Understanding ‘Generation Y’ In The UAE

CEO of Ashridge Business School, Kai Peters, discusses why Generation Y may prove lazier than Generation X

First came the baby boomers, then Generation X. And now a new generation, born between 1982 and 2002, is entering the workforce in increasing numbers.

Referred to as Generation Y, this cohort has some specific values and attitudes which sets it apart from previous generations. Values are largely influenced by history and society. In China, for example, the one-child policy was introduced in 1979 so that a Generation Y member has two parents and four grandparents watching over them in the same period that China moved to a market-oriented economy.

In the Emirates, Generation Y has also grown up within a booming economy and in a society that is balancing traditional and international values. Ashridge research has found that socially Gen Y respects tradition, is very family-oriented and is conservative. In the workplace, however, attitudes are much more international.

In a number of international surveys, which included respondents from both Europe and the Middle East, Ashridge questioned both Gen Y graduates and employers about their attitudes to issues of leadership, management, promotion, reward, security, development and work life balance.

Overall, graduates from all regions reported that they sought challenging and interesting work, high salaries and very fast career advancement. 45 per cent said they felt their salaries were too low; 30 per cent said that their status was too low. While graduates believed that their employers should provide them with job security, 57 per cent of graduates indicated that they intended to leave within two years.

In terms of what they were looking, from their bosses, many were not finding what they hoped for. 32 per cent said they were unhappy with the performance of their boss who did not provide the respect, listening and support for career progression they expected.

The Ashridge research also looked at the other side of the equation and asked bosses what they thought of Generation Y. While acknowledging their international outlook and related happiness to use technology, managers thought that Gen Y needed to learn and develop before being in a position to ask for promotion or significant salary increases. Managers thought that providing regular feedback about performance and setting clear work objectives were most important.

In the minds of the managers, this presents a challenge as they believe that Gen Y is perhaps a little too interested in work-life balance rather than in work.

A further present study is underway which is looking specifically at the Emirates. The overall goal is to look at whether there are differences in attitude between Emiratis and international staff in the region, and secondly, whether there are different attitudes between male and female respondents. The first phase of this research has involved a range of interviews with employers. The second, presently being conducted, involves a broad survey of Generation Y members across the region.

From the interviews with employers, it has become clear that there is a genuine desire to better understand the overall plans of Gen Y. There is an ongoing concern about how to continue to develop the Emirati economy away from a reliance on fossil fuels and more towards a knowledge and service economy.

In the minds of the managers, this presents a challenge as they believe that Gen Y is perhaps a little too interested in work-life balance rather than in work. Managers are questioning whether this is because of the ages of Gen Y and whether this will change as more get into their thirties or whether this is a genuine change in attitude. Only time, and the forthcoming research project involving Gen Y themselves, will tell.
For more information about Generation Y research and Ashridge Business School, visit www.ashridge.org.uk.