What Are Different Generations Like in Different Countries?
In a majority of sessions, a participant will ask the question as to relationship between cultures and generations, wondering if the n-gen perspective is North American focused. Does it apply to other countries? It is a common question around which we have built a multitude of responses in the last 12 years. However, I thought it would be interesting to discuss two perspectives, as we are about to facilitate a session in Amsterdam for a client with at least 8 different European countries in the room.
The Multigenerational Workforce of North America
Clearly, when n-gen delivers sessions in the USA or Canada, the perspective and stories we tell are within a North American perspective. However, many of the life-defining events that shaped Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys were global events, so the impact of events in other parts of the world impact the values, behaviours and expectations of North American cohorts and vice-versa. More importantly, while our workplaces are comprised on multi-cultural colleagues who may be new or first generation immigrants, the cultures are based on the values, behaviours and expectations of long-standing US and Canadian generations. So it is important for all to recognize what the features are of the dominant culture in order to understand how to be able to change or navigate within it.
So what about the rest of the world?
We have worked over the years globally, most specifically with a technology company that has offices in more than 200 countries. We have trained managers and, in particular, early in career sales representatives and systems engineers. While we may slightly modify the approach to our content, there are some underlying constants globally.
- Inter-generational conflicts arise, whether in China, India, Ecuador, Brazil, Germany or the UK, in the workplace there are judgments made by experienced workers about younger workers. Gen Ys often feel like the organizations they work in are antiquated and inefficient. What is interesting is that the frustration points are conceptually often the same around the world. The life-defining events that bind a cohort together might be different and the age ranges might vary by a few years, depending on the country, however, the concept of generational models creating differences in the workplace remains consistent.
- With globalization, the differences across cultures is becoming less broad in the way the younger generations view the workplace and the expectations that they have. The globe is shrinking – connectivity between different countries and groups of people is ever increasing. Social movements often become global movements, with like-minded people around the world advocating for the same thing in each of their respective countries. This has caused Gen Ys, in particular, to have similar perspectives and expectations globally.
So regardless of where you are working, either within a multi-cultural company or across a multi-national company, culture and generations intersect.