TZL 1412 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S O c t o b e r 1 1 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 1 2 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

HR department size

Use this data to inform your firm’s strategy and keep employee sentiment high. Employee sentiment soars

T he latest data is in from the AEC industry’s largest employee experience survey, Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For survey. One thing is clear, employee sentiment has soared this year. It’s not surprising considering how challenging 2020 was for many, but this year’s data actually surpassed 2019. The survey results include more than 1.8 million data points on employee experience, increasingly referred to as “EX.” Employees still feel strongly that Best Firms To Work For continually strive to improve, are ethical, and provide high quality work for clients. In 2021, employee sentiment soared across the board. When looking at the overall data set, of the 135 ranked items, only three dropped in 2021 over 2020. That’s incredibly low. What is even more interesting is what those three items were and what they say about how employees are feeling right now. Ranked in order starting with the biggest decrease, here are the three points where employee sentiment dipped in 2021 compared to 2020: 1) My firm provides opportunities for socializing and celebrating special events. 2) Effectiveness of your team(s) working from home. 3) Your effectiveness working from home. Both No. 2 and No. 3 soared after the pandemic started and were highly ranked in 2020, only to plummet in 2021. So, using the Best Firms To Work For survey data to inform your firm’s strategy, here are a few recommendations to keep employee sentiment high: ❚ ❚ Maintain that increased “state of the company” communication. Communication has historically been one of the biggest gripes of employees, however, the pandemic turned that around. It is apparent that the new forms of communication and increased frequency was appreciated by employees. It seems counterintuitive that communication scores would soar when people are isolated at home versus sitting next to each other in the office. I believe the jump in scores was reflective of the frequency and content. In 2020 we talked more about the “state of the company” with more raw talk about the current situation and the future. I believe the trends we saw in communication data from 2019 to 2020 and now to 2021 indicate employees want more “real talk” and transparency about the company and the state of the industry. Employees like to know what’s going on in the company and have a lot more interest in the inner workings than many leaders realize. Additionally, sharing this more meaningful information with employees builds a culture of transparency and candidness that benefits everyone. Such a culture empowers people to have the hard conversations that are needed between team members to address issues. Transparency also gives employees more security

F I R M I N D E X Dewberry................................................4 FXCollaborative.......................................4 GGLO.....................................................6 Neumann/Smith Architecture. .................2 Rich & Associates...................................2 Ware Malcomb......................................12 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz GUSTAVO RODRIGUEZ: Stronger together Page 3 xz Focused: James Bradley Page 6 xz YUKARI YAMAHIRO: Who does the future workplace serve? Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG: Who says best practices really are best? Page 11 Zweig Group’s 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report of AEC Firms asked firms to enter the size of their human resources department as well as the total firm size. The chart above shows the average number of HR employees relative to total staff size groupings. Generally, firms really focused on expanding their HR department once their total staff size surpassed 100 employees. The percentage of the firm’s employees in the HR department ranges anywhere from 1 percent in larger firms to 6 percent in smaller firms. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

Chad Clinehens




BUSINESS NEWS RICH & ASSOCIATES DESIGNS PARKING FOR SOMA PROJECT THAT’S TRANSFORMING DETROIT’S SOMA DISTRICT Rich & Associates , the world’s oldest firm dedicated solely to parking design, planning, and management, announced that Phase 1 of the SoMa district development has been completed with the construction of the six-story mixed-use parking structure. Rich & Associates, as consultants to lead architects Neumann/Smith Architecture , served as parking consultant and structural engineer for the 213,099-square-foot parking structure, which offers 591 parking spaces with office, retail, and restaurant space occupying the ground level. “This project will transform the SoMo district of Midtown Detroit, and we are proud to have

played a key role in its development,” said David Rich, vice president of Rich & Associates. “The SoMa parking structure represents a 20- year collaboration between Neumann/Smith Architecture and Rich & Associates that includes the successful completion of 12 parking structures.” Rich & Associates is the nation’s foremost parking consulting firm, providing customized solutions for every type of parking need. Founded in 1963, Rich & Associates’ industry- leading role as planners, designers, developers, and operators comes from its focused expertise in the ever-changing field of parking and mobility. In keeping with its founding principles, the firm provides innovative approaches to all aspects of parking.

