This post is also available in: Japanese
European employers, just as in Japan, are worrying about how to manage and motivate the so-called millennial generation – people who were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.
Across the world, one characteristic that unites the millennial generation is, of course, a high use of social media. There is some evidence that this has led to a more open minded attitude to the rest of the world. In the UK, the millennial generation is much more pro-European Union and pro-migrant than the older generations. Millennials are used to building relationships with people they have never met, through mutual interests and hobbies, regardless of their location or nationality or gender.
This has translated into a higher desire than other generations to live, work or study outside their home country. 71% of millennials, regardless of gender, want to work outside their home country during their career, according to a global survey by PwC in 2015. A multigenerational global survey by PwC in the same year showed that all age groups and genders overwhelmingly agreed that secondment early in a career was also critical.
Yet I have seen surveys of Japanese millennials which show that fewer of them are studying abroad or want to be seconded overseas than previous generations. I expect their concern, which is also the top concern of other nationalities, is what their role will be when they are repatriated to their home country.
I suspect there are also assumptions being made on the employer side about who an expatriate should be and what the role should involve. I recently met a British academic who had interviewed various Japanese women living in the UK and she found that many of them joined a Japanese company in Japan, in the expectation that they would be posted overseas. Yet their requests to be seconded were ignored, so they quit their companies and moved abroad themselves.
It seems to me that many of the issues Japanese companies are facing such as attracting and retaining younger people, an ageing workforce or a lack of men or women who can take up global management roles could be resolved by having a more integrated and inclusive approach to job mobility. It is quite normal for European companies to hire graduates from across Europe, and then rotate them around their operations in different countries. A few of our larger clients are now rotating their graduates to Japan too. Global roles do not have to be for 3-5 years in another country – they can be permanent, a few months or indeed a virtual global role.
One of the messages from the campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union – aimed at the millennial generation – is that if the UK leaves the EU, it will be less easy for young British people to study or work in other European countries. Unfortunately, one other characteristic of the millennial generation is that they are less likely to vote than the more pro-Brexit older generations.
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