Consulting For Architects, Inc. Hiring Trends.

Design and Manage Your Career

  • anchor

    Hiring millennial architects & designers & what is important to them

    David C. McFadden
    Apr 25, '16 6:13 PM EST

    Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers, and their millennial replacements are very different in terms of personal characteristics, as well as job and workplace expectations. Millennials, aged 18 to 34 years old, already makeup more than one-third of the workforce. By 2025, they will account for close to 75 percent. Architecture firms are now in an intense competition to attract and retain qualified millennial professionals. Understanding the millennial perspective and developing a suitable workplace environment are imperatives for business sustainability.

    Characteristics of Millennials

    Millennials are one of the most analyzed generations because of their complexity. They are the first generation of digital natives, and technology has enormously influenced their expectations. For example, they are driven by a need for social connectedness and have integrated technology deeply into their personal lives. As such, they now expect the same in their work lives. CISCO calls it the "new workplace currency," since 56 percent of college students surveyed said they would not accept a position at a company that banned access to social media.

    Millennials have high expectations. They want higher pay based on skills sets and faster promotions. They believe the firm should provide appropriate leadership development and have values that match their own. If the business fails to meet these expectations, the employee will leave. Millennials are not interested in plugging along doing eight hours of mundane routine work they see as having little social impact. They want to do meaningful work that is clearly connected to solving complex societal problems.

    Millennials are optimistic about the future and are a diverse generation, with over 44 percent identifying with an ethnic group or a minority race, according to theU.S. Census Bureau. They are content creators, thriving on collaboration. They also want work-life balance, which for the millennial may mean using remote-work technology. A 2015 CISCO survey found that over half of Gen Y (millennials) and Gen X (generation sandwiched between baby boomers and millennials) consider themselves accessible for work 24/7.

    Perhaps the most important characteristic to understand is that millennials want to work for companies that reflect their personal values. A Deloitte survey found that 56 percent of millennials had ruled out working for an employer because their values were in conflict. This is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for traditional organizations to master.

    Why are You Leaving?

    Understanding the top reasons millennials change jobs provides a knowledgeable foundation for developing recruiting and retention strategies. consulting for architects, inc. (CFA) conducted a survey which asked architecture and design firms to rank, in descending order of importance, the reasons employees aged 18 to 35 years old left their firms. The results are revealing and support much of the academic and business research and studies conducted over the years to identify millennial characteristics.

    Ranking number one in the CFA survey as the top reason for millennial turnover is concern about the lack of opportunities for career advancement. Number two is a desire for more challenging work. Number three is dissatisfaction with the leadership of senior management. Number four is disagreement with the overall direction of the organization. Number five is dissatisfaction with the compensation and benefits. Number six is unhappiness with the amount and/or type of rewards and level of recognition for contributions to the firm. Number seven is a desire to seek a better work/life balance.

    It is not surprising the leadership of senior management ranks high because these are the people most responsible for the firm policies and procedures, business culture, and talent management system. Since many of the senior leaders are baby boomers, there is a generational difference in attitudes towards work, career, and the need for employee recognition. Baby boomer architects and designers spent many years doing low-level assignments, putting in many hours without regard for work/life balance. The rewards were the work itself and steady career advancement, and for some, reaching a point where it was possible to start a new business. Now baby boomers are managing organizations in which millennials already comprise or will soon comprise most of the workforce, and the younger generation wants change.

    A good example of the generational difference is found in a blog written by a millennial architect. The title says it all - "millennial architect won't be your cad monkey." There have been other surveys conducted, and they support the CFA survey results and the need for senior leaders to adapt the work environment to meet the needs of the millennials. A 2012 survey, for example, found that millennials expected to stay in their jobs for less than five years.

    Recruiting Millennials

    The strategies for attracting and recruiting millennials specifically address their characteristics and the top reasons they leave architecture firms . First, it is important to develop a workplace culture that nurtures the millennial spirit and makes young architects believe this would be the best place to work. The culture must embrace diversity and cherish the organization's brand and reputation. For instance, since millennials always check social networks for information, potential employers should take into consideration what current employees, clients and communities are saying about the company. Every architectural firm should regularly monitor and manage the online conversation concerning the organization. The online conversation coupled with the marketing strategies needs to demonstrate the architecture firm's mission, values, ethics and beliefs, so that recruits will see that their personal values align with the organization's values.

