FAQ Generations


Frequently Asked Questions for users of the KPMG-THT Generations for Business app.

The Generations for Business app is intended to provide a framework to develop an understanding of how managers and employees of different generations and ages approach working in business. Other apps in our series deal with national differences, gender as well as functional and corporate cultures.
This app is intended to include tips for communication, management, conflict handling, motivating, education and training. It is based on the Fons Trompenaars’ Seven Dimension of Culture model, and is underpinned by research data collected from over 140,000 respondents spanning different generations across the world.
You are also invited to consult our publications and other online materials for more in-depth explanations and analysis. (see www.thtconsulting.com)

1) What does my profile/score indicate?

How you have described yourself in terms of your values orientations on each particular cultural dimension distinguishing different generations.
The rating you have given yourself is reflective of how you see a situation involving opposing values.
The nearer you are to the extreme of one side or the other, the more you adhere to that orientation.

2) Why are the reference profiles of several generations similar on some dimensions, even though the generations are different?

First note that small spatial differences (as shown on the dimension bars are in fact (statistically) different.
And a similar score may result from or in differences in business practice. (see Q3 etc).
Generally, what is important is which side of the dimension are you to the reference generation. Are you more rule based or more relationship based for example? This will give you the best way of comparing yourself with the other generation.
Because the profile is based on the ‘Seven Dimensions of Culture’ (two for ‘time’ making a total of eight dimension bars) this helps distinguish one generation from another. Although some dimension scores may be close together/similar, there will be others where the scores differ. The graphic is drawn with the largest differences at the top which explains the greater generational variety and should help you identify the business practices that differ most.

3) When is stereotyping ok? When is it not ok?

Everyone stereotypes. We like to think of people in terms of nationality, ethnicity, gender, etc.
However, it is important to understand that stereotypes become problems when they lead to misunderstandings but they are helpful to capture an overview provided you remain aware that they are only stereotypes.
There is overlap between all generations – such as the Millennials and Generation Z, yet there are characteristics Millennials do not share with the Generation Z.

4) Does a profile/score indicate that everyone of a particular generation is the same? My profile is not the same as my generation stereotype?

No obviously, not everyone of a generation is the same. The app Is not intended to stereotype generations and indicate whether any orientation is better or worse than any other – they are simply differences, all equally valid.

Profiles indicate the most frequent orientation from respondents selecting a particular answer or range of answers.

Some populations are more homogeneous than others.

The ‘acid test’ is not just accuracy of any profile, but how well the dimensions model helps you understand your own generational orientations, how others differ, and how well it informs the way you can do business more effectively.
Remember the database profiles are based on cultural behaviors to business and managing. So your experiences when spending time socially and interacting with other generations (such as on vacation) may be different.

5) If my results indicate I am a universalist (rule based), does that mean I am a universalist (relationship based) in all situations?

No, but it does represent your tendency in a particular situation.
People may tend to hold values for rules in some situations, and relationships in other situations.
In most cases, a person whose score indicates rule based (universalism) will hold values tending toward universalism, even though he/she may respond more toward relationships (particularism) in some instances. What is important is to understand the concept (of each dimension) and how it relates to business practice.
Remember that dimensions represent dynamic tensions between opposites.

6) How does gender and functional interest influence cultural orientations?

Gender and functional discipline are other sources of cultural diversity – see our publications and other apps in our series.
Functional areas, profession, location, and position in the organization are also influences and are explored in our Corporate Culture app.
Obviously a single orientation (for any one dimension) does not take account of age, gender, or diversity due to ethnicity for example – Our databases have extensive data on these details – see our web site and publications.

7) What are cultural dilemmas?

Cultural dilemmas are present when seemingly opposed values are held by stakeholders.
Cultural dilemmas have cultural values dimensions involved, such as achievement (what you do) versus ascription (who you are).
Dilemmas can be observed in situations such as meetings, supervision, negotiations, etc.

8) Are the results and recommendations presented in this app based on reliable and valid methods?

