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Carina Paine Schofield

Ashridge Business School

Research Fellow

Read more about Carina Paine Schofield

Motivating millennials in the Middle East


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One of the biggest issues facing executives today is the need to build a global leadership pipeline and there are critical differences in leadership characteristics around the world that can impact on this ambition.

Cross-cultural understanding is important for any international business person or organisation when doing business abroad, and cultural differences in business practice mean that managers can face challenges when doing business in the Middle East.

With a young demographic, there is a high number of ambitious young professionals working in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and new Ashridge research suggests that leaders need to be better prepared to create a work environment that enables young Gulf nationals to thrive. 

At the same time, GCC workplaces are often multi-cultural, multi-generational environments where there are still many older, experienced managers. Organisations are challenged both to develop their Generation Y employees (those aged 30 years and under) and simultaneously address issues around an ageing workforce .

Our research report A New Generation: The Success of Generation Y in GCC Countries, based on a survey of 300 local Gen Y employees across the six GCC countries, shows that the Gen Y workforce is exceptionally motivated, keen to hone their knowledge and enhance their qualifications to achieve success.

It also stresses the need to increase Gen Y’s levels of experience and develop their soft skills to effectively work with and lead others.

The study reveals a notable mismatch between how Gen Y is currently managed and the way that they want to be managed.

Gen Y prefers managers who are ‘visionary’ and ‘democratic’, rather than ‘commanding’. The traditional command and control approach to management where people are told what to do and how to do it, is rapidly becoming less effective and outdated.

Practical steps HR professionals and employers can take to harness the desire to succeed to engage and empower Gen Y employees:

  • Ensure that managers can develop capability to flex their style. Support leaders who are being challenged to change and adopt more visionary and democratic styles by offering developmental opportunities
  • Offer continued professional development programmes to employees at an early stage in their career, particularly around leadership development and people skills programmes to nurture future leaders
  • Provide formally-recognised qualifications and access to high-quality, structured training to up skill, develop and retain staff
  • Consider what career success means for Gen Y, and develop a more personalised approach towards talent development and retention
  • Develop the ability to share talents between generations and facilitate collaboration through coaching, mentoring and stretch-projects.

Organisations can benefit from the demographic diversity in GCC countries by better understanding different perspectives, developing the ability of generations to share talents and facilitating collaboration.

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

Author Profile Picture
Carina Paine Schofield

Research Fellow

Read more from Carina Paine Schofield

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