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CHAD CLINEHENS, from page 1

as they better understand the firm, the operating environment, and how things might affect them. ❚ ❚ Confront underperformance. One of the biggest issues in recent years has been around firms dealing with underperformers. This has tended to trend down over the past three years, tracking with industry data that shows AEC firms getting busier. When we’re busy, we tend to keep our heads down to get the work done and are less likely to confront issues. This is especially true if it means we may lose an employee, which could mean lost production capacity. With concern about burnout at an all-time high, confronting issues tends to become less of a priority. The reality is that many employees at all levels of the org chart feel the effects of a team member who is not performing or is toxic. When we do not confront these issues, it demotivates our greatest people. Confront problems in your firm and your productivity will increase. ❚ ❚ Develop flexible policies that reflect your ideal culture. The latest data suggests that the work situation, possibly just the uncertainty around everything, has worn on employees and they are feeling less effective as time goes on. This means firms have got to figure out how to most effectively work in a COVID world, whether in the office, at home, or a combination of both. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how firms should return to the office or what long-term, flexible work-from-home policies should look like. You’ve got to figure out what’s important to your clients, what your people want, and how you want to be positioned in the marketplace. Peaks and valleys in COVID may be with us for a while, as we’ve seen in just the past several weeks with the delta variant. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, make sure the message reinforces trust in employees – employees like to feel trusted, just like you want to feel trusted by your clients. We will share a lot more data and trends from this and other awards programs at our in-person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala at the Hyatt Regency in Denver from November 3-5. The conference was designed earlier this year at the peak of the pandemic, so regardless of where we are in November, the space and experience will adapt to keep attendees safe and to allow us to have a great in- person experience. Click here for more information on the conference. I hope to see you in Denver! CHAD CLINEHENS is Zweig Group’s president and CEO. Contact him at .

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Zweig Group’s 2021 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala Zweig Group is thrilled to announce that the annual in-person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will return in Denver, November 3-5, restoring the full agenda. This includes bringing back the iconic black-tie awards gala celebrating the 2021 winners of the Hot Firm list, Best Firms To Work For, Marketing Excellence, Rising Stars, Top New Ventures, and the Jerry Allen Courage In Leadership Awards. Click here to learn more or to register for the AEC industry’s top in-person learning and networking event of the year.

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Stronger together

A collaborative design process where a diversity of voices are present and have ownership allows room for new ideas and points of view to emerge.

I n order to design a better, more inclusive world, we must also think about how to make the design process more collaborative and diverse. The days of the black cape designer, a Western canon of design discourse, only helped to perpetuate inequities and racism in the design industry. It is not merely enough to employ a diverse staff (although that is a good first step); we must also evolve the way in which we work to create a stronger AEC community.

Gustavo Rodriguez

A collaborative process where a wide diversity of voices are present and have ownership will not only ensure that a diversity of experiences are represented, but will also make room for new ideas and points of view to emerge. “Collaboration” has long been a buzzword in the modern workplace, and conversations about collaboration between clients, contractors, consultants, and architects are crucial for our industry. But how do we, as architects and designers, collaborate internally? And how can the act of creativity, which is an inherently individual activity, transform into a shared experience and open dialogue? The act of coming together to create, where multiple and diverse points of view generate ideas that are openly and equally evaluated, is

the best way to tackle the many challenges that we face in our profession. If we believe that design has the power to change the world, then the design process that is used to arrive at this solution can’t rely on the traditionally closed act of creation – it needs to be an open and participatory conversation. For that dialogue to be successful, it requires us to first reprogram our brains to understand that being a successful leader is not about being a solitary designer, but rather a dialogue-generator, listener/curator designer. As an architect and design director, I am often the spokesperson for a project’s design narrative, but I am cognizant that this design narrative is the




