Design Forecast Philadelphia: Creating Innovative Workplaces to Attract (and Keep) the Best and the Brightest
by Linda Pileggi
Editor’s note: This post is part of Gensler’s Design Forecast Local, a series of hyper local conversations with our clients about the topics that matter most in our cities.
On Oct. 16, 2019, Gensler Philadelphia hosted a panel presentation as part of the first-ever to the B.PHL Innovation Festival, which comprised a number of high-profile speakers and events over a three-day period to ignite new ideas and spark new ways of doing things in the city. Gensler’s panel, “Creating Innovative Workplaces to Attract (and Keep) the Best and the Brightest," discussed key topics such as emerging technologies, talent competition, and the experience economy. The panel included guests from Tierney, Entercom, Parkway Corporation, and Campus Philly, who shared unique insights on the future of workplace and how it will drive the evolving professional community in Philadelphia in the years to come.
Workplace flexibility is a key retention tool.
In Philadelphia, there are a number of high-quality universities, but many graduates leave the city when they get their degrees. Naima Murphy, director of partnerships for Campus Philly, said that about 54% of graduates stay in Philadelphia upon graduation. In order to retain a highly-educated workforce, it’s important to the community to entice those people to stay and grow their careers. Today’s students want to bring their full identities to work and be in a place where they are comfortable as themselves — that's the kind of workplace that will attract and keep the next generation of workers. According to Gensler’s 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey, workplaces are best when they include diverse settings that support different work styles and embrace individuality. For example, Tierney allows the staff to select the playlists in the workplace. Further, they support a flexible work-from-home policy that trusts their team to get their work done even when they aren’t in the office.
The workplace should feel like a hospitality space.
Panelists highlighted the need for workplaces to have a hospitality-like feel, with a mix of social spaces, high-value amenities, and the latest technology. Gensler’s Experience Index findings suggest that every space should be designed as a social space — our data showed that places designed to support community, connection, and belonging offer better experiences, and people are actively seeking out places to connect. Additionally, workplaces should focus on high-value amenities, such as innovation hubs and quiet zones, to deliver the highest performance gains. Patrick Hardy, chief creative officer at Tierney, emphasized the need for investing in amenities that support employees’ work. Tierney’s Gensler-designed space creates opportunities for “creative collisions,” and the flexibility of the office allows the team to adjust to the needs of the day — from individual work to visioning sessions. At Tierney, clients find the space so appealing, they don’t just come for meetings — they spend the day working there.
As the term element of commercial leases has been disrupted by coworking operators and other companies, there’s a pressing need for great workplace design for short-term leases. Brian Berson, senior vice president at Parkway Corporation, called on Gensler to be a leader in flexible design for shorter-term commercial leases. In Philadelphia, Class A office buildings used to be equivalent to Class B in other cities; however, the city is now emerging with truly Class A buildings that are attracting demand. To be successful, coworking spaces and other flexible office solutions should be branded, hyper personalized, and experience-driven to make people feel connected to their organization’s brand and culture.
Panelists shared their unique viewpoints for talent attraction and retention. Campus Philly works to show new grads all the city has to offer for those entering professional life. For Tierney, it’s about providing choice and autonomy for the team. Parkway Corporation works to prepare for disruption and be ready to lead the change. Entercom’s new headquarters between City Hall and University City — Philly’s two innovation hubs — puts them literally at the center of innovation, and allows them to align their space with their brand. In the competition for top talent, organizations are attracting the best and the brightest by creating workplaces that boost innovation through flexible working environments and thoughtful amenities, staying true to their brands and missions.