The Leader Magazine

MAR 2018

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F E A T U R E A R T I C L E 26 MARCH 2018 t H e le A de R and understand the typical life stages that exist uniquely in each organization. i mplications for workplace design If we focus on employees according to their life stages, not their generations, what are the consequences for workplace de- sign? First, flexibility and choice move to the fore. If you're trying to create spaces that engage and empower people who are focused on everything from self-definition to balancing commitments (work, family, community) to workplace stability, environmental versatility is key. Versatility doesn't just mean providing different types of workstations and meeting spaces with various furniture configura- tions. It's a business strategy that must be integrated across human resources, information technology, and operations. t he perils of obsessing about Millennials Because Millennials have been joining the workplace in force over the past 15 years, it's natural for real estate and human resources professionals to focus on them. But, in addition to not being the optimal approach to workplace design, we think this emphasis on Millennials actually presents long-term organizational risks. As we've noted above, the generational focus can obscure the fact that employees have lives, and life experiences influence how people engage at work. Also, fixating on one generational group has the danger of skewing workplace designs, making them more inflexible, and alienating other groups of employees in the process. Consider the latest and greatest tech workplaces. We've all read the articles about the play areas and assortment of social spaces, the themed conference rooms, the gourmet cafeterias, the lavish perks, the design-your-own workstation and work-from- where-you-want approach. There are a lot of good things happening in these spaces, espe- cially all of the flexibility and data-driven elements. There are also limitations. These workplaces are built to recruit, retain, engage and empower two primary kinds of employees: software engineers and ad sales people. They emphasize younger workers – how many 50-year-old software engineers do you know? And, they're designed to capture and keep employees on site. That's fine when workers are primarily young, single and inter- ested in experimenting with their jobs and building a community at work. But what about 20 years from now when these same work- ers are more interested in stability and order and commitments outside of work, such as family and community? How will these spaces work for them? And, can they evolve as their workers do? Conclusion While conducting our research to characterize Millennials, what struck us most was not how different they are from prior generations of young people entering the workplace, but how simi- lar. They seek fulfillment at work, connection to a greater good, and a sense of community and collaboration, just as their parents did at that stage in life. Millennials might be more passionate and outspoken about these values, but those are difference of quantity, not of kind. As Fidelity's Rowe says, "With respect to designing spaces and amenities in the workplace, we observe that most individuals have the same essential priorities. They want places to collaborate, focus and socialize with colleagues. Flexibility and autonomy are universally important. Everyone loves an airy, naturally lit environ- ment. They all want to learn, adapt and perform their best work." Generational definitions can get in the way of this commonality. Even the Millennials' oft-noted familiarity with and immer- sion in communications, media and digital technologies is hardly a unique generational trait. The rise of technology and the speed and ready access to information has impacted everyone, allowing all workers to stay connected like never before, unbounded by location. This is a fundamental change with huge consequences for the future of work. T. Patrick Donnelly, MCR.h, AIA, LEED AP, left, and Dominic Iacobucci, AIA, LEED AP, are both architects, owners, and client leaders with BHDP Architecture, headquartered in Cincinnati, OH.

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