    Technology plays a critical role in other respects. Video interviews can showcase an architecture firm as a progressive and flexible culture, and can often provide distinct advantages to both the firm and the interviewee. For the millennial, video interviews are also more convenient, as they get an opportunity to show their true character instead of only what is on the resume.

    For the architecture firm, video interviewing saves time and money because the cost is much less compared to in-person interviews. It makes the hiring process quicker while also giving the interviewer an opportunity to explore facets of the person's personality traits, something not possible with a written resume. Overall, video interviewing fits a modern workforce expecting efficient use of technology, flexibility and a willingness to collaborate for mutual benefit.

    Other recruiting tools include developing a good pay and benefits package, supplemented with the presentation of career path opportunities that demonstrate potential upward mobility. Millennials who see a position as dead-end will either refuse a position or will accept the position only as a stepping stone for obtaining licensing.

    Retaining Millennials

    Millennials have been described as "children of the revolution." The "revolution" is a shift in individual perspectives to a focus on the needs of the community. Millennials want to do meaningful work centered on people; therefore, one of the most critical retention strategies is developing work with these attributes. Tasks must allow them opportunities to work on projects that make a social impact, like environmental sustainability renovations, low-income housing solutions and disaster relief architecture.

    The type of projects offered will influence the turnover rate. Research indicates that 91 percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years if the work is not challenging. They are entrepreneurial and will leave a boring job to start a new business in order to meet personal goals.

    Architecture firms must rethink everything from work schedules to leadership training. Strategies include allowing flexible work that lets employees work within a loosely structured schedule. The 9-to-5 schedule is out. One of the ways personal and organizational values are integrated is by allowing employees time to take care of personal needs, like family or community projects. Ideally, the flexible schedule is coupled with the right to work remotely. They are as likely to be found reading and responding to work emails at 9 p.m. as they are at 9 a.m.

    Professional development is also crucial. In the Deloitte survey mentioned earlier, six out of 10 millennials believe their companies do not fully develop their leadership skills. Yet, this is one of the most prized activities determining business value. Skills development involves a variety of activities, including training software, mentoring and collaborative teamwork. Millennials need and want a lot of support that encourages them to pursue leadership roles on teams, as well as over projects and departments.

    Overhauling Business As Usual

    Attracting, hiring and retaining millennials requires a complete overhaul of "business as usual." All aspects of the talent management process should be viewed through the millennial lens with the ultimate goal of building a loyal, innovative workforce. Admittedly, the current disconnect between millennial expectations and the traditional architecture firm's work structure is wide, so now is the time to begin making required changes. No one ever said it would be easy to move into the future - a future that is here now.

    Work with us. Design your career.


    • code

      the last thing we need is to pander and coddle anyone - let them like the rest of us make their own damn breaks and learn to be good production soldiers first - 

      Millennials are one of the most analyzed generations because of their complexity. 


      They need to first and for most develop discipline and learn to handle other peoples priorities, not theirs first

      successful career tracks only happen when people demonstrate the ability to handle first things first

      Apr 29, 16 12:13 pm

      Messaging an entire generation. Generalize. Stereotype. Filter for Political Correction. Publish. Really pretty entertaining how the media summons that phrase and is able to capture viewers, both parents and their children's attention.

      The only problem is that people assume Millennials are actually listening.

      If this article isn’t for Millenials to read, then this is still offensive and not productive. I don’t task myself with generalizing an entire generation, but it takes serious balls to do so. I know that much.

      You don't like a millennial fire him/her. Stop this nonsense. It's not a trend. Nothing to write home about. We all are unique individuals if you can digest that.

      Any person can be unhappy with attitudes and energy of coworkers, enough to leave. Is this a completely unprecedented occurrence? People switching jobs?