BUSINESS NEWS NYSDOT SELECTS POSILLICO/EL SOL JOINT VENTURE WITH DEWBERRY FOR VAN WYCK EXPRESSWAY CAPACITY AND ACCESS IMPROVEMENTS, CONTRACT 1 DESIGN-BUILD PROJECT The Posillico/El Sol JV, along with Dewberry has announced that it has been selected by New York State Department of Transportation to provide design-build transportation services for the $340 million Van Wyck Expressway Capacity and Access Improvements to the John F. Kennedy Airport, Contract 1. This project will increase capacity on VWE between the Kew Gardens interchange and JFK Airport, improving access to and from the airport. VWE provides passenger and commercial truck access routes to JFK Airport, which is one of the largest in the U.S. for personal and

business travel, and international air cargo. As part of the project, the team will lengthen nine bridges that carry heavily used avenues over the VWE, allowing for future roadway widening. Dewberry will also replace two ramps and provide improvements to address geometric deficiencies. Four of the nine bridges will be completely replaced while the other five will be lengthened and have their decks replaced. All the bridges require complex staging and an innovative method to build new abutments behind the existing ones, while keeping the bridges fully operational. “When the VWE is widened in its final phase, not only will it help to reduce traffic in the local communities, but it will be the gateway from JFK Airport to New York City that the governor envisions,” says Dewberry Design Manager,

Paul Nietzschmann, P.E. “It is very exciting to be a part of that effort.” Dewberry is partnering with Greenman- Pedersen, Inc. on the design. This project is anticipated to be completed at the end of 2023. Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.


goals and articulate a vision at the onset so that the team can all work together to achieve these. It is the role of the design leader to clearly communicate these project goals, vision, and design aspiration, structuring and leading the process while allowing the team to create within those parameters. This collaboration structure needs to leave room for self-expression and for participants to freely explore alternatives, but for it to have long-term success, everyone needs to feel part of the process and have a sense of ownership. If everyone is to have a sense of ownership, then we need to build bridges to team members who may have other ways of thinking, creating, and communicating. The successful incorporation of these diverse viewpoints requires active participation from everyone. We must be willing to hear the ideas of others and be open to having our ideas challenged. It is OK to change your mind, it is OK to be convinced, and it is OK to admit you were not right. DESIGN PROCESS AND FIRM CULTURE. The main takeaway from our investigations at FXCollaborative is that our strength lies in our ability to come together in an open design process that creates room for everyone. But for this to be effective, we need to actively pursue a greater understanding of each other’s differences and commonalities. The way to achieve this will differ depending on the size and culture of your firm, the staffing structure of your teams, and the work that you do. However, in whatever scenario, it is necessary for individual voices with diverse backgrounds and unique experiences to come together in open dialogue. This is where a collaborative process can have the biggest impact on our industry – opening design to those who have historically been left out of the creative act (such as women and underrepresented communities) and bringing fresh insight and different ways of problem solving to our projects, which will lead to more successful outcomes for our clients and industry. Only then can we collectively shape design solutions to the many problems we need to tackle as a profession. GUSTAVO RODRIGUEZ, AIA, CODIA, LEED AP, is a partner at FXCollaborative. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