Yes, it is based on 20 years of cultural data collected from 140,000 plus managers in over 100 countries and across all age categories. And has been the subject of critical and extensive statistical testing and validation.
See our web site and publications some of which are specifically concerned with the reliability and validity of the methodologies and data analysis.
The shorter generations survey within the app to determine your own orientation, is sufficient to give you an introduction to the concepts and for the system to select advice relevant to you. A more accurate and comprehensive personal profile is available from our Intercultural Awareness profiler (IAP).

9) Is it possible to change one’s cultural values over time?

Values are formed from socialization and experiences in a person’s life.
Values are possible to change but it is not an easy process.
The degree of change is itself culturally and generation specific. Generations that are more rule-oriented and internally controlled change less (as might be expected). Where individuals change, it is often towards the center of the dimensions as they become more cognizant of cultural differences.
In general, a person will respond to situations based on values, however, if the context does not accept those values, the person may be observed to publicly respond according to the context.
When relocating to another country/culture, there is a tension between acculturation (changing to fit in to the new culture) and retaining one’s own ethnic diversity.

10) How can I develop my inter-generational competence?

There are four steps involved in developing transgenerational competence:-
Learn to recognize, respect, reconcile, and realize cultural differences as they exist between generations. And therefore avoid embarrassment, accept other generations right to self-determination, communicate more effectively, use value differences in business to competitive advantage, and finally implement and deliver the benefits of diversity.
See our ICP intercultural Competence Profiler which is designed specifically to facilitate such personal development.

11) What is the effect of national culture on generation?

This is indeed a complex situation. We know that across cultures the role of generations can be quite different like the respect for elder in China and for young people in the US. We have looked at value orientations that hold across national boundaries. Also we need to take into consideration that some stereotypes between generations might be bigger in some nations and other quite smaller.

12) Are cultures converging as the world becomes more global?

Although mass media, transportation, and the global economy have brought many cultures into contact with others, most cultures of the world have retained their core values.
Corporations may influence how people in their organization behave in the workplace in different regions of the world.
However, national and regional cultures are slow to change. If there is change, it is more toward polarization of belief and values based on religion, economic development, and political philosophy.
McDonald’s may operate in many areas of the world, but what meaning locals give to eating at
that fast food chain in influence by the local cultural values.
The same applies to generations with the use of internet and social media.

13) Is universalism(rule based) in one generation the same as universalism (relationship based) in another? For example, the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are both given as rule based (universalistic)?

The value for rules is essentially based on the same concept.
However, in some situations the “rules” may be observed differently.
For Baby Boomers, the use of lawyers and litigation is commonplace. For Traditionalist, universalism is practiced somewhat differently because the word is trusted and respected.

14) Are generation characteristics consistent across functions? For example, can Millennials be rule based (universalistic) as far as production is concerned but relationship based (particularistic) in marketing?

Yes, functional units and professions such as engineering, accounting, and marketing can be observed to hold different, even competing values within the same corporation.
However, this is due mainly to employees who have opted in their career choices. Thus people with a stronger sense of standardization may become accountants because it satisfies their belief systems. Other candidates may opt to work in marketing where they can exploit their orientation to be more particular or externally controlled for example.

15) Do different academic disciplines view and explain generation differences in the same way?

The disciplines who study and write about culture can be observed to hold different cultural orientations which influence how they fundamentally see culture. For example, younger psychologists from the USA have more single-tasking attitudes than the older ones. .
Research on motivation conducted by psychologists and management researchers has been found to reflect the bias of the country and generation in which the studies were undertaken and age of the researchers. Individualism and achievement have often been cited as influential in motivation. However, in cultures holding communitarian and ascriptive values that may not be to the same degree.

16) Is it possible to have different ratings on a dimension due to my responses to different questions?

Yes. You may receive a different profile rating when responding to two different questions, even if the two questions are used to measure the same cultural dimension.

17) Why is understanding a particular generation important?

When conducting business in situations with individuals of a different generation, there is a big risk that confusion and misunderstanding will take place and conflict can even arise.
Having a fundamental understanding of a particular generation provides you with the potential to adapt to diverse situations.
Ultimately, you need to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, ensure cross-communication is effective, reconcile these differences and realize the business benefits of different points of view.

18) Is there a best answer to the generation survey questions?

There are no best answers, all orientations are equally valid and are intended just to illustrate differences in points of view. It is important to recognize and respect opposite values and your own position of cultural relativity.