      You lost generation X and Y ears a long time ago, so this can only be another pathetic attempt at Baby-Boomer parenting tactics to create some plinth to interrogate from- like "what's this attitude about" "why do you have to be different"

      So, without further or do, I'd like to give a big middle finger to the author for putting so much effort into trying to stereotype and generalize a workforce. Are we just another market to manipulate, stabilize, and regulate into submission, so you can report back consistent profits to investors. Yea, you know, architecture business has been really crazy these days... I bet we can get to the bottom of this if we just talk to interns. Are you kidding me? 

      Some of us actually get it- that’s what other generations don’t know. We don’t need to explain what we know to you every time you forget. That’s a waste of our time. We just move on. You have balls, geuss what? We Have balls too. “hypothetical gender/neutral balls”

      Can we not prohibit individuals that represent institutions and businesses from being involved with Archinects blog?

      I think school affiliated stuff is cool, but not staffing companies, or NCARB or AIA. Wouldn’t this be more appropriately placed in news?

      I really appreciate this as an outlet for the individual, but if it is regarding the promotion of a business, take it to Linkedin 


      Problem is we don't care and won't change. The hierarchy and bureaucracy that exists in the AEC industry is not going to be changed by shaming our generation into the perfect workers. The problem is that most architectural offices only need to produce work that can be pumped out WITHOUT 5-year degrees, parametric modeling, and kick ass renderings ( the bulk of our "unique" skills set we are valued for).

      This is like some reverse psychology stuff to codify/ justify the stratification/ hierarchy in an office right?

      Bear in mind the author, a bonifide politic/ corporate climber, Rode out the 90's selling Autodesk software and training(1993-2004), then ascended to the honorable position of Mayor of Tuxedo, NY? WTF

      The last time he practiced architecture was in 1986... self employed apparently.

      May 10, 16 2:13 pm

      On behalf of my entire generation (x), please millennials, please do change the profession. 

      May 11, 16 1:33 am
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      interesting read including Mike....Mike what happened to your blog?........Baby Boomers destroyed this nation, worst generation ever and definetly not the Greatest generation............. Retirement plan? who invented that fantasy, hope the funds are dry when you decide to retire from a profession you do not have to retire from........... I missed the Milleinial cutoff by a few years, so technically a Gen X ' er. We grew up on apathy and Nirvana, fuck you and NWA, revolution and Rage Against the Machine - so I hate both generations equally - but do not care to hate them too long.........By the way Millenials your music scene is so fucking diluted thanks to the internet, which allows Baby Boomer bands to still go on tour and make money - everyone Knows Neil Young, Roger Waters, Rolling Stone and those guys could be your parents boomers have sticks up their asses and think they do great things and millenials bitch a lot and think they do great things - what a pair!!!!!!!! Let the Gen X ers sort them out with their Black Hole Sun attitudes - I suck, don't care, and still better then all of you..........................ultimately, this profession has to do with experience which is not the same as paying your dues. btw which I think is what Mr. McFadden was noting or explaining very clearly.

      May 11, 16 8:17 pm

      the difference between millennials and boomers is that millennials have smart phones (and know how to use them).  that's really pretty much it.

      the problem with stereotyping an entire generation is that it's stereotyping, but i'm going to do it anyway.  however, keep in mind there are still a lot of decent, intelligent, hard working baby boomers out there.  they just aren't the norm.

      here's my current suspicion of what happened that caused the author of this article to think that analyzing millennial behavior is a worthwhile pursuit.  boomer parents were raised by those who lived through the depression, so they were necessarily frugal and probably scared of what could be a very dim future.  then they went to war and did things and saw things no human should have to behold.  there was a lot of pain these folks were carrying.  when the war ended they all came home, they got their gi bills and neat suburban houses with a lawn and a shade tree.  they bought electric washing machines and microwave ovens.  it seemed like the future was pretty bright.

      but, beneath it all they were afraid hard times could come again.  in times past children followed in their parent's footsteps.  now though, boomer parents sincerely wanted their children to do better.  they loved their kids and didn't want them to have to see the same troubles they saw and their parents saw.

      unfortunately, this led them to coddling their kids.  the adventures of allan quartermain were turned into a canned hunt in a fenced in wildlife preserve.  the kids really believed it was the same thing because that's what they were raised to believe.  they were special, and they deserved the attention.

      as the boomers grew older they were expected to do better and move into positions of management, so they were promoted despite the fact they never really bothered to learn how to do their jobs.  there was always someone there to take to care of them.

