What We Want From Work: Are Generational Differences Bigger Than Cultural Ones?

The President of Human Capital at Mercer, a global consulting firm, discusses one of the most interesting findings of the firm's international "Inside Employees' Minds" survey.
  • Transcript


Patricia Milligan: I actually think we should be talking about cultural diversity and global diversity, not just generational diversity.  So, one of the things that was really heartening about Inside Employee Minds was the consistency we saw across the globe.  So interestingly, generations in 17 countries that we looked at had actually very similar attitudes to what they valued and what they cared about. Now why do we care about that?  Because actually there’s more sameness than difference as we look at what people value around the world, and I think that’s great.  I think as we think about how we move work and workers around the world, I think we can have more security that there's more things that are alike than different.  

That said, what the different generations value, I think, is dramatically different, and it’s not rocket science, right?  So, you know, you look at the boomers and the first thing they really care about right now is security and the ability to protect kind of the health, wealth, and security of their family, right?  So, they want to know that they’ve got secure work and that it’s meaningful work.  We look down to the millennials and they’re much less concerned about security.  They care much more about opportunity and advancement, and it’s a real challenge to develop programs and policies that really meet the needs of a diverse workforce.

It's a design challenge, it’s an administration challenge, it’s a communication challenge.  Look, a number of us grew up designing flex plans, right? And the administrative burden of saying,I have 15 people, I’m going to let them design exactly what they want, was one of the reasons why people went back to one-size-fits-all.  Nobody’s broken that code again and so that’s got to be a big part of where we see great companies focus is really on flexibility in action, and it’s not that easy to do. It’s easy to talk about, but it’s really tough to implement and really tough to administer.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd