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Understanding a Misunderstood Generation


15 min read
9 take-aways
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What's inside?

Born between 1984 and 1996, millennials will soon occupy every important position in the world.

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  • Analytical
  • Eye Opening
  • Overview


Older generations have watched millennials grow up with the internet in their pockets and their private lives online. Do the youngsters really differ from past generations as much as older folks like to believe? Which characteristics really define the crowd born between 1984 and 1996, and how will the world of work change to accommodate them? Universum joined forces with INSEAD, the Emerging Markets Institute and the HEAD Foundation to reality-test common stereotypes in a thorough study and to suggest ways to accommodate millennials in the modern workplace. The result is a more diverse and even-handed look at this much-maligned generation. Anyone holding stereotypes or open questions about millennials may find the analysis useful.


Profound differences distinguish millennials in different regions and countries; they aren’t a homogeneous group.

Millennials have a reputation for being self-absorbed, obsessed with leisure time and having exaggerated career expectations. So how would a manager go about employing and motivating them? Between May and August 2014, INSEAD and Universum researchers interviewed 16,637 millennials (then 18- to 30-year-olds) from 43 countries to find out whether common stereotypes about millennials hold across the world and across the different age cohorts within this generation. Millennials differed significantly – depending on where they lived, what type of work they aspired, and whether they were older or younger and male or female. And yet, the study unveiled some commonalities.

True to common stereotypes, millennials across the world are eager to lead and want swift career advancement.

More than 70% of millennials worldwide expressed an interest in managerial and leadership positions, with 60% reporting that they value frequent promotions. The trend was most marked in Africa, where 84% of participants expressed...

About the Authors

Universum gathers and analyzes data from universities, alumni groups, and other professional organizations in 60 countries and advises employers that want to attract and retain top personnel through employer branding. To create this report, Universum joined forces with the Emerging Markets Institute, the INSEAD graduate business school and The HEAD Foundation – a think-tank that focuses on issues around human capital, education, leadership and sustainability.

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