25th November 2014
Over recent weeks I have been hearing, reading and seeing a lot about the next generation of workers and what this means for the workspace and life within it. The Y generation, or so called “#millennials” as they are known, are now becoming the new life blood of our workspaces up and down the country and it is clear that this does and will continue to have an impact on our workspaces, particularly for those leading businesses who thrive on continuing to recruit the best talent.
Fuelling the debate on the workplace for the next generation
In the FM industry this debate has taken a variety of forms over recent weeks. In fact, the recent BIFM Women in FM Event on Generation Z took this one step further to look at the next generation of workers who will be entering the workplace over the next 10 years. More recently the future of the workplace was once again put under the microscope for the annual Workplace Week run by AWA and raising money for Children in Need. In addition to the Workplace Convention which featured in our recent blog, the week provided an opportunity to visit some of the UK’s most innovative workspaces and see how businesses and organisations are using their workspace to complement their business cultures and help them to succeed.
A truly creative workspace geared towards the profile and culture of its workforce
As part of this programme, I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Edelman’s UK and European HQ office in central London. As the world’s largest independently owned PR agency and with over half of its work now within the digital and social media fields, Edelman understands the importance of recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent to fuel its business. In fact, with an average age of 26 in this particular office as the Facilities Manager leading the visit pointed out, the idea of creating and maintaining a relaxed, fun and welcoming environment for staff and visitors, was put at the very heart of the team’s approach to the workspace. I was suitably impressed from my initial welcome from the receptionist and due to the lounge style break out space, I was able to relax and easily network with some of the other attendees ahead of the event. I found out later that the business uses the space as a dual space for staff and visitors to meet, mingle, eat and network, not surprisingly, the space also doubled as a great space to host some of the agency’s many renowned events.
As a Generation Xer myself, I was very aware throughout the visit of the average age profile, however the thing that struck me most was that with the lines now so blurred between work and life particularly for those working in the digital and creative fields, the same, if not more creativity is required when designing and managing a workspace for this this type of workforce. In fact no-where have I seen space which is often dead space in the workspace such as walls and windows used more effectively as a platform to share ideas and spur on more creative thinking.
Wider cultural shifts forcing a shift in workplace thinking to support recruitment and retention
A few days following the visit, the reality of this quest for recruiting and retaining the best talent was illustrated in an article I read in a prominent business publication which looked at the impact this shift is having on business. It was reported that the Financial Services industry are now having to re-think their recruitment and retention strategies for the Generation Y group due to the fact that they are not simply driven by financial reward like many of their Generation X colleagues. In fact it was reported that with the realisation that this generation will have many more jobs and roles throughout their career, they are more interested in a career which allows them to maintain that much sought after work-life balance and get a sense of enjoyment from what they do. The millennials are acutely aware that they will move through a variety of roles and businesses and will need to continue to adapt to the ever increasing speed of change throughout their careers. It was also reported that as a result of this, that industries such as Financial Services were now in tough competition with the digital and technology industries to recruit the best talent, and nowhere was this clearer than on this visit.
On reflection, a fellow slightly more senior and highly accomplished Generation Xer I recently met said to me in a conversation reflecting on life and work: ‘positivity breeds positivity’. In this case it was clear that creativity truly does breed creativity and like anything in life, our environment can have a huge impact on what we achieve and how we think. In addition, despite the continued workspace challenge of adapting to changing occupancy levels and an increasingly agile workforce, keeping a sense of fun in a workspace like this is key and thinking differently about how we use space can have real benefits, particularly when it comes to recruiting and retaining the upcoming generations of the workforce. This was summed up for me by an inspiring statement that I saw on the workspace tour: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong”. I’ve since found out that this is a quote from Joseph Chilton Pearce, an American author who studied human and child development and who wrote the book Magical Child (1977). This in itself summed up just why we need to continue to look to the next generation and try new things to get different results and always keep a sense of fun. Nowhere have I seemed this summed up more for a workspace than on this exceptional visit.