Is Education Shaping the Workplace?

A few weeks ago, my partner Matt Wassel, attended a job fair at the Rutgers Business School as a representative of CBRE.  Matt is 25 years old and graduated from Middlebury College in 2012.  We joke about his age often as he doesn’t remember a time that Derek Jeter wasn’t the shortstop for the Yankees and he has no clue what a cassette tape is. Earlier this week, he was amazed that I learned Excel in college. He learned it in the fourth grade.

When I asked Matt about the job fair, all he wanted to talk about was the building in which the event was held.  Rutgers spent $85 million, including $4 million on technology, to build this new building which opened for the fall semester in 2013.

He commented on all of the open areas for study and collaboration. All of the tables seated teams of four, and no one was working alone. While there were certainly classrooms in the building, they didn’t seem to be the focus. Rather, the environment promoted teaming.

Regarding the open/collaborative space, architect Enrique Norton said, “If you have places where people can gather and encounter each other, it will bring great wealth to that school. To me, those are always the important spaces of a school. If you don’t have those, there’s no community.”

Frankly, it sounds a lot like what we are trying to accomplish with our new space at CBRE.

Because we introduced a new workplace model when CBRE unveiled our new headquarters in Los Angeles, also in 2013, many clients toured the space to see the dynamic.  One of the senior brokers in the office was touring a law firm through the space and the managing partner commented that it was great, but would never work for attorneys.

The broker responded with a comment and a question.  The comment was that the attorneys who will be ascending to partners at the end of the firm’s next lease term are still in law school.  The question was in what kind of work environment do you think that they want to work?

Until Matt came back from Rutgers with his commentary, I wasn’t present to the root of the shift in workplace design.  Education is clearly driving the collaborative nature of work. During my college experience, I remember very few group projects, other than the capstone course my senior year.  Matt can’t remember a class during his college experience that didn’t include a group project.  I guess 15 years is a long time.

To me, it’s clear.  Education is driving workplace design.  It’s not a question as the title of this post would imply.  It’s a fact.