There is “a tale of two mindsets” when it comes to understanding which employee groups are leaving and why they seek to leave. Furthermore, our research indicates that corporate leaders often fail to understand the nonfinancial priorities of their employees, such as the need for strong leadership, effective communication and career advancement opportunities, while the degree of importance that younger employees place on these nonfinancial priorities varies across geographies.
Companies seeking to enhance their global success need to figure out how to maximize business performance in the geographies they choose to operate in. As they expand globally, they will encounter several salient challenges:
- Attracting talent (especially leadership) to successfully navigate the market.
- Maximizing the performance of local talent.
- Retaining employees in markets with high turnover rates.
This becomes especially important in the context of the existing gulf between employers and employees on talent priorities.
Mind the gap
Generational differences fuel much of current social and political tension in Western Europe and the United States over globalization, nationalism and immigration, according to an in-depth analysis of results from the Pew Global Attitudes surveys.
Older Americans and Western Europeans are more likely than their grandchildren to have reservations about growing global interconnectedness, to worry that their way of life is threatened, to feel that their culture is superior to the cultures of others, and to support restrictions on immigration.
This generation gap is less pronounced in Eastern Europe and is virtually nonexistent in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Nevertheless, Americans and Western Europeans of all ages are less likely than people in other parts of the world to tout their own cultural superiority and are less wary of foreign influence.
These findings are based on Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys conducted among more than 66,000 people in 49 nations.
As a consequence, although there is a growing recognition that in order for companies to build effective retention strategies they will need to tailor their tactics to account for generational differences, there remains the problem that many corporate leaders may be misreading the priorities among different generations, leading employers to offer the wrong incentives to the wrong employees.
Effectively addressing these challenges begins with a more complete understanding of the local work force, its various segments, and what makes each group tick.
Rather than standardizing talent management, companies should devise country-specific talent strategies with the involvement of local leaders who are as versed on the different aspirations of the generations that make up the work force as they are on other aspects of their business.
Such an understanding could help companies:
- Better address key issues for global expansion and enhance return on investment on talent programs through the design of customized programs that speak directly to employees’ aspirations, ambitions and attitudes (based on the generational cohorts that comprise a given country).
- Enhance leadership capabilities for managing and collaborating across borders and generations, thereby enhancing management effectiveness and business performance.
- Create competitive advantages by helping them stay current on expected work force composition, employee benefit options and preferences and other competitive offerings to determine the best plans to attract, retain and motivate top talent.
For those companies that embrace the concept of “plan locally, connect globally,” understanding and connecting with the aspirations of the demographic groups they are targeting can help them in their efforts to reduce cost and optimize performance on a global basis.
The recognition that customers are a heterogeneous bunch emerged as one of the important ideas for marketers in the last century. With the increasing importance of talent as a competitive factor, the recognition that generations differ around the world may be one of the important strategic avenues for decades to come.
Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.