How urban development is heating up the race for talent

As cities attract a new type of worker on a global scale, organisations that can mirror urban shifts in their workplaces will be the best prepared for the future workforce

Cities play an instrumental part in shaping our workplaces and our perception of how we should work in them. This has been true from the Garden City movement where people were pushed to the periphery of the city, bringing the out-of-town campus to the fore, to current urbanisation where people are flocking into the city centre to work, live and play all in the same space. While these trends have morphed and shaped our cities over time, they have also had significant impacts on the type of people who use the city and the type of workplaces which attract them.

A new report by Gensler, Shaping the Future of Cities, explores how demographic shifts and the heightened environmental crisis on a city-wide scale impacts shifts in the workplace globally.

City shifts

The environment is becoming a pivotal part of the narrative around the future of cities. Buildings generate 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year, while also contributing to half of the world’s overall energy use. This presents a major opportunity for organisations to use their workplaces as a tool to make an environmental statement and meet zero carbon standards.

While many cities are dealing with an ageing population, the most significant demographic shift is in the working world. By 2025, millennials will make up 75 per cent of all workers in the world. This paradigm shift comes with new worker expectations and shorter tenures of job roles. This will result in a constant exchange of talent between different organisations. According to the Gensler report, there will be a global talent shortage of 85 million people by 2030. The competition for talent attraction and retention is only heating up, and workplace culture, experience and location will play an immeasurable role in securing top talent.

Five pillars of future workplaces

As cities develop and shape the perceptions and behaviours of those that work in them, the workplace has to stay tuned in and understand what makes employees tick. Gensler highlights five elements that every organisation should consider to attract and retain talent in the future:

  1. Communities – place is important. Talent will be captured based on the location of an office. Think urban, think diverse, think a microcosm of a metropolitan city. Gone are the days of introverted organisations, threatened by any external collaboration. The report states that 62 per cent of millennials favour mixed communities; they want to feel like they are part of the fabric of the company and that they belong to a community. Vibrant communities stem from diversity.
  2. Experience – a sense of belonging will be a crucial element for the next generation of talent. It is the emotional connection to a place and to people and it generates a sense of purpose. Creating a great workplace experience will be the hook, line and sinker for future talent.
  3. High performance buildings – people work to a higher standard when they are in high performance buildings. Organisations should use the workplace as a tool to improve the wellbeing of workers. The provision of fresh air and natural light can inspire productivity in employees; this is heightened when workers have control over their environment through digital control or freedom of movement.
  4. Workplace mobility – the advance of online collaboration tools means that people are more inclined to work away from the office. Although this has enabled geographically dispersed teams to better collaborate, it can disrupt flow of collaboration inside offices. To combat this, companies should think about creating dynamic work environments where there is plenty of agile space for diverse work types and styles.
  5. Mixed use development – part of a dynamic work environment is integrating with a mixed use of developments, from retail, restaurants and housing to transport. People are attracted to places which are activated and have more going on than simply work.

Urbanisation plays a significant role in shaping the people and places within a city, but the Genlser report notes that the response from the workplaces will have an even greater impact in how we work, live and play in cities in the future.

Access the Gensler, Shaping the Future of Cities, here
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