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McCoy-Rockford’s Houston AIA Power Hour - Part 4

McCoy-Rockford’s Houston AIA Power Hour - Part 4

At McCoy-Rockford we’re fascinated to see how design is constantly evolving. Especially in Houston, Texas, our home of 65 years.

We know a lot of people share our passion about design, so we invited some of the best designers and architects in the city to discuss questions about the big design changes, trends, and quandaries we’re seeing in Houston.

In this video from McCoy-Rockford’s Houston AIA Power Hour, seven design experts and architects weigh in on the question:

How do we attract and engage the next generation in the workplace?


“The generation that’s coming, I think, is actually more informed than our generation. And that’s because the information is at their fingertips.”


Marrissa Yu, Prinicpal Director of Interior Architecture at PAGE started off the discussion with impressions formed from her own high school-aged daughter and her peers.

“There’s a certain, I guess stereotype, about this generation that’s coming, that maybe they don’t work as hard. But that’s not really true,” Yu said. “The generation that’s coming, I think, is actually more informed than our generation. And that’s because the information is at their fingertips.”

“When we went to school, we had to learn by memorizing a lot of facts. Well, you don’t have to do that now. So it’s more about really using technology to your advantage,” she explained. “The design schools…are being rewritten now, to gear towards the way that generation works and thinks. We don’t have to be present to necessarily be working productively. So, I think that all kind of translates into the kinds of spaces that are coming out in the workplace.”


"we need to give people a reason to come to work.
Because, you know, you can work anywhere,"


Stephanie Burritt, Managing Director and Principal at Gensler weighed in next.

“I think from a workplace perspective, because of technology, we need to give people a reason to come to work. Because, you know, you can work anywhere, and even from an education perspective…you can learn just about everything online,” Burrit pointed out. “So they give them a reason to come to school. I’m sure our education experts wrestle with that every time. Because there’s so many online offerings for those types of things. We have online working essentially.”

“If we want that generation to come to work, and we do, we want them to be there, we want them to interact, we want them to collaborate because that’s, I think, where the innovation happens. We need to give them a reason for being there."

“We’re trying to create environments…the word ‘Starbucks’ is so overused, but it’s kind of like that environment,” Burritt continued. “Where you bring somebody, where they do want to sit and work, they want to come and have the opportunities for engagement when they want them.”


“As you start looking at them, they are very well prepared for teams."


Kathrin Brunner, Senior VP of HOK, like Yu, started off with what she’s learned about the next generation from her own daughter, who’s studying psychology in college.

“As you start looking at them, they are very well prepared for teams. They want community...from what I see, they want to be engaged,” she said. “And they crave interaction as much as we do. So, my read on this is, that when they say ‘Starbucks’, what it means for me is, we are, instead of really designing the workplace, we are deigning the experience of being, of working, collaborating, learning.”

“They are there to work,” Brunner concluded, “but it is about the community that drives them.”


“This generation might be reminding us of these
things that are quality of life issues…"


“As you start looking at them, they are very well prepared for teams.“There’s a lot of hype behind ‘this new generation.’ I think what’s really changing is technology.” said Brian Malarkey, Interior Architecture Team Leader at Kirksey Architecture.

“I think, who doesn’t like natural light, well-buildings, collaborating, good coffee, excellent amenities. I mean, who doesn’t like that?” He asked. “This generation might be reminding us of these things that are quality of life issues… I don’t think the new generation is that much different in terms of what they want and need. They’re just helping us to define it.”

“I think all of us have a little millennial in us, right?” Stephanie Burritt said, jumping back in to agree with Malarkey. “I often joke that I’m the oldest Millennial in the room. Because I listen to that list of things, and I’m like ‘Yeah! I want those things too!’”


“Because at the end, your culture is your magnet back to your office..."


“So, what can we do, as designers, to reinforce your culture?” asked Filo Castore, Principal for the DLR Group. “Because at the end, your culture is your magnet back to your office...And in order to have the community and engagement, people need to clash, they need to get together. That’s where good ideas come from,” Filo said.

“So, we see, when I interview new hires, no matter the age, is really they want to know, what do you believe in today? It’s not really salary much anymore. Even the older generation. It’s really the new currency is time, and flexibility.”

“What can our clients put on the table to attract those generation of workers? We joke in the office and we say really the new generation, if you want to stereotype again, really they work to travel…if your office, or your company or your clients company allow them to move, that’s where they’re gonna go,” said Castore.


“You don't have to do it the way we've always done it.”


Kristin Ledet, Principal and Director of Interiors at FKP Architects finished off the discussion.

“I think what's really interesting is they are approaching design problems, challenges, and coming up with solutions a little bit differently than we would, and we have to adjust our acceptance of how they are coming to solutions,” Ledet said. “There was an interesting example, a group of physicians that were trialing new technique, for some surgery, and it took you know, eight hours to complete...They brought in a group of students, and they approached it from a gaming device approach. And they finished it in like, two hours.” 

“They’re coming to the table, with the same end result, they're just approaching it differently, and what we're having to tell ourselves as more senior professionals, to allow them that flexibility,” she continued. “You don't have to do it the way we've always done it.”

Key Takeaways:

  • It's more about really using technology to your advantage.
  • Because of technology, we need to give people reason to come to work.
  • Instead of really designing the workplace, we are designing the experience of working, collaborating and learning. It's about being together. It's about community.
  • I don't think the new generation is that different in what they want and need. They're just helping us define it.
  • The new currency is time and flexibility.
  • They're coming to the table with the same end result. They're just approaching it differently. Allow them that flexibility.

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Topics: design in houston, next generation in the workplace

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