      it's a really weird period of history we're living in now.  the boomers are running things simply due to the fact that their superiors died off, but now they're looking towards people 20 years younger than them to step in where their seniors left off so there will be someone to take care of them and nurture them.  this is complicated by the fact that boomers see nothing wrong with this.  they were always taught they're the protagonist of the story, and everything in their lives built up to support that fallacy.  they're the heroes.  they deserve to be taken care of.  they deserve to be nurtured.  nothing will convince them otherwise, or lead them to a more realistic view of the world.

      unfortunately, the millennials can't take care of them.  they don't have the money, the resources, the training.  millennials need to be spending their time learning how to build better lives for themselves instead of taking care of a bunch of aging children.  boomers are fucked.  once the rest of us realize paying into social security or medicare to keep them alive is a waste of all of our time and resources, the cord is going to be cut, and time will move on as it always has.

      in the mean time, boomers can waste their time trying to figure out why millennials aren't taking care of them, giving them lots of money, keeping their businesses running, and all the other things their parent's generation did only a few years ago.  come up with excuses about how kids today quit dead end jobs too often, or how you could build their loyalty up if you just did a little better job manipulating them.

      in the end, it's pretty obvious millennials have their own hopes and ambitions, just like gen x, just like boomers, just like every generation before.  you treat them like shit in low paying jobs with no opportunity or future because you think you're a hero and the world owes you something, then they're probably not going to stick around.  they aren't going to care about you any more than you care about them.

      tl;dr quit researching millennial behavior.  you want to unfuck all the shit you fucked up, then quit treating people like shit.  try being a decent person, and you might find other people are a bit more decent to you.  even millennials.

      May 12, 16 9:38 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      curt, nice post.

      May 12, 16 11:31 pm

      Olaf- started to realize that sometimes the truth isn't popular and some of the issues I was blogging about could affect my employability and potential lead to other negative assumptions. The short of it....Big Brother is the main reason.  

      May 13, 16 9:57 am

      I think we have more pressing matters facing us - the worst case example of a Boomer has a high probability of becoming president - Trump represent everything that is bad about Boomers e.g., (incompetence + Ego) = trouble for everybody else

      May 13, 16 11:50 am

      i wonder if my post will come back to bite me in the ass?  hopefully if any baby boomers i know read it they will let me know and we can all have a good laugh :)

      May 13, 16 1:47 pm

      your're so right and I was born in '73

      May 13, 16 5:01 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      Mike - just give yourself a very different handle. I know you can kind of figure out who is who here if someone posts under their real name and then you click on their "History" and check the "posts" but I wouldnt worry about it too much.......fuck big brother, he is a baby boomer.......the old farts will be gone soon enough.

      May 13, 16 5:41 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      i looked it up; ice-t is a baby boomer, but slayer is right on the cusp.

      May 14, 16 9:14 am

      Millennials have high expectations. They want higher pay based on skills sets and faster promotions. They believe the firm should provide appropriate leadership development and have values that match their own. If the business fails to meet these expectations, the employee will leave. Millennials are not interested in plugging along doing eight hours of mundane routine work they see as having little social impact. They want to do meaningful work that is clearly connected to solving complex societal problems.

      This is so true - people leave the firm(s) for these reasons - one of the reasons I have to work many hours and on weekends is because people keep leaving for greener pastures - they want to self actualize into architects even if if it means abandoning project responsibilities - this will come back to bite most of them, the ones that don't make the grade and want to come back to firms they left - esp since a new recession is looming

      May 14, 16 8:22 pm

      At least we had idealism at some point. Your musicians could not carry a tune in a bucket.

      If you really want to hear a protest song listen to Motor City is Burning by the MC5. 

      May 15, 16 3:22 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      yeah, that Idealism really worked out well didn't it? (Trump or Hillary) 

      It's the same idealism the millenials have latched onto, this optimistic bullshit pink fluffy unicorn crap that only prolongs the complete absence of meaning in the system that every Gen X'er could hear in Kurt Cobain -Nirvana. We Work,  pod sharing...

      you want to talk about radical - Buckminster Fuller.  About 30 minutes into the 7 hour special a man in 1977 talks about living outside the system in 1927...