result of the work of multiple people and interactions. It is my role to be an advocate for the other voices, internal and external, that are not always at the table. However, an open process can easily devolve into a self-reflecting spiral that, at best, produces a compromised solution. Avoiding the perils of “design by committee” also requires a balance between exploration and direction: When is the time for open collaboration, and when is it time for consensus building and decision making? EXPLORING THE PROCESS. In order to truly revamp the design process, we must first look at the different structures at play when it comes to collaboration during the creative process. Who participates? How are decisions made? Essi Salonen’s “A Designer’s Guide to Collaboration,” a great tool to help plan a collaborative project, defines these structures as either open or closed, and flat or hierarchical. So how do you balance open, flat collaboration when leading a design project, which has traditionally required a closed and hierarchical process? Design Core, FXCollaborative’s internal workgroup focused on advancing the firm’s design culture and critical thinking, explored how to balance these seemingly opposing ideas, and how and when to best leverage these concepts in our processes. We conducted internal surveys across FXCollaborative’s design studios to learn how people like to collaborate and organized two design workshops in which we experimented with different ways of structuring the design process. We gathered data on the participants’ engagement in the process and their sense of ownership, and finally evaluated how successful the team was in embodying the original idea in the resulting design. TRANSFORMING THE PROCESS. We discovered that there is generally a preference for open participation and flat decision-making in earlier phases of a project. In later phases where decisions need to be made, and timelines/ deliverables need to be met, the design process can remain open, but should move toward a more hierarchical decision structure. Even though early stages of the process may be open and flat, it is important for someone to clearly set

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


New From Zweig Group



2021 BEST PERFORMING FIRMS IN THE AEC INDUSTRY REPORT PRICE: $395 OVERVIEW: How do the most successful architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms do business? How do firms that excel in growth, financial performance, profitability, excellent workplaces, or marketing stand out from the rest? Statistics are shown for award-winning, fastest-growing, and highest-profit firms, separately from the overall sample so you can benchmark your firm relative to the most successful firms in the AEC industry. LEARN MORE


OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms is a benchmarking and advisory guide to industry firm marketing activities, budgets, marketing department organization, staffing levels, compensation, and investments in marketing systems and infrastructure. This report also has statistics on proposal activity, hit rates, and other useful analytics.


OVERVIEW: The Mid-Year Update 2021 Salary Report of AEC Firms contains data gathered after January 2021 and is designed to help firms evaluate how salaries have changed during the first half of 2021. This publication includes salary information on nearly every job role at AEC firms. Statistics are broken down by firm staff size and region of office for more accurate benchmarking and comparisons. SURVEY PARTICIPATION








Focused: James Bradley Managing principal at GGLO (Seattle, WA), a firm that believes it’s both the opportunity and responsibility of design to inspire the best aspects of community.


T he people at GGLO strive to design places where their clients’ clients prosper. Their approach is focused on improving the relationship between people and place. Bradley, who also leads GGLO’s Hospitality Practice, has extensive experience in mixed-use multifamily and urban design projects and works. He ensures that GGLO’s architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and urban designers work across scales and project types to create holistic neighborhoods, blocks, buildings, and public spaces. “From the conception of the firm, GGLO has been focused on providing a future for all of its employees,” Bradley says. “The founding owners were proactive about creating an ownership transition that allowed for this to happen. They started early and we continue with that tradition as we search out young talent that can take the firm into the future.” A CONVERSATION WITH JAMES BRADLEY. The Zweig Letter: Your online bio states that your

fascination with the emotional impact structures and spaces can have on individuals has motivated your work. Where do you think this fascination stems from? What first got you interested in creating spaces? James Bradley: As a kid, I was always fascinated with houses that were being built in my neighborhood. After the workers left, my friends and I would spend hours exploring these houses, their spaces, and the structures that created them. Over the years, this nostalgic memory fused with my understanding that we are all bound by one constant – our connection with shelter. And it’s this connection that creates many emotions, some that we can describe, some that we can’t. It’s kind of exciting to think about. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? JB: Prior to the pandemic, we had a flexible work environment that allowed for individuals to work remotely or telecommute when the need was there. This flexibility has always been important to GGLO as we value a strong



