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New graduates embarking on their careers are redefining the modern workplace, according to a new global report from CEMS, the Global Alliance in Management Education. Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is the only member university in the Netherlands with its MSc International Management / CEMS programme. The report finds that master graduates enjoy office life, are attracted by companies that value a sense of community, and want a fluid work schedule for their careers, which they see as a journey of stepping stones, not a predetermined path.

The recent report from CEMS, The Future-Forward Workforce reveals three main conclusions from  leading employers and what they are doing in response to the demands and desires of young professionals in the new world of work. CEMS aims to develop high-quality graduates with a well-developed global mindset, in preparation for an international career in business. 

  • It reveals that this generation is shunning the traditional 9–5 workday in favour of more fluid schedules, dictated by demand rather than tradition. They are happy to work outside of traditional office hours if their employer is flexible in return. Contrary to popular opinion, the office isn't obsolete for these graduates; it's a cornerstone of community building and professional growth.
  • They are also open to committing long-term to a single company, provided the right conditions are met, such as challenging roles, growth opportunities, and a responsive company culture.
  • For these graduates, careers are a series of stepping stones, not a predetermined path. Long-term plans are replaced by a focus on the next decade – a recognition of the world's fluidity and unpredictability.

Adaptability reigns supreme

The report includes sets of recommendations for employers, educators and young professionals.

Its findings are drawn from a quantitative survey of recent CEMS graduates worldwide, complemented by in-depth interviews that looked deeper into the perspectives of these young professionals. More than 1,300 graduates join the 21,000 strong CEMS global alumni network each year.

The report also taps into the opinions of senior experts from among the 70 CEMS Corporate Partners and 33 business school partners around the world. The report gathers their opinions on the issues raised and discuss how they are adapting their practices and teachings to attract and retain top talent.

Competency based education

René Olie, Academic Director of the International Management/CEMS programme at RSM, said: “From the forefront of business education, the report clearly shows what will become more and more important for educators and companies. What I find particularly encouraging is the strong awareness and commitment to purpose and positive change among the new generation. This idea aligns very well with the mission of our school and we try to integrate this in our programme as much as possible. Another element that is stressed in the report is the need for lifelong learning and competencies like collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Competency-based education around these three competencies has now become a central building block in our IM/CEMS programme.”

A workforce ready to embrace change

Nicole de Fontaines, Executive Director of CEMS, commented, "These insights from our CEMS graduates reveal a workforce ready to embrace change, driven by purpose, and eager to balance work with personal growth. While of course we cannot speak for every graduate, these perspectives can offer valuable guidance for companies aiming to recruit and retain top young talent."

“At a time where adaptability reigns supreme, the exchange of insights and experiences becomes more invaluable than ever. For students, early exposure to the expectations and demands of the corporate world is essential. Equally vital is the readiness of businesses to embrace the fresh perspectives and dynamic energy of these young individuals, who are navigating a reality that is markedly different from their predecessors.

Employers embrace new ideas

Employers are embracing the new ideas that graduates bring with them. Susanne Iser, Director Strategic Recruitment & Talent Acquisition at Beiersdorf AG, a CEMS Corporate Partner and contributor to the report said: “I have a super positive attitude to the new generation in the workplace.  I think they bring a freshness and new and healthy ideas about the world of work.  They have a more holistic work concept, looking at work as an integral part of life.  They are courageous, they know what they want and can articulate it. They have trust in themselves and have worked hard to ensure they can make the most of their education. For companies the learning is that we must listen to what they want, if we don’t, they will move on, with no hard feelings.”

Enjoying purposeful work

There’s a balance to be found, say employers, in order to keep the business operating profitably. Francesca Morichini, Chief HR Officer at Amplifon, who also contributed to the report, said: “Young people are clear they want to find purposeful work and enjoy it. Having an impact on their community is very welcome and helps us know what we need to do to engage with them. However, it is important to balance needs and wants with an understanding of the requirements of the business. There are some actions, contents, or ways of working that are required to make the business work and perform.”

“The desire to be valued and heard is something we perceive very strongly in our young people and it’s critical for us to build this into our culture. We value young people who want to share, speak up and have an opinion independently of their seniority. Having a bold and empowered workforce can only help the organization.”

Creating leaders in a changing work environment

Leonard Bussee, President of CEMS Student Board and RSM student, said:

"I am proud to be a future CEMS graduate and, more so, take pride in the community I represent. What transpires from the report is that our programme manages to create transformational and emboldened leaders who look towards the future with clear vision. They recognize the changing work environment and emerge confidently without fear of what might come but rather with unmatched excitement about their ability to shape workplaces suitable for themselves and their peers.

As the report shows, our graduates present incredible potential to the companies that hire them. I am grateful for our Corporate Partners and all companies who realise said potential and challenge our young professionals on providing value for their organisations. The future of work is approaching at a rapid pace and it takes an open exchange about desires and demands from all sides to unlock the full potential of what can be achieved.”

About CEMS – the Global Alliance in Management Education

CEMS is a global alliance with a presence on 6 continents, uniting 33 world leading business schools, more than 70 multinational companies, and 8 NGOs who together deliver the CEMS Master in International Management.

The CEMS MIM is a pre-experience joint masters programme.  On graduation students will have studied at two Alliance schools, taken part in a business project with a corporate partner and speak three languages. Students develop a global mindset, cross-cultural competence and leadership skills through a combination of coursework, international exchange, and internship opportunities and graduate with a Masters degree from their home school as well as the CEMS MIM.

The CEMS community is committed to the idea that the leaders who will be best prepared for the future will be free and unafraid in an uncertain world, will be humane citizens who can engage fully and think independently, and will contribute to a more open, sustainable, and inclusive world.

For 35 years CEMS has led the way in the development of global management education. Through its unique blend of academic rigor, strategic corporate collaborations, and a commitment to ethical and socially responsible leadership, CEMS prepares the next generation of leaders who resolve to understand deeply the complexities of our time and who are eager to confront global business challenges and opportunities with humility and integrity.

Each year more than 1,300 graduates join our 21,000 strong global alumni network.

For further information contact  (+44) 4714 407060

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers.


For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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