Workforce Retention is a global issue

Generation Y - Employee Retention
Generation Y – Employee Retention

New global research by Ashridge Business School reveals that the biggest concern for managers worldwide about Generation Y in the workplace is employee retention. Frequent job changes and lack of life skills mean that managers are concerned that future leaders lack the experience to enable them to judge risk and make effective decisions.

Based on a global survey of 2,900 managers and graduates, and 100 in-depth interviews, the report Culture Shock! Generation Y and their managers around the world analyses the relationship between Gen Y graduates, aged under 30, and their leaders.

The study draws comparisons between Gen Y and managers in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, India, Malaysia and China. It reveals that Gen Y graduates are similar across the world, but it is the gulf between them and their managers that differs. There is often puzzlement on both sides, who view the world of work through different lenses.

Gen Y graduates are regarded as highly knowledgeable, digitally integrated, globally and socially aware, unconventional and very confident, and all of these characteristics need to be managed and developed. Although managers admire the intelligence and energy of young professionals, they dislike graduates’ pursuit of fame and recognition, self-focus, over-confidence and lack of teamwork and respect.

The main concern for managers globally in relation to Gen Y is employee retention. Graduates want a varied career, have little patience and will leave a job quickly if it doesn’t meet their own personal ideals. Gen Y tend to stay in a job for merely two years. In the UK only 57% intend to remain in their current role for two years, 62% in India and 75% in the Middle East. 22% of Indian graduates plan to leave their jobs as soon as possible. Malaysian graduate employees are the most loyal, with 87% intending to stay for two years.

Frequent job changes and lack of life skills mean that managers are seriously concerned that future leaders are not gaining real in-depth experience. Managers feel strongly that today’s graduates lack ‘life skills’ compared with previous generations, and recommend that they get work experience, and develop their emotional intelligence, communication and people skills.

A mismatch of expectations between managers and graduates is a pressing issue. For example, 66% of Malaysian managers claim that managing graduate expectations is their overriding concern. Graduates have high expectations of responsibility, progression and challenging, interesting work where they can make changes, whereas managers expect excellent skills, teamwork and adaptation to the organisation. Graduates want speedy promotion to management, and unmet expectations cause them to leave.

The younger workers surveyed do not ‘live to work’, they ‘work to live’. They want jobs with flexibility and, with the exception of Malaysia, are less likely to do work at home than their managers.

For Gen Y, 30 is the new 20. Graduates are enjoying their twenties exploring jobs and having a good work/life balance. Managers are seen as burnt out through heavy workload. As Gen Y go in search of jobs, they have different priorities – they do not want their managers’ jobs, especially the lifestyle, which creates a challenge for talent management and succession planning initiatives.

Graduates generally get on well with their immediate managers. But, some view their managers as coasting towards retirement, uninterested in pushing through change, acting in a superior way and not communicating decisions or information.

Sue Honore, Researcher, Ashridge Business School, said:

“Generation Y has grown up with X-Factor, Facebook and mobile phones, and against a background of rapid changes in technology and shifting political and cultural norms. Today’s young professionals have different priorities from previous generations. Gen Y is already radically altering the employment landscape globally, and a new, growing workforce will soon be stepping up and challenging traditional models within companies.

“By capitalising on the unique contributions and strengths of this generation, a better workforce as a whole can be created. All generations need to review their differences and find new ways of working for the future – both managers and Gen Y need to adapt to the changing world of work.”

The report also identifies best practice and provides new insights into recruiting, hiring, managing and retaining Gen Y workers. Many good organisations and individuals are finding the best ways to move into his brave new world, and the report contains case studies showcasing how innovative employers develop young talent. There are examples of organisations and individuals who thrive with graduates in their midst and retain them. There are other organisations that understand their value as ‘excellent developers of people’, even if those young people move on.

For further information and to download the report, please visit the website:


I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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