Benefits and Compensation

Generational Differences at Work Abroad

Yesterday, we got some interesting insights from Jacque Vilet, president of international consulting firm Vilet International, on workplace compensation issues outside the United States. Today, her take on intergenerational differences at work—and some words of wisdom if you’re thinking about launching an overseas location.

[Click here for yesterday’s installment.]

BLR®: So the war for talent is raging worldwide. What other workforce issues do you see overseas that are similar to what we see here?

Vilet: Besides understanding the overall business strategy and the kinds of things that attract an overall workforce in each country, a compensation person also needs to know what appeals to the different generations in their workforces.

BLR: Are you saying that generational differences exist outside the borders of the United States?

Vilet: Absolutely. These differences between the generations arise from historical or cultural events that happen in each country and how those shape the attitudes and values there. Let’s take Japan. Their Generation Y (Gen Y) was born between 1995 and 2000. This generation grew up during a lengthy economic decline beginning in 1990.

They experienced massive layoffs during their preemployment years. The tradition of lifetime employment and the loyal corporation evaporated. Unlike their parents, they are more risk averse and less ambitious. Job security is their primary concern and definitely affects what they look for in an employer.

Gen Y in other countries has experienced other kinds of events, so their attitudes are different from Gen Y in Japan. It is important for companies to understand this and how it will impact the types of compensation they put in place in various countries.


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BLR: What’s your advice for a company opening an overseas location?

Vilet: I would recommend learning as much as possible about the location. I would try to find out if there are any local labor or employment laws, representative parties (labor unions), or cultural issues that impact compensation and benefits; if there are competitors located nearby and if they are well-known multinationals or lesser-known firms; and the unemployment rate, turnover expectations, and availability of key talent.

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