Making generational differences work: What empirical research reveals about leading millennials

Making generational differences work: What empirical research reveals about leading millennials

11 min.
August 2017

Generational differences – reality versus rumor

The topic of generational differences is one that never seems to go away. There has always been a certain amount of narrative and debate about what the differences are and how they influence organizational dynamics. Yet it is important to bear in mind that generational categories are somewhat arbitrary social constructs and that shifting patterns of motivation and behavior are a natural function of a world that itself is changing rapidly. Furthermore, people’s notion of any given generation is based on stereotyping, subjective perception and untested assumptions.

Millennials, aka Generation Y, are the fastest-growing organizational population globally. Yet how much do business leaders understand about them beyond general perceptions, and what are these perceptions based upon? Are there any empirical data to validate or challenge these assumptions?

One thing is certain – the environment in which people grow up influences their expectations and behavioral norms and, consequently, how they categorize and interpret the behaviors of others. People tend to measure performance relative to their own expectations, and this alone is an important consideration when evaluating generational differences.

In an attempt to provide more factual, specific and measurable information on the topic, Management Research Group conducted a global study of generational differences involving over 23,000 leaders across Europe, North America and Asia- Pacific. The aim of the study was to move beyond the general mythology of generational differences and to identify the exact ways in which motivational characteristics vary.


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