Five things millennials expect from work in the Middle East

Written by
Henrik Bresman

10 Aug 2017

10 Aug 2017 • by Henrik Bresman

As millennials increasingly assume leadership positions around the world, organisations are becoming more concerned with how to ensure their success. However, most existing research on those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s is skewed towards understanding what a narrow, typically Western, population wants. Conclusions based on such a limited sample could lead to poor decisions (and missed opportunities) around attracting, retaining, and developing millennial leaders in a global business environment.
This is why companies and managers need to take regional differences into account.

What matters to an Emirati millennial might differ from what is important to a Brazilian millennial, which, in turn, differs from what matters to an American millennial. But while it’s important to understand what’s valued in a particular culture, remember that people vary greatly within cultures. If there is one thing we know about millennials globally, it is that they want to be treated as individuals.

Managers as role models

In the Middle East, 30% of millennials value managers who act as role models, while just 12-13% prefer managers who empower employees by giving them goal-oriented work. A successful manager in the Middle East will lead by example to inspire employees, setting transparent performance criteria and fair evaluations.

Since millennials place high importance on learning new things and career success, they expect managers to be experts who can demonstrate knowledge and critical skills in their field, with technical expertise being relatively less important compared to other values.

Jobs that match their personalities

Middle Eastern millennials’ chief concerns regarding their future working life include finding a job that matches their personality. They fear a lack of opportunities for growth and not reaching their professional goals.

Recruiters must devise millennial-targeted strategies based on country-level research plus the preferences of professional cohorts. Employers should provide needs-based training. Millennials in the region have specific views when it comes to their retirement, with 40% expecting to retire in their 60s.

Family support for career choices

Societal factors affect career choices. Middle Eastern millennials are driven and determined, neither exclusively reliant on, nor completely independent of, their family’s involvement.

While just 6% said their parents were very involved in their career decisions, 30 -35% strongly agreed that family is a key source of support. Less than 10% said friends’ opinions strongly impacted decisions.

Millennials in this region think very differently about the relative power of institutions versus individuals to influence society: 42% chose the private sector as having the strongest influence; 27% chose government.

High earnings over power

High earnings stands out as the most dominant ambition (36% globally). Half of respondents from the Middle East chose this as an aim, compared with 17% of Africans.

Middle Eastern millennials are typically less open to experiencing stress and hard work to reach leadership positions. The opportunity to influence an organisation was chosen as a goal by nearly half of those in Central/Eastern Europe, and 41% of those in North America but by only a quarter of those in APAC countries and the Middle East.

Emphasis on work/life balance

Despite millennials’ interest in work-life balance, twothirds of respondents globally (64%) said they were willing to work harder/accept stress for a shot at leadership. Only in the Middle East did this represent less than half of respondents (46%). Spending time with family was the key priority overall, but for millennials in the Middle East this was less important than growing/being successful. In the UAE, millennials were most likely to desire a successful career (67%), though 42% want to work to better society.