work-life balance. What the pandemic taught us was how to do it better. We invested in a lot of new technologies that allowed staff to connect more seamlessly. There was a particular focus on collaboration tools that allowed our design process to flourish while we were not together. The discussion now is around the right balance between in-office and out-of-office work. We acknowledge that our work benefits from being together so that incidental interactions happen. These interactions support new ideas, quality assurance, and mentoring. “I believe that collaboration is the key to success here, and I recognize that I don’t have all the answers. I like to foster an environment that allows individuals to participate in the discussion with the goal of finding common ground.” TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? JB: My career and my family have been intertwined since the start. I met my wife in graduate school as she is a designer too. We are connected through design, and we find that a lot of “free” time is spent on activities that involve design, searching for Russell Wright pieces, or the constant renovation and work on our house. And, we’re now seeing that our daughter is catching the “design bug” too. Design is a 24-hour life for us which gives us the ability to relate to each other’s issues as we advance through our careers. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? JB: When I started out in my career, I didn’t start out to be a leader; I started out to be an architect. That’s still very much part of my being. I look for innovative solutions for a particular problem. It’s safe to say that this same mentality has found its way into my leadership capabilities. I strive to understand a particular situation and then find an elegant and efficient direction to proceed. I believe that collaboration is the key to success here, and I recognize that I don’t have all the answers. I like to foster an environment that allows individuals to participate in the discussion with the goal of finding common ground. But I also believe that I have a

good sense about when the group needs leadership to move to the next level and I’m not afraid to provide that leadership. Also, it’s difficult to talk about leadership without talking about being inspiring. I’m not necessarily a “cheerleader,” but I inspire by being a role model. TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? JB: Yes, and it’s been working quite well. The financial benefit we gain allows us to dive deeper into our strategic initiatives. For example, we’re working to make significant reductions in the carbon footprint on all of our projects. This credit allows us to invest in tools and additional time to further respond to this critical need. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? JB: I was very lucky to find GGLO because from the conception of the firm, it has been focused on providing a future for all of its employees. The founding owners were proactive about creating an ownership transition that allowed for this to happen. They started early and we continue with that tradition as we search out young talent that can take the firm into the future. Just last year, we brought on five new owners and we’re excited by their ability to do this. We strive to always have a balance between owners who are investing in and owners who are divesting out. There is a lot of energy in this dynamic that we strive on to do better work. To avoid the pitfall is easy: Start early. TZL: According to the “Design Process” statement on your website, GGLO “works to transform an environment in ways that enhance its beauty and support the well-being of people and planet.” Can you provide a recent example that touches on all points here? See FOCUSED, page 8 its employees. The founding owners were proactive about creating an ownership transition that allowed for this to happen.” “From the conception of the firm, [GGLO] has been focused on providing a future for all of





❚ ❚ Seattle, WA

❚ ❚ Los Angeles, CA

❚ ❚ Boise, ID


❚ ❚ Architecture

❚ ❚ Urban design

❚ ❚ Planning

❚ ❚ Research

❚ ❚ Interior design

❚ ❚ Landscape architecture

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

OBER 11, 2021, ISSUE 1412


GGLO designed the 68,000-square-foot Chambers Bay Resort in University Place, WA. The resort is built into the hillside with the intention to create flow with the natural landscape and maintain the integrity of views. It features a variety of amenities including a hotel, golf pro shop, restaurant, and spa

FOCUSED , from page 7

JB: We take project management very seriously. We’ve created a number of learning opportunities to support PMs. We have in-house training that is led by our financial director as well as key principals. We also look to outside seminars and training for our PMs. Combining these with our PM roundtable allows information to be shared among the group and we pay particular attention to the PM tools we use to be more effective. We have invested heavily in project management software that gives PMs access to information they need. Finally, our in-house recruiter is constantly looking for new PM talent to help with being understaffed and over worked. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? JB: We have not dipped into the 20s yet, but we do have principals in their 30s. Experience is very important for a principal. Most of your time is spent negotiating situations, while at the same time providing a sense of inspiration. It seems like it would be hard to do that with just a few years of experience. We look for individuals who bring passion and energy to their efforts, and we don’t necessarily look at the “book of business” someone brings to the firm. We recognize that our firm’s success is built on being attentive to a variety of aspects of our work and all of these aspects need principal level leadership. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? JB: Focus.