      I'll give you Jim Morrison, the basis of my wife and I's relationship, but we are too young to have been around when he was alive and maybe the myth is better that way.

      checking out MC5 now...

      May 15, 16 4:57 pm

      Xenakis -

      This is so true - people leave the firm(s) for these reasons - one of the reasons I have to work many hours and on weekends is because people keep leaving for greener pastures - they want to self actualize into architects even if if it means abandoning project responsibilities - this will come back to bite most of them, the ones that don't make the grade and want to come back to firms they left - esp since a new recession is looming


      What of the ones that do make the grade and move on?

      May 15, 16 5:31 pm

      Not exactly true, a lot, but not all of my generation abandoned their idealism.

      Hillary is an imperfect but acceptable candidate. Trump is a sociopath and a lunatic.

      May 15, 16 5:33 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      Charles Manson sold your generation Ideals.

      May 15, 16 8:54 pm

      The MC5 are rock and rollers are what? Check out Country Joe and the Fish  I feel like I am Fixin to Die Rag.

      May 15, 16 9:26 pm

      I'm right along the border between Generation X and Millenials. Xennials.... hmmm... Whatever.

      May 16, 16 1:20 am

      Gen x ...we were the last generation to play outside.  

      May 16, 16 2:17 am

      A Gen-Xer invented the credit default swap.

      I guess the world can thank your generation for the economic meltdown.

      May 16, 16 3:44 am

      i wonder if my post will come back to bite me in the ass?  hopefully if any baby boomers i know read it they will let me know and we can all have a good laugh :)

      I was going to refute your post point by point but it would be like trying to explain baseball to a dog.

      May 16, 16 5:19 am

      my post was a bit tongue-in-cheek z, so i hope you don't take it too serious.

      however, if you're opposed to the notion that millennials are people and should be treated as such, i would be interested in trying to understand why.

      May 16, 16 9:25 am

      Well curt, if it was sarcasm +1 you fooled me.

      You do understand that social security is not welfare but a social contract and that boomers have paid into all their lives and have held up their end of the contract?

      Yes, a lot of boomers are complete shitheads. However, some of the absolute worst douchebags I have ever had the displeasure of knowing are Gen-X Republicans. 

      May 16, 16 10:06 am



      The ones that make the grade had their IDP all handled some project successes under their belts and became in- demand by top firms - they have the right stuff

      May 16, 16 11:59 am

      Z, if people can lose the pensions they were promised after corporate raiders and greedy executives loot them, why not do the same with social security?  doesn't government tend to try to follow private wage practices?

      May 16, 16 2:19 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      we totally played out what Mike Montante said would happen if you divided us up into groups

      May 16, 16 5:29 pm

      Curt, the republicans have been trying to privatize(get rid of) social security for decades.

      Why not get rid of the safety net? Because social Darwinism is antithetical to any concept of a just, humane and civilized society.

      May 17, 16 1:01 am

      I don't agree with getting rid of social security and I don't think that will actually happen, but if we're going to help baby boomers in their old age, we should also be concerned with what we can do to help millennials build their careers.  All things considered though, keeping social security isn't our highest priority.  Helping baby boomers is helping the past wind down.  Helping millennials is helping build a better future. If you only had a dollar to invest, it should be obvious where you would invest it.

      May 17, 16 7:49 am


      While the program may still be in the books, by the time the baby boomer suck it all up including our portions of it, there wouldn't be anything left in it for us except a big fuck you (Trillions dollars of debt).  That's the pessimistic point of view.

      The optimistic point of view is anything better than that.

      May 17, 16 11:55 am

      we're not really talking about social security rick, we're just giving baby boomers a hard time.


      May 17, 16 1:51 pm

      >. >

      May 17, 16 8:52 pm

      Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

About this Blog

Staying on top of hiring trends in one of the most volatile professions is required reading. New information to help you make better career choices empowering you to design and manage your own career. Our blog is written for design professionals by design professionals. Whether you are in school or are at the peak of your architecture career you will benefit by following and subscribing to this blog. #cons4arch #ilookup #architecture #careers #employment #jobs #recruiters

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

Recent Entries