Talent Dividends

Promoting staff growth and development has been a leadership priority for Gensler since its inception. But in the last four years — and despite the recession — the firm augmented its learning resources and reasserted support for its most valuable investment.

The yield of this commitment is Gensler’s award-winning Talent Development Studio. Established in 2006, the studio’s authored a comprehensive professional development program, an achievement recognized by three major industry honors in the last year alone. This is the story of fostering a workplace community focused on enhancing individual and collective growth.

Gensler’s Talent Development Studio: Cultivating a Firmwide Learning Strategy

Hiring the best people and investing in their ongoing education is at the heart of Gensler’s success. Yet, the accomplishments of the last decade introduced their own challenges, not least sustaining a learning culture. In response to the rapidly expanding, intergenerational composition of its global workforce, Gensler named Janine Pesci its director of talent development and charged her with designing a holistic professional development program.

Drawing on experience managing professional development and continuing education programs at non-profits and real estate organizations, Janine hired specialized studio staff and assembled regional and local “learning councils.” These councils ensure the learning program’s reach and consistency across all 35 locations around the globe.

“Gensler’s ‘one-firm firm’ culture plays an essential part in the work we do,” Janine says. “The collective sense of contributing to something greater is vital, because it enables us to scale our suite of programs easily across regions and offices, tailoring them to fit any individual’s unique learning and professional development needs.”

Continuing Education: An Opportunity for All

Strong mentorships, supplemental education and training opportunities have fostered a sense of community and support among staff for decades. Unlike other design firms, at Gensler, everyone is eligible for title and promotion. To this end, all team members — regardless of role or position — are expected and encouraged to undertake at least 40 hours of training or classes annually. The firm’s longstanding 50/50 Learning Policy underwrites a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education for each team member.

Key to the Talent Development Studio’s contributions has been the formalization of firm programming. Linsey Trask Mathers, an instructional designer, works closely with Janine to align Gensler’s learning programs with the firm’s business strategies. Linsey introduced a five-phase methodology for the development and benchmarking of all firm learning programs. Each year, Gensler offers up to 3,500 in-house learning programs, half of which are CEU-approved for credit.

Delivery of programs via seminars, video conferencing, webcasts and podcasts make regional and local learning accessible firmwide. An “open enrollment” policy allows offices to invite clients, vendors and consultants to participate as appropriate.

Professional Development Paths: Early Support and Enrichment

An organization’s collective knowledge is one of its most valuable — and hard-earned — assets. Gensler’s formal mentorship program ensures the continuous transfer of knowledge across generations. The two-pronged program consists of an established network of resources, experts and proven best practices, as well as a team of “Licensure Champions” who voluntarily manage the licensure program within each individual office.

The licensure process has evolved significantly during the past few years. After joining the Talent Development Studio, Andrew Caruso, a young designer and Gensler’s director of intern development, noticed that the path to licensure was growing longer and more rigorous. To address this shift, Andrew and the Firmwide Applications team developed Gensler’s proprietary Licensure Experience Reporting System (LERS), which tracks and itemizes interns’ progress in the IDP and IDEP programs, thereby streamlining the licensure process. Andrew’s peers have embraced the tool’s benefits.

Internships and Scholarships: Nurturing Emerging Talent

“Gensler has made a serious commitment to the professional development of early-career talent. Interns and young staff fully understand the extent of this commitment. Everyone is amazed — inside and outside the firm — at the scope of support,” says Andrew, who also oversees Gensler’s Brinkmann and Diversity Scholarship programs.

“I wish they had all this back in the day,” wrote a wistful middle-aged architect in an e-mail to Janine, after hearing about the LERS tool and other intern initiatives last year.

Andrew’s own career at Gensler, with half his time allocated to a design studio in the Washington, D.C., office and the other half devoted to the Talent Development Studio, is a testament to the firm’s flexibility, and willingness to accommodate the different work modes and ambitions of youthful colleagues.

The Firm’s Greatest Asset

In 2007, the Talent Development Studio started tracking program metrics. Since then, 2,300 staff members have participated in more than 6,500 learning programs. Thirty-three percent of Gensler’s staff is REVIT-trained; 42 percent is LEED-certified; and the firm average for completing the yearlong Professional Development Planning Process now exceeds 90 percent.

More impressive than metrics, and more revealing of Gensler’s dedication to its people, is that in the midst of a major recession the firm retained every professional development program on its roster. Some programs shifted to virtual platforms, but nothing was dropped. In fact, scholarship awards increased in this period.

To be sure, firm leaders didn’t exactly decide to continue existing programs during the downturn. Rather, they never considered cutting them. “Art Gensler has always believed that talent is the firm’s greatest asset; so it’s in our DNA,” explains Janine. “Our people are why we’re coming out on the other side of the recession — on top.”

Annie Simpson

Michael Rubottom: pages 1, 3 and 6
Teresa Pesci: page 2a (top left)
Brad Mathers: page 2a (top right)
Sofija Zeljic: page 2a (bottom right)
Washington, D.C. Marketing Team: pages 2a (bottom left), 4
Erin Derby: page 2c

Talent Development Studio Contact
Janine Pesci: janine_pesci@gensler.com

For Consideration
Gensler Internships
Gensler Scholarships

Further Reading
“The $100,000 Question” by Andrew Caruso in DesignIntelligence

Recent Awards Recognizing Gensler Talent Development Studio
2009 Chief Learning Officer Team Silver Award
2009 Workforce Management Optimas Award
2010-2013 AIA IDP Outstanding Firm Award

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