JB: At GGLO, we believe that we are at our best when we think outside the perceived boundaries of a project. We dive deep into understanding how a project, no matter its size, can be a catalyst for something bigger. Our work at Northgate Mall in Seattle is a great example of this. Our efforts transformed a quintessential shopping mall into a vibrant multi-use neighborhood. And, as planned, we’re starting to see how adjacent developments and neighborhoods are thinking about how to make connections to our development for a more walkable, transit-oriented area. “Prior to the pandemic, we had a flexible work environment that allowed for individuals to work remotely or telecommute when the need was there. This flexibility has always been important to GGLO as we value a strong work-life balance. What the pandemic taught us was how to do it better.” TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs?

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Four back-to-work-archetypes to help leaders better understand what employees want and need as they return to the workplace. Who does the future workplace serve?

T he COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we work, forcing many companies to shift to remote working for more than a year. With more vaccinations available for people around the world, we are finally seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. As organizations begin to plan their “return to office,” they are rushing to understand what the future workplace experience should look like. Safety, technology, space allocation, and occupancy strategies will all be important in the post-pandemic workplace, but after 2020 – a year defined by the pandemic and by America’s ongoing reckoning with various complex social issues – organizations must put their people first in redesigning the workplace experience.

Yukari Yamahiro

RETURN-TO-THE-OFFICE ARCHETYPES. Through our collaboration with clients and experts across industries, we have developed four key employee archetypes for the workplace of the future: 1)The Hand Shakers: ❚ ❚ “I like the way it used to be in 2019.” ❚ ❚ This group wanted to go back to the office yesterday. They are some of the first to return to indoor dining, and generally want life to go back to the way it was as soon as possible. It’s not that these individuals aren’t thinking about safety, they just recognize that risk is everywhere. In the

frog is working with multiple clients to navigate this transformation while keeping their people at the center. One way we have been reflecting on the return to the office is by understanding people through archetypes, which help focus and prioritize design efforts by describing patterns across individuals within a group. Archetypes highlight unique and overlapping behaviors, identify the motivations that underlie behaviors, and demonstrate how behaviors and motivations change in different contexts. They aren’t rigid or absolute – any person may, over time, demonstrate multiple behavioral archetypes, and individuals may span multiple archetypes depending on the situation.




YUKARI YAMAHIRO, from page 9

❚ ❚ “I think remote working is the way.” ❚ ❚ This group wants to stay at home permanently. They have created an optimal work-from-home setup and adapted to the digital tools they need to collaborate. The past year has solidified their existing individual preferences; they find satisfaction in their routine and enjoy focusing on themselves, their solitary hobbies, and their families and friends. While some individuals in this group may be anti- social, most of them simply don’t rely on the office to fulfill their need for social connection. ❚ ❚ Key behaviors: These individuals are the most likely to pilot new digital collaboration tools and methods that will allow them to continue working remotely. ❚ ❚ Level of COVID concern: Varies ❚ ❚ Desire to return to the office: Very low WHAT’S NEXT? Returning to the office is going to be complicated and likely uncomfortable. When designing the future workplace experience, we must address the current satisfactions and pain points of each archetype, as well as their hopes and concerns for the future. We have already seen many organizations focus on convincing the Emoji Senders to return to the office by allowing the Hand Shakers to take the lead. To ensure a successful reset and a sustainable “new normal,” however, it is important to engage with all staff in individualized ways. Every organization’s goal should be to design an experience that serves their people’s needs. “More than ever before, we must design a healthy and high-performing workplace experience around the organization’s most important asset – people.” Beyond helping design safe and healthy workplace environments, we have also been helping organizations create new and exciting cultural norms, work processes, and routines that their employees will want to come back to. These cultural norms must be tailored to each organization, such as rolling out custom venture design processes or brainstorming new rituals like daily coffee time. Again, it is critical that these new norms accommodate and engage all archetypes – engagement inspires and creates meaning, ultimately benefiting the company’s bottom line. By thoughtfully designing the workplace experience of the future, organizations can advance their business and ignite innovation. But they will only be successful if that experience meets and exceeds the demands of their people. More than ever before, we must design a healthy and high-performing workplace experience around the organization’s most important asset – people. From physical spaces to informal routines, the experience must revolve around people. YUKARI YAMAHIRO is a strategist specializing in Org Activation at frog New York. Trained as an architect, she works with teams and organizations to adopt human-centered design-thinking with an inclusive approach. Contact her at

