WHATEVER label you use — the millennial generation, Generation Y or the ken lao zu generation — these young people are the leaders of tomorrow’s business world.

But a survey of 1,341 people by recruitment agency Hays reveals that in the workforce, Generation Y employees — the future of our skilled workforce — are not too dissimilar to the remainder of the working population.

Of those surveyed, 35 per cent of respondents were from China, 13 per cent were from Hong Kong and 52 per cent were from Singapore.

The survey compares the views of Generation Y, Generation X and baby boomers across Asia towards workplace issues such as expected tenure, flexible work schedules, preferred management style and ideal employers.

The aim was to paint a picture of Generation Y — generally defined as those born between the late 1970s and mid 1990s — and compare this view with that of the remainder of the working population.

Generation gaps

The survey results reveal that one of the biggest differences between the generations involves loyalty.

Loyalty within Generation Y is best achieved through career progression opportunities, while for Generation X, it is achieved through ongoing learning opportunities. For baby boomers, work-life balance is the key to their loyalty.

Another point of difference surrounds average expected tenure, which increases with age.

The importance of a company’s reputation when deciding to accept or reject a job offer is another key differentiator.

A company’s reputation is essential to a Generation X candidate joining the organisation. But while it is desirable for baby boomers and Generation Y candidates, it isn’t as essential.

Work-life balance

The research found several areas in which the generations agree.

When asked for their view on flexible work schedules, such as telecommuting and flexible hours, the generations said flexible options are preferred but not essential.

But when asked what is most important to their future, work-life balance becomes a priority. Work-life balance was also the key for baby boomers’ loyalty.

The generations also agree a job that is enjoyable and meaningful is more important than a job that pays well or is exciting.

All three generations want to be managed in a democratic fashion, and while all agree recognition and promotion should be based on merit, the percentage of respondents who feel it should be based on tenure increases with youth, from 4 per cent of baby boomers to 13 per cent of Generation Y.

Regardless of age, all respondents would like an overseas assignment.

More than nine out of 10 people from all three generations would prefer to work for a global company with better opportunities for overseas assignments, perhaps because of the value employers place on international experience.

The survey reveals that:

* 57.9 per cent of Generation Y expects to stay with an employer for between three to four years; 42.4 per cent of Generation X and 54.5 per cent of baby boomers expect to stay over five years.

* 42.8 per cent of Generation Y expects to change careers in their lifetime more than three times. This increases to 57.1 per cent of Generation X and 65.9 per cent of baby boomers.

* 34.6 per cent of Generation Y said career progression makes them most loyal to an employer, followed by ongoing learning and development (33.3 per cent). For Generation X, it is ongoing learning and development (28.2 per cent), then career progression (22.6 per cent). For baby boomers, it is work-life balance (25.0 per cent) then stability of employment (22.7 per cent).

* 66.7 per cent of Generation Y, 63.3 per cent of Generation X and 79.5 per cent of baby boomers say a job that is enjoyable and meaningful is more important than a job that is exciting or that pays well.

* When asked what they consider most important in their future, 38.4 per cent of Generation Y, 35 per cent of Generation X and 36.4 per cent of baby boomers said it was work-life balance, ahead of career satisfaction and financial freedom.

* 60.4 per cent of Generation Y, 64.4 per cent of Generation X and 65.9 per cent of baby boomers say flexible work schedules are preferred, but not essential.

* 97.5 per cent of Generation Y, 94.9 per cent of Generation X and 90.9 per cent of baby boomers would prefer to work for a global company with better opportunities for overseas assignments.

Ideal employers

The survey also revealed interesting information about employer choice. Google is Generation Y’s ideal employer.

Also ranking highly were Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Shell, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, ExxonMobil and GE.

Generation X named Shell, then ExxonMobil, Chevron and Microsoft as their ideal employers.

For baby boomers, Chevron was their ideal employer, followed by Bechtel, Worley Parsons, ExxonMobil, HSBC, Apple and ConocoPhillips.