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In attracting and retaining staff, the human factor
is still key. ‘People don’t leave jobs; people leave people’,
says Meg Brown of Perkins + Will. ‘the chemistry has to
be right.’ successful firms are those that develop a vision
both for their business and their people. a strategic
agenda that considers an individual’s potential within a
wider frame of reference when recruiting, promoting or
training is essential in developing and retaining a creative
and energised workforce.
Levels of remuneration continue to be important,
but cannot wholly assuage a wider sense of ambition and
job satisfaction. the prospect of a stimulating workload
and opportunities for personal growth and educational
advancement are also fundamental considerations.
‘Lifetime learning promotes a sense of exploration’, says
Peter ruggiero of HOK. Firms that can encourage and
nurture staff in their wider professional and personal
development through accessible programmes of mentoring
and training are clearly more likely to inculcate loyalty
and a spirit of mutual respect, mitigating the often costly
and disruptive effects of high personnel turnover.
recognition is another important aspect, as despite
the popular perception of the architect as auteur or lone
genius, architecture is an inherently collaborative process,
involving teams of people with different disciplines and
talents. ‘Make sure that your employees at all levels feel
that their time is valued,’ says graham s Wyatt of robert
aM stern architects, ‘that they are making significant
and valued contributions to high-quality projects,
and that they are getting frequent recognition for these
contributions. In short: expect excellence, encourage
excellence, and give recognition to excellence.’
the structure of practice continues to evolve. ‘I grew
up in a working world characterised by formality and set
patterns,’ says gensler’s rob Jernigan. ‘this has been
overtaken by a more fluid work culture.’ the constraints
of geographical boundaries are also no longer relevant.
‘Many firms are now international and this precipitates
new and often more intense ways of working,’ says
scott Mactavish of Bespoke. Despite an increasing
emphasis on the notion of work-life balance, architecture
is still seen as a demanding, long-hours game, reflecting
the commitment and rigour of the profession as a whole.
‘In some ways, it’s a badge of honour,’ says graham s
Wyatt. ‘But we try to mitigate the effects of long hours
by tracking staff time and ensuring they use paid time off.’
In seeking to retain and develop talent, there tends
to be less reliance on hierarchical models of organisation.
Instead, a more inclusive approach can initiate less
experienced staff earlier into key roles. ‘Partnerships are
another way of creating equity, stretching responsibility
and creating the right kind of character’, says Peter
ruggiero. In demonstrating to employees that they are
valued, firms effectively enhance their corporate culture.
It’s an expression of what they stand for and why people
should want to work there. It could also be argued that
there is also a discernible reciprocity between a firm’s
organisational culture and the architecture it produces.
‘Culture and values drive design’, says andrea Lamberti
of rafael Viñoly architects. and while architects’ offices
might still be seen as innately hermetic, there are ways
‘A strategic agenda that considers an
individual’s potential within a wider
frame of reference is essential in
developing and retaining a creative
and energised workforce’
to encourage an engagement with the wider world.
‘at gensler we regularly host lectures and events so the
office becomes part of the community’, says rob Jernigan.
Developing and sustaining relationships with schools
of architecture is also seen as essential to promote
awareness and entice the best graduates. Many firms have
dedicated campus recruiting teams to identify and connect
with likely prospects. Corporate campaigns for young
recruits are not unique to architecture, but us practice is
in the throes of a more profound demographic transition,
with an emerging generation of architects making their
presence felt as never before. these are the
representatives of generation Y (born between 1980
and 2000) characterised by their effortless assimilation
of digital technology and a heightened level of social
consciousness. For this emerging and increasingly
influential cohort, it is predicted that the definition
of what constitutes architecture will become more fluid
and expansive, going beyond current concepts of a
In future, practices could encompass a much broader
ecology of skills, with integrated teams harnessing the
expertise of fields such as economists, demographers,
performance engineers, among others, moving away
from the more familiar disciplines and market sectors
of traditional firms. though broader definitions of
architecture and practice are nothing new in themselves,
this latest generation has the advantage of connectivity
fuelled by unlimited access to information and the power
of social computing.
at their most basic level, networks facilitate the
sharing of experiences, so prospective employees are
liable to be better equipped and more informed about
the realities of life in a particular practice rather than
accepting its self-image at face value. ‘In this respect,
word of mouth is extremely important’, says Lindsay
urquhart-turton of Bespoke.
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