workplace, they may be focused more on other priorities like remote work’s long-term effects on company culture and business health. ❚ ❚ Key behaviors: They may push the boundaries of preventative measures like mask-wearing, physical distancing, and temperature-taking, but they will likely comply with these restrictions if it means their lives can get back to normal sooner. ❚ ❚ Level of COVID concern: Low ❚ ❚ Desire to return to the office: Very high “Safety, technology, space allocation, and occupancy strategies will all be important in the post-pandemic workplace, but after 2020 organizations must put their people first in redesigning the workplace experience.” 2)The Distant Wavers: ❚ ❚ “I need to separate work and personal life.” ❚ ❚ This group wants to return to the office because they miss the separation between their home life and work life. Whether they lack a quiet, focused workspace at home or they feel like they’re “plugged in” all hours of the day, these individuals believe the blurred boundaries between work and home have kept them from peak productivity. They still feel concerned about physical health and safety but are more concerned about their mental health and individual productivity. ❚ ❚ Key behaviors: These individuals will readily comply with preventative measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing if it means they can get back to the office and to being their most productive.

❚ ❚ Level of COVID concern: Moderate ❚ ❚ Desire to return to the office: High 3)The Elbow Bumpers: ❚ ❚ “I want to reset to new norms.”

❚ ❚ This group desires to be around others but will return to the office only if the right safety measures are in place. They find that working remotely has been surprisingly productive and less distracting, but they miss the face- to-face collaboration and social connections of the office. Remaining apart from others has been mentally taxing for them. COVID-19 has shifted these individuals’ mindset significantly, and they will likely expect preventative measures to be strictly enforced. ❚ ❚ Key behaviors: They will take precaution in selecting the activities, individuals, and spaces they consider to be safe, but will likely be willing to take some risks to ensure that the organizational culture is intact. ❚ ❚ Level of COVID concern: High ❚ ❚ Desire to return to the office: Medium 4)The Emoji Senders:

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




If you truly want “best practices” for your firm, you need to look for real innovation versus following the pack. Who says best practices really are best?

“B est practices” is one of these frequently used terms we (“we” being those of us who talk about the business of AEC firms) frequently use without thinking about it. I’m 100 percent sure I have done it myself hundreds, if not thousands of times. These best practices refer to matters such as billing and collection, recruiting, marketing and business development, organization structure, employee training and development, compensation and benefits, and many other critical areas.

Mark Zweig

It makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to do everything in their firm in whatever is the generally accepted best way to do it?

like ours, differentiation is crucial to breaking out from the competition. You have to be differentiated from the other firms so clients select you and pay you a better fee for whatever it is you do. You have to be differentiated from other firms when it comes to being able to recruit and retain the very best staff. You have to be differentiated when it comes to how you do the work your firm does so you can be more efficient. Differentiation, i.e., uniqueness, is crucial. And finding that differentiation takes innovation, not following. Before we go any further, let’s also acknowledge

There’s only one problem with this idea. And it’s a biggie. If one accepts the notion that we work in a huge, crowded, fragmented industry that is made up of 100,000 firms or more (and that is just counting architecture, engineering, planning, and allied companies – not the broader definition of the industry that includes millions of construction contracting and subcontracting companies), is being like everyone else the best way to make YOUR firm successful? When you have a business in a mature industry

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



ON THE MOVE WARE MALCOMB ADRIAN MCