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Innovation begins with ideas

Welcome to Ideas, a collaborative space for architects, engineers, and environmental consultants to discuss emerging trends and issues affecting the industry. Discover new ideas from industry experts, professionals, and enthusiasts, and share your own.

The “Big” Shift: Mega Trends That Will Transform Your Consultancy

Javier Baldor
Executive Vice President
BST Global
Having time to sift through all of the new research, infographics, and buzz words is challenging. Everyday, there is an increasing amount of data being thrown at us. It’s hard to know what to tune into and what to tune out. To help you navigate through the sea of information, we’re launching a series of blog posts exploring the major trends that will transform your consultancy. Over the next few months, follow along with us as we take an in-depth look into how these developments will affect our future, both tomorrow and beyond. Trend One: THE "BIG" ShiFT We’ve seen it coming -- the “Big” Shift. This year, the Millennial generation is projected to surpass the outsized Baby Boom generation as the largest living generation. What’s more, they’ve also edged out Generation X to make up the largest share of the American workforce. This massive generational shift has big implications for the way we do business. Chances are you are already hiring Millennials, promoting them, and trying to figure out how to get them to stay. Millennials have a new set of expectations surrounding work. And, if we don’t shift our own practices, we will fall behind. Who are they? Millennials are the boom from the Baby Boomers. They are between the ages of 18 and 34, they are passionate, they are tech savvy, they love to share, and they are always connected. They are the first generation to be raised on mobile phones and the Internet. Not surprisingly, 87% of Millennials agree that their smartphone never leaves their side, night or day. What motivates them? In a recent Kleiner Perkins survey, Millennials selected their most valued work benefit – and the results may surprise you. Training and development placed first with 22% of the vote, followed by flexible working hours at 19%, and cash bonuses coming in at 14%. Additionally, managers and Millennials were both asked what the most important thing to Millennials is in terms of work. Thirty percent of Millennials indicated meaningful work as the most important thing to them, yet nearly half of their managers guessed it to be higher pay. This statistic is very telling — there is a big perception disconnect happening between Millennials and their managers. What do they expect? Millennials entering the industry have different expectations around work/life balance, availability of workplace environments, technological resources, and training that meet their standards of simplicity and flexibility. Flexibility  They expect flexible work hours and 32% believe they will be working ‘mainly flexible' hours in the future. Mobility They expect to be able to work from home, office, or cafes at will. The latest technology Millennials prefer to collaborate online at work as opposed to in-person or over the phone, and 45% use personal smartphones for work. Moreover, the consumer software Millennials use at home (think Apple, Google) influences their expectations at work. They expect a beautiful user experience and they want it on-the-go. This trend, called the Consumerization of Software, is important to recognize. Mentorship Millennials have very short tenures (just 2 years!) when compared to other generations which range from 5-10 years. Why? A recent Deloitte study cites one of the primary reasons Millennials seek change is a lack of personal benefit, growth, and mentorship. Of note, 71% of those likely to leave their job in the next two years are unhappy with the development of their leadership skills. What can you do?  Embrace the opportunity and find a way to connect with Millennials and leverage their talent and passion. Your growing workforce comes with different expectations, so it may be time to rethink your work environment.  Millennials want to collaborate, learn, and grow. They want to feel supported and valued. They want flexibility. Create an environment that fosters this and you will create a company where Millennials want to work, love to work, and stay for years. Millennials are, after all, the future of our industry. Ben Horowitz with 4B private equity firm Andreessen Horowitz said: "Younger people tend to be more innovative because they have fewer assumptions. They don't understand why things are the way they are. They don't understand why they have to hail a taxi... You get more innovation because of that." Has your company seen a shift in workforce? If so, share some of your best practices or lessons learned in a comment below! Author’s Note: This is the first in a series on major trends affecting the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industry.

The Six Key Ingredients of a Great Manager

Barry Lawrence
Group Director
BST Global
I have to admit it—I am a perfectionist. As an executive leader in my organization, I expect a great deal of my people. I expect us to innovate, to deliver with the highest quality, to be passionate, and to drive ourselves to exceed expectations. In short, perfection. The Oxford dictionary defines perfect as, "Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. Free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless. Precisely accurate; exact. Highly suitable for someone or something; exactly right." It's a big word, perfection. I get that. It evokes connotations of grandeur and challenges our potential. What does perfect really mean to us? Can we expect it of our people? Can we actually achieve it? Short answer: How can we not? You Need Great Manager To be a great leader, you need to be the visionary, the dreamer, the change agent. But being a great leader does not necessarily mean you are great manager. According to Leadership and Management expert Markus Buckingham, “Great managers are not mini-executives waiting for leadership to be thrust upon them. Great leaders are not simply managers who have developed sophistication. The core activities of a manager and a leader are simply different.” To achieve greatness, or perfection even, you need to have someone else who will run point on the front lines. Someone you trust to represent you. Someone to work alongside you to make your vision a reality. A pragmatic, detailed-oriented someone, whose core skills, abilities, and passions are expertly honed for organizing, coordinating, motivating, collaborating, and communicating. The Key Ingredients Clearly, a great manager is someone that is highly qualified with the requisite "hard skills" and subject matter expertise. But, the hard skills are not the most important ingredient. What significantly differentiates great managers from good ones is how they engage. Great managers have the natural ability to learn quickly and have extraordinary aptitude. They are sponges that soak up and transfer the knowledge around them.  Managerial aptitude is not just about being smart, but also the ability to apply creative and critical thinking to problem solving. Great managers are chameleons that adapt effectively to their circumstances.  They have the uncanny ability to synthesize the variables and drive decisive action. From explaining an issue to an irate CEO, to talking a customer through a question, to jumping in hands-on with the team to get the work done. Great managers have integrity and value professional conduct. They are humble and egoless enough that no assignment is beneath their ability. They are also obsessive about quality, with a work hard/play hard ethic, and passion for getting the job done. Great managers value teamwork. They have the core ability to bring people together and work seamlessly with others. They put the needs of the team above themselves and allow the effectiveness and productivity of the team to outweigh the needs of any one individual. Great managers are fair. They have a knack for balancing loyalties between what is best for the company and what is good for the employee. They are highly respected and appreciated by their peers and subordinates. They are the ones people ask to work with. Their employees remember their birthdays and invite them to lunch. Their people often volunteer to work overtime when needed, versus having it mandated. Great managers have a softer side, but they are not pushovers. They also have a hard edge and know when and how they need to push their teams in order to achieve the desired results and outcomes. Great managers are disciplined. They are process junkies that continually establish, refine, and enforce process discipline in order to get reliable and repeatable results. If you do not have effective processes in place, great managers are the ones lobbying at the front of the line to get what is needed in place in order to ensure success. A Leader's Call to Action We can, and should, proudly expect greatness and perfection from our people, because to be quite frank, we expect it from ourselves. Expecting greatness means being great ourselves. It means holding ourselves to the same standard, being fair, and of course, leading by example. Do you have a great manager?  If not, perhaps it's time for you to take a hard look and raise the bar. If you do, what are they doing that separates them from the crowd, and how can we learn from their example?

Born Wired: How do we Retain Millennial Talent?

Evelyn March
Group Director
BST Global
While our current workforce covers three distinct generations – The Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials – today’s toughest HR challenge seems to be in attracting talented Millennials and getting them to stay. Many in the talent development realm fight to crack the code of creating a workplace conducive to drawing and retaining the brightest talent. Companies want their team members to exude enthusiasm, collaboration, and hard work. In exchange, employees want promotions, flexible work/life balance, and reliable benefits. In all, we’re seeking to create an environment where everyone enjoys the prosperity formula where Happiness = Reality – Expectations. But, what does that mean to Millennials? This new generation was born wired. They come to the workforce with an inherent knowledge of using technology to leverage opportunities and customers on a global scale in near real time. And they have unbridled enthusiasm that drives it all. To keep that motor humming, they expect unremitted feedback, recognition, and collaboration. To them, there’s never too much information. Everything moves at a speed that has them trading spit-shined wing tips for worn-in sneakers. Careers are of no exception. They join organizations with an expectation of a clearly laid out career path paved with training that’s direct, to the point, and hopefully, on demand. In a relentless pursuit of happiness, Millennials look for new professional ventures everywhere. According to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey, 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. This leaves companies figuring out how to evolve to meet these needs. Doing so reduces the task of re-investing capital to recruit, onboard, and train new talent, as well as the loss of revenues during the temporary down-turn in staffing. Perhaps the answer to the retention conundrum is in rethinking the talent of all three generations without singling out one. Baby Boomers came into the workforce in a post-war era that was filled with opportunity and prosperity. They sought new ventures, rolled up their sleeves, and worked to conquer them. This mindset has applauded Baby Boomers as consistent producers and loyal workers. The Generation X employees are challenged with raising children and caring for parents. They are the architects of successfully handling work/life balance and being great revenue producers. Tapping into the strengths of these three groups can create the perfect formula of inclusion and cultural growth. So, we’re now left with the question of how? Reassess your communication strategy.  Text, emails, and corporate meetings may mean redundant communication, but all generations will feel ‘engaged’ as management addresses their individual approaches to communication. Rethink your benefits package.  Baby Boomers who are dedicated producers may want to move to part-time. Offering benefits for those employees may reduce the cost of onboarding new talent. Generation Xers are fully aware of the state of Social Security and seek a robust 401K plan to win their loyalty. Millennials want flexibility to accompany their lifestyle. Flex time, telecommuting, and flexible schedules can be an attractive incentive for longevity. Offer mentoring and training, mix it up, and keep it fresh.  Baby Boomers are a wealth of information, and Millennials are sponges, while Generation Xers were raised in the era of collaboration. Introduce one-on-ones, knowledge transfers, blended learning forums, and discussion panels. Despite the era, everyone enjoys both giving and receiving knowledge. In our multigenerational workforce, traditional approaches are passé. Evaluating your talent and working to their strengths is the fastest way to graduate reality to expectations and achieve that happiness formula. What challenges have you faced with the incoming generation? What have you done to adjust? Please share your thoughts below.

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