Is The Way You View Millennials Harming Your Talent Strategy?

What do millennials want from their careers? If you’re tempted to answer ‘Why should I care?’, you’re running out of time to think again. Millennials have come of age at work. They’re occupying leadership roles and starting to knock on boardroom doors. It’s time to start engaging them as part of your talent strategy and pipeline.

What Millennials Want

A recent Gallup report How Millennials Want to Work and Live got us thinking about this topic. It includes some illuminating findings about how millennials perceive, approach and manage their careers. Here’s a snapshot:

  1. Millennials aren’t very engaged at work. Just 29% feel ‘emotionally and behaviourally connected’ in their jobs. As Gallup puts it, “The millennial workforce is predominantly ‘checked out’ – not putting energy or passion into their jobs.”
  2. They’re on the lookout for new jobs. 60% are open to a new job opportunity and 36% say they’ll look for “a job with a different organization in the next 12 months if the job market improves.”
  3. They’re looking for growth opportunities. Millennial candidates are more likely than older demographics to choose a job for learning and growth prospects. They tend to see their current role as a stepping stone.

Interesting stuff indeed. But what really caught our eye was the report’s US bias. It got us wondering: Can an entire generation be homogenised by a single-market report? And more pertinently, should you bet your hiring strategies for the next decade on it?

We wouldn’t, especially in light of a slightly older but (to us) more revealing study conducted by INSEAD’s Emerging Markets Institute, Universum and the HEAD Foundation.

Millennial Preferences Around the World

‘Millennials: Understanding a Misunderstood Generation’ surveyed 16,637 millennials across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America. And it revealed massive variations across regions, in career aspirations and priorities, preferred management style and work-life balance among other things.

Here’s the graphic that really stands out for us.

via Harvard Business Review

In the first instance, it’s worth noting that the desire to become a leader itself varies considerably by culture. 40% of all respondents rated it ‘very important’, but that masks the gulf between 8% in Japan and 63% in India. Already, Gallup’s third finding above begins to look a little suspect when viewed through a global lens.

Even assuming leadership opportunities are a key factor for millennials, the graph clearly shows the need to dig deeper to effectively plan how to attract and nurture leaders-in-waiting in the global talent market. For instance: emphasise a role’s potential for influence in Africa and millennials should flock to you; do the same in the Middle East and you won’t see quality applicants for dust. And unless you’re recruiting in Asia-Pacific, Latin America or Western Europe, don’t even think of mentioning that old recruitment staple: ‘challenging work’!


Limit your horizons when targeting millennials, and you risk misdirecting your hiring resources… or missing out on the best talent altogether. Rarely has a global perspective been more important in recruitment.

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