Millennials, Mobility and Motivation

The Millennials are here. What does that mean for you?

Go to the profile of Courtney Ellis-Jones
Apr 29, 2016
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The Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are here. Born between 1980-1995, the Millennials are not just entering the workforce, they are dominating it. With the worldwide talent supply and demand divide only increasing, multinationals have to increasingly look at their strategy for managing talent, mobility and the motivation of this particular age demographic.

In less than five years, Millennials are predicted to represent 70 per cent of the global workforce, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers’ (PWC) Millennials at Work research. In the next decade, the number of workers taking on global assignments will increase by 50 per cent as companies look to fulfil their growth ambitions through the movement of key talent. The good news? Two thirds of Millennials want an overseas assignment during their career. And, not only that, 37% of Millennials versus 28% of non-Millennials want to explore cross-border opportunities for their career development. That’s a powerful 32% increase across the generations.

However, there is bad news, too. The areas critical to multinationals growth plans are not necessarily where the Millennials want to go. 58 per cent of Millennials are willing to look toward the United States, but only 2% are willing to work in mainland China (the same percentage willing to work in Iran). How do you then convince your talent to uproot their lives to places which may not be attractive to them? The traditional expatriate incentive of financial compensation isn’t what Millennials value.

Who are the Millennials? Often referred to as “Generation Me”, the Millennials are confident and tolerant with a strong sense of community that isn’t just local to them, but global as well. Their fluency in technology and all the developments in social media have made them savvy with all the information available to them. They are “better-armed” than the generations before them at understanding the complexities of an assignment and they’re well-versed on the politics, economies and both the opportunities and difficulties in different locations.

Deloitte estimates that 59 per cent of Millennials hope to one day become leaders in their profession. Millennials are motivated by opportunity, independence, recognition, experience and collaboration. Most Millennials are seeking positions which allow them to develop both professionally and personally, which is why international assignments are particularly attractive to them. Organisations which recognise these traits and help Millennials achieve their goals will find they can retain and grow their staff into the leadership roles they need filled.

For a generational group amenable to an assignment, why are so few willing to entertain the locations critical for growth? It’s a combination of being aware of the perceived challenges in living in emerging markets as well as an acute awareness of their own “employee net worth”. Millennials know their value and, comparative to earlier generations, they are enthusiastic about the contribution they can make to organisations. When nurtured correctly, Millennials are active participants in the future of their business and capturing their loyalty, at a time where it is predicted by The Hay that 23.4 per cent of the global workforce will move from their current position before the end of 2018, is critical for success in home and host locations.

Making clear the professional development prospects of working in a quickly-developing country could be one strategy to combat this disconnect. Developing career progression plans with mobility for identified future leaders is one thing organisations should be thinking of from before the start of an assignment. Combined with a robust repatriation plan, this can fuel the talent cycle to continue; particularly with the continued rise of unconventional assignment types. The value Millennials place on flexibility can be utilised by mobility teams to help design policies which support and enable their moves, often at a cost much lower than the traditional expatriate package.

How else can organisations address this generational shift while aligning their mobility goals back to the wider business? Is leveraging business travel and commuting arrangements one way to encourage flexible travel and cross-border working? The independence and trust from their employers that Millennials value could be reflected in low-touch communication, reliance on technology and flexible policy provisions. Addressing success and career growth from secondments and placements in emerging markets before the assignment can also enable success. Setting the parameters of what the assignment will give an employee professionally is critical and repatriation conversations need to be happening at the start of the assignment, not only as it becomes applicable.

Go to the profile of Courtney Ellis-Jones

Courtney Ellis-Jones

Courtney began her career in global mobility nearly a decade ago. She originally began her career working in the in-house HR function, but transitioned to a role with a destination services provider inside the business development remit. Courtney has focused since on high level transformation of mobility programmes, including policy reform, process improvements and academic research. Her career has led her to touch all sides of the global mobility function from working as a supplier to delivering in-house mobility services. She has worked across industries and regions, having lived in the United States, France, Hungary, Estonia and the United Kingdom and has been with FEM since October 2015.

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