Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to share his architecture and design ideas through speculative projects. His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Why Working with Multiple Generations Matter

Why Working with Multiple Generations Matter

In a majority of architecture firms around the world, people from multiple generations are working together to design great projects. This multi-generation workplace will continue into the future where more generations will be working alongside one another towards a common goal. As medical sciences and technology continue to improve, we’re able to live and work beyond our projected retirement years.

So what does this mean in a field like architecture? And how can we bridge the gap between these generations?

Millennials in architecture firms (born 1977-2000)

As the largest generation in the workplace, millennials, like me, grew up with technologies such as computers, smartphones, tablets, etc. and are capable of using a wide range of applications and software. We seek employment that fits our lifestyle rather than a job that pays more money. We’re constantly trying to grow as architects and we focus on self-improvement. Thus, we’re always looking for more opportunities at the architecture firm and we’re eager to get feedback on our work.

This is the generation that, if mentored, will be able to help any architecture firm improve their design capabilities by increasing the quality and rate of production using new technology. Millennials are often quick at learning tasks and suggesting new software that would improve the office’s efficiency. Although my generation requires additional attention at the beginning of our careers, we’re fast learners and always willing to lend a hand on architecture projects that will expand our skillset. Just remember that if you’re in an older generation and you’re working with a millennial, you have to listen and respond rather than being authoritative about your opinions. Mutual respect will go a long way with this generation.

Some downsides to my generation are that we tend to be very eager in growth and implementing new technology into the architecture firm. If this eagerness to learn is not fostered by the architecture firm, the millennials will be dissatisfied and will begin searching for more opportunities on their own. Oftentimes, this means leaving their current practice and making the switch to another architecture firm.

Regarding the implementation of new technology, millennials don’t always realize the final cost of the software and how often it will actually be used. Here’s a great example. Recently, my peers and I asked the management team at the firm if we could invest in a new software plugin for Revit because we knew that it would provide us with a new service to offer our clients as well as an intelligent method of designing sustainable architecture. We convinced the management team to purchase the software, but the firm didn’t have any projects on the boards that we could use the software on. After a year, it was used on two projects with no return on investment. So millennials need to do a little bit more research on whether or not their technological suggestions fit with the vision and trajectory of the firm.

Generation X in architecture firms (born 1965-1976)

The next largest generation in the workplace is generation X, which is the generation that is currently taking leadership positions in most architecture firms. Architects from this generation tend to have a steady work ethic. If they’re not in a leadership position and are switching between firms, they are usually not loyal to any company. Instead, they believe that loyalty is something that is earned, not expected. People from generation X are very independent, but are also capable of working well with others. They are also technologically literate, but not as advanced as the millennials.

When given leadership opportunities to manage and lead teams through architecture projects, generation X will be able to perform very well. They’ll be up for any tasks and be able to complete a majority of their projects when given a good team of younger architects to support them through computer modeling and drafting.

However, many architects from generation X who take on managerial responsibilities will need to be overseen for their interaction with millennials who require more attention and are eager to learn. This is especially true when the generation X architect is a very independent person who does not possess the qualities of a mentor. Rather than giving these architects managerial responsibilities, allow them to be the project architect instead so that they can focus on developing the project while a project manager who possesses the qualities of a great mentor can lead the team.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)

This is the generation that I’ll end on because the traditionalists (born pre-1946) are mostly retired or in the process of retiring. Baby boomers are very hard working and loyal individuals who coined the term “workaholic”. People from this generation are very competitive and are willing to sacrifice their own personal life to work towards furthering their careers as architects or improving their architecture firm. They’re also very good at face to face communication and are very experienced as architects.

Most architects from the baby boomer generation are still practicing as owners or senior management of architecture firms. Due to their work ethics and motivation, many baby boomer architects are eager to work beyond their years of retirement and continue developing their architecture firms. They’re also very good at working with others and are great mentors for the millennial generation. Their workaholic attitude combined with decades of experience as an architect makes them the perfect mentor for an eager and hardworking millennial who seeks to improve the efficiencies of an architecture firm.

A downside to the baby boomers is that a majority of the architects from this generation tend to be distant from technology and are unable to learn and utilize the ever improving methods of architectural design. Any architect from this generation who is incapable of effectively leading and mentoring a team of architects from both generation X and millennials will be ineffective to many architecture firms.

Why does this matter?

We’re entering a very interesting era in the workplace of all professions, including architecture, where there are more than two generations working together. As our lives continue to extend beyond the average lifespan, we’ll see 4 generations and so on and so forth working together in the same company.

Thus, it’s very important to have an understanding of the personalities, values, and technological preferences of every generation in order to create effective and optimistic teams that carry the vision of the company forward. As you can see from the brief introduction to each generation above, the average values and work ethics of each generation are very different. However, when effectively paired together, these differences can create the strongest team that supports each member and allows them to thrive on their architecture projects.

What generation are you a part of? And do you agree with these general descriptions? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments section below!

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