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Wicked Problems Explored

Understanding Millennials

The first step to solving a wicked problem is understanding what that problem is. To solve the wicked millennial problem, we must first understand millennials.

We noted in our introductory story that Howe and Strauss coined the term “Millennial” to describe anyone born between 1980 and 2000. In today’s terms, these are people who are now 15-35 years old.  That may seem like a big gap, and if you’re a 35-year old reading this you might think to yourself that “the 22-year-olds I know are nothing like me”, but we’re talking less about how people act and behave, and more about what they value. So, lets dive in:

Millennials care a lot about “doing good.”

Over half of Millennials say they want to make a difference for others, and they identify their “work” as a main space in which to do that.  The workplace, however, hasn’t tuned into meeting this need at all.  Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey found that 75% of Millennials believe their businesses are focused on their own agendas instead of improving society.

Millennials crave external validation and “connection” at work.

They like praise and most of them don’t feel like they’re getting enough of it at work, which is perhaps the quickest and easiest fix.  After all, saying “great work” is completely free to a business or organisation.  To go a step further, 71% say they want their coworkers to be “a second family”.

Millennials value time and experiences above money and stuff.

In fact, a majority of them would prefer more time off than a raise, and believe that their work should be assessed not by how much time they spend at the office (the old adage of more hours = harder worker) but by how much they produce.   Most workplaces – especially large ones – are nowhere near tackling this issue.

Millennials are having authentic experiences through technology.

Make no mistake, the way Millennials interact with technology is perhaps the most important defining trait because it is directly linked to the future of EVERYTHING.  The parents of Millennials go on about “putting away your phone” and experiencing “the real thing.”  Most Millennials have grown up with a screen between them and “reality” for their entire lives.  Immersion video games, likes on Facebook and retweets on Twitter are “real” to them.  Just because older generations don’t get it doesn’t mean it isn’t emotionally and experientially authentic.

Millennials have a lot in common with their grandparent’s generation.

Howe and Strauss see generational value systems as almost cyclical, with Millennials having a great deal in common with people born between 1900 and the mid 1920s, who they call the Greatest Generation. While their experiences in life were obviously very different, what they value – fulfilment, giving back and a sense of community – are certainly traits we think of when thinking about our grandparents.  And because the greatest generation has lived a full life, we can look to them for advice on how to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

AKCGlobal is a multi-generational, multi-cultural, global workforce that loves wicked problems like decoding the values, passions and struggles of an entire generation.  This article is part of a series we’re writing about the Wicked Millennial Workforce Problem.

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