Strathclyde Dialogues – Generation Y: Myth or Reality

Alex Davda presents at the Strathclyde Dialogues

'Thought provoking', 'informative', and 'a great mix of speakers who brought different perspectives to the debate' were some of the comments made by participants attending the first Strathclyde Dialogues of the 2014-15 academic year, which was held at SBS Abu Dhabi on October 14.

'Generation Y: Myth or Reality?' was the topic of this Strathclyde Dialogues and the event attracted a broad cross-section of the local academic and business community, especially Human Resources and Learning & Development professionals, plus a good turnout of Strathclyde Business School alumni and students.

Following a dynamic initial networking session, the first of the four invited panel speakers, Dr Andrew Lee, CEO and Founder of BBD Solutions kicked off the Dialogues. Dr Lee's dynamic audio-visual presentation and a series of mini cases provided the audience with an insight into the unique characteristics of Generation Y. Reflecting on the fact that by 2017 Millennials will have more spending power than any other age group, Dr Lee argued that to survive, organisations must adapt to not only attract and retain Gen Y as employees, but also to attract them as customers and consumers.

The next speaker, Dr Payyazhi Jayashree, from the Faculty of Business at the University of Wollongong Dubai, drew on her team’s research into the value orientations of Gen Y UAE nationals. This pioneering research revealed the persistence of traditional values and achievement orientation among UAE national Millennials, and based on this, Dr Jayashree outlined a number of implications for local employers seeking to engage the Emirati Gen Y workforce.

Alex Davda, Business Psychologist and Consultant for Ashridge Middle East, discussed key findings from Ashridge's global and regional research into Gen Y, and shared insights into Gen Ys' workplace preferences, notably with respect to their interactions with managers. From four key themes, Alex argued that Gen Y's lack of experience was the biggest issue that older managers were dealing with, and that Millennials’ preference for managers to act as coach and mentor presented a challenge for organisations with more traditional organisational cultures and hierarchies.

Finally, Dr Hwee Ling Lim, Associate Professor at The Petroleum Institute talked about the unique demographic in the UAE and raised the problem of conceptualising Emirati and expatriate Gen Ys as one homogenous group. Dr Lim's research highlighted distinct differences between UAE nationals and expatriate Millennials with respect to life and work priorities and she revealed how recruitment and retention issues faced by the oil and gas sector could be attributed to shifting priorities among the younger and older cohorts of Generation Y.

After the presentations, the event moved on to a lively extended question and answer discussion between the panel and the audience, followed by more informal networking.

Reflecting after the event, Strathclyde Dialogues host and SBS Senior Lecturer, Dr Katerina Nicolopoulou commented that the global perspectives and locally-informed research of the panel members, followed by the lively interactions with the audience had offered unique insights into how the characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of Gen Y were shaping the UAE workplace.

The Strathclyde Dialogues series, now in its fourth year, brings together panels of experts who, by exchanging views and perspectives, promote the sharing of knowledge in various fields of contemporary interest globally, and with particular application to the UAE.