Middle East that is married you might ask him about his wife. It would be a normal part of conversation in the U.S. but don’t be surprised if he has a very negative reaction.
    I have focused on the differences here because I want to make a strong point that U.S. companies can’t just go into a country and expect to roll out talent management programs that are exactly like corporate.
    Since you have experience with Gen X and Y internationally I think you get “my drift”!

  • Marian Stetson-Rodriguez

    Hi Jacque,

    This is an important facet of global management, thanks for your article. My blog has a series on Global Teamwork, including Gen Y, and includes some more countries: South Korea http://chariscorp.com/blog/index.php/2012/06/do-you-know-your-team-in-korea/ Germany, India and others co-authored by members of these cultures.
    Marian Stetson-Rodriguez

  • Oliver

    Hi Jacque,

    Thank you for this! It helped me with a current presentation.

    Regards
    Oliver

    Oliver Viel
    Berlin
    http://www.oliverviel.com