Stockholm, SAP, design, and the millenials

I began this post on the plane on the way back from a dark and damp Stockholm.

For the last 2 days  Design Services Team  and my team have been running a workshop with 17 customers. We applied the DLI to try and figure out what makes Millenials tick, and what impact this might have on HR policies, practices and systems.  With all the talk about this new generation, all the assumptions about Facebook, social networking and so on, we felt it vital to do some deeper analysis in the HR context.

Where better than Stockholm, home to some of the world’s most online people?

The workshop was kindly hosted by TeliaSonera, in their awesome Vision Center. (This deserves its own post)  An ideal setting, and my deepest thanks to the TeliaSonera HR folks for their support.

On day one the team described the DLI process, and we explored the market research we have done at SAP and elsewhere on Millenials. We then headed out to spend several hours with students from the ultra cool Hyper Island Design and Business School. It was the most impressive learning space I’d ever seen. (This magazine will give you an idea of what they get up to. Thanks to the management for letting us wreck your classes)

We took turns to interview students, with the other two team members taking lots of notes. We explored four key themes. The team I was in looked at the physical workspace requirements.

The next day we interviewed a second set of students, this time from another campus – Uppsula. The students were studying engineering and economics,. This was to act as a counterpoint to the designer  übercoolers we’d met the night before, but the results were remarkably similar. Thanks to all the students, they were really helpful and patient with us oldies.

Then we moved the notes onto post its, with one post it per point. Then we clustered  and synthesised the points by themes. Then we developed light weight persona, storylines, brainstormed and prototyped some high level solutions. It was hard work and rushed, but it was great to see things move from nebulous concept via 100’s of post its into a fairly coherent prototype. We then presented the findings back to the groups. 



This workshop was powerful for a number of reasons.

1. I believe we gave the participants access to a methodology that they could use to explore solutions back in the office.

2. We also gave them some exposure to how the development process at SAP is changing for the better.

3. The Design team received some direct feedback on current customer experience, which they videoed.

4. We realised that we had a whole lot of theoretical assumptions about Millenials that didn’t always stand up to examination of real world users.

What surprised me the most was Facebook, or lack thereof. Far from being the centre of the universe that I’d heard  and expected it to be, almost all the students said it wasn’t a big deal, and they were unlikely to use it professionally. Several were very negative about it, one student even said he’d ban it.  Many said it was a fad, and that they only looked once a week or so to check for parties. There was a richer awareness of privacy issues than I’d expected. 

Social networking clearly has its place with the millenials, but the message we got from the student we interviewed was relatively clear, Facebook isn’t it.  Instant Messaging was much more important, and nothing beats a face to face meeting over a coffee.

So as we think about building systems and processes for this new generation, let’s not forget the role of a good espresso in building a strong business and a great network.

More to follow on this in the next few days.

BTW: The next HR Best Practice meeting will be in Milan, January 30-31. We are focusing on HR analytics, KPIs etc.. Agenda should be out shortly, but if you’d like to know more drop me a note.

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3 thoughts on “Stockholm, SAP, design, and the millenials”

  1. Thomas, great story, what I learned during interviews we did on Potsdam was that many people e.g. in Asia use Xing or LinkedIn, but by no means Facebook. That was an interesting learning for me too.

  2. Tomas, It was a pleasure having you at TeliaSonera! Next time you must come here in the summer, when the climate is more inviting!

    Two comments:

    Personally I was really surprised that most of the students expressed a very strong reliance on personal networks and physical meetings or phone calls as the preferred job search method. Not online search or job brokers’ services. Or is this just “sticky information”; (Knowledge that they are nor aware of themselves) they seemed to be quite aware of a number of company websites and their recruitment tools. Online search is totally un-sexy for them since they have all grown up with internet. They use it but think nothing of it.

    Do we really need to change and build so much for the millennials’ entry on the work arena?
    Or are we just confirming our own anxiety acting as “curling parents” frantically sweeping the ground for our kids?
    The students were a bit annoyed that we oldies think that the professional work arena needs to be adapted for their use. They said “ Do they really think that we cannot/ will not adapt to business life? That’s really part of growing up! We don’t expect the workplace to be a daycare center for grown-ups! ( even though the more creative moments of the workshop were greatly appreciated) ”

    …and a third comment:
    The workshop was fun though and it was very inspiring to interact with experienced colleagues and design experts from many countries!

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