November 13, 2012

Principals Roundtable: Millennials Pose Staffing Quandary

Students gathering around laptops at WOHA's School of the Arts, Singapore. Photo by Patrick Bingham-Hall.

Students gathering around laptops at WOHA’s School of the Arts, Singapore. Photo by Patrick Bingham-Hall.

This is the last in a series of articles that covers the main issues discussed at the recent principals roundtable held by

Interior Design

and IIDA at NeoCon East in Baltimore, Md.

Young staffers joining firms today have a hard time transitioning past a sense of entitlement, which extends to what they expect—and in many cases


—from the places where they work. Many who attended the Principals Roundtable held by

Interior Design

and IIDA strongly agreed that these 20-somethings blithely expect the most advanced technology, the flexibility to work in different spaces outside and inside the office, the ability to work from home and the option to set their own hours.

In a move that’s also impacting how and where companies build, these millennials don’t want the hassle of commuting far to work. This means that companies  are shifting their focus to moving and building closer to areas where their ideal workforce lives and plays.

Question: Would you consider hiring one of your biggest challenges today, especially when it comes to attracting 20-somethings? Respond



“What’s driving a lot of office build today is the whole idea of integrating office and residential to take advantage of the fact that these young people don’t want to spend time commuting,” said one design professional, adding that this trend has helped boost the number of projects.  Yet it’s ironic that the cause of this expansion—these same 20-somethings—is the  reason it is so hard to find the right staff to help cope with the boost in projects.

“There’s definitely a lot of available young people to hire, but not many good people,” said another design executive, who spoke of struggling to come to terms with a younger generation that has been raised on the expectation of success without the benefit of hard work.

Several design executives proceeded to tell anecdotes that illustrated the difference between what they consider today’s “young people” and those who joined the workforce a decade or more ago. From new hires asking for vacation after being on board for only a month to those who barge right into the CEOs office without making an appointment, the overall sense from the group of design professionals was that the younger generation are a lot like clients: They want more (money, amenities and face time) for less (hours, time in office and constraints).

“Young people come in and they don’t want to work 40 hours, they want to work 20… and they don’t want to work in one office, but out of several,” said one principal, adding that they are quick to leave if you don’t accede to their demands.  So not only is it hard to find the right people, but it’s also difficult to keep them.

Question: Do you find retaining employees more difficult today and, if so, what are you doing to keep them? Respond



Nevertheless, at least one design executive welcomed the influx of young staffers in her firm. She said they energize her, make things more efficient and have an amazing technological edge.  “I see these young people bringing a lot to the table,” she said. “They can do it quicker, faster and even better.”

And that, most at the roundtable agreed, is what successful design firms also need to be able to do in today’s highly competitive and fast-paced environment.

First week:

Principals Roundtable: Tighter Fees a Huge Challenge

Second week:

Principals Roundtable: Hospitality Mindset Creates Difficulties, Opportunity

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