Millennials Resist Assignments to China, India

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There is a troubling mismatch between the talent needs of emerging markets and the desires and expectations of Millennials, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The PwC report Talent Mobility: 2020 and beyond, based on data from 900-plus global companies, predicts that the number of workers taking on global assignments will increase by 50 percent by 2020 and that companies will need to carefully manage global mobility to respond to skills shortages, changing business needs and employee preferences.

Only 30 percent of the companies reviewed said they have the talent they need to fulfill their growth ambitions.

Organizations realize that mobility opportunities are a key element in attracting, retaining, developing and engaging talent. “The Millennial generation, which will form the majority of the workforce by 2020, has particular characteristics that employers can’t afford to ignore,” the report said. “They expect to burn through a number of employers during their career, and they’re looking for job satisfaction, fulfillment and fast career progression. Their focus is on interest and opportunity rather than on monetary awards.”

The report revealed that while 71 percent of Generation Y workers said they want—and expect—an overseas assignment during their career, only 11 percent are willing to work in India, and only 2 percent in mainland China. This could be a real headache for global HR departments tasked with persuading staff to relocate to the emerging markets where their talents are most needed.

According to PwC’s HR Monitor survey, 15 percent of organizations were unable to achieve growth forecasts in overseas markets because of talent constraints. This led nearly two-thirds of the 1,400 senior HR executives to change their approach to global mobility, PwC said.

Carol Stubbings, U.K. international assignment services leader at PwC, added: “It is great news for employers that the next generation of workers wants to work abroad, but the issue will come when trying to align employees’ expectations and companies’ needs and growth prospects. Companies are likely to need workers to go to fast-growing emerging economies and new urban hot spots, rather than the more popular and developed locations favored by graduates.”

When asked where they would most like to work, Millennials placed the U.S. (58 percent), the U.K. (48 percent) and Australia (39 percent) at the top of their wish list.

The rest of the top 20 favored destinations, in descending order: Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Belgium.

One solution to the problem of finding people willing to go to emerging-market nations may be to offer workers shorter overseas assignments and pursue “extra-long-distance, cross-continental commuting,” PwC said.

This shift is already occurring.

According to the research, only 1 percent of cross-border assignees are completing traditional three- to five-year assignments in another country and then returning home. The number of mobile workers, including long-distance commuters (who spend a week or two at a time in another country), has increased and now accounts for around 8 percent of the working population. The research found that the average duration of a posting has dropped to 18 months.

“It is cheaper for companies to invest in short-term contracts than to relocate staff, and it reduces paperwork and stress caused by increasingly stringent migrant requirements in most countries,” PwC said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him at @SHRMRoy

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