Here is a small sample of the stories and developments we are paying attention to these days. It’s our way of helping you stay on top of developments in the worlds of technology, workplace and facilities design, the workforce, and work design—any and all of which are going to affect the future of work, often in ways we can’t even imagine.
Workforce Management magazine is celebrating it’s 90th birthday (that’s not a typo!) by running a series of articles comparing workforce issues in 2012 with those of past generations. This thoughtful article also pays homage to the television series “Mad Men” by reviewing workforce generational challenges of the 1950’s with those of today. Here’s just one provocative observation:
The younger generation [today] also seeks a different type of employer, argues [Neil] Howe [president of consulting firm LifeCourse Associates], who is credited with naming the millennial generation. They're looking for "the perfect employer who will be their ally and take care of them." That reflects a marked change from the nomadic generation they follow, which ushered in terms like "value added" and gravitated toward entrepreneurism. . . . “We're seeing the return of the in-locus-parentus employer,” says Howe.
[Note: free online registration is required to access the full article]
This article appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail in late April. It quotes David Radcliffe, Vice President of Real Estate and Workplace Services at Google, on his goal of creating finding “urban spaces that can be turned into hip headquarters and design[ing] them to spark creativity, play and collaboration.”
It’s no small thing that in this era of mobility and flexible work programs companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook (all based in Silicon Valley) are going out of their way to create corporate offices that their employees want to use regularly. This article helps explain that line of thinking. It may seem counter-culture today, but it’s a perspective well worth understanding.
This thoughtful, extended blog post by Maria Ogneva (Head of Community at Yammer) focuses on work as the intersection of customer, company, and employee. She addresses management and leadership questions in much more detail than physical workplaces, but she does suggest that the company of the future will be characterized by its collaborative workspaces, by a culture of transparency and ubiquitous learning, and more by a common vision than by any “command and control” mentality.
I found this article by Jim Meredith (the founder of Meredith Strategy & Design) to be particularly provocative. Meredith took a close look at the workplaces of two very different companies, Kodak and Instagram. As we all know, Kodak declared bankruptcy in January 2012, in spite of being 132 years old and a recognized leader in the photography industry. At the time of its bankruptcy Kodak had 16,000 employees, down 78% from its peak, and a market capitalization value of $78 million.
In sharp contrast, Instagram, a digital photography startup, is two years old, has 12 employees (that’s right, twelve), and was just acquired by Facebook for $1 billion (that’s right, billion with a “b”).
Meredith is rightly intrigued by the stark contrast; in Part Two of this blog series (Stock and Flow, part two) he asks some very pointed questions about workspace design and the nature of the work that workspaces are supposed to enable and even enhance.
I encourage anyone who cares about work and workplaces to read both parts of this thought piece. Jim Meredith is a very thoughtful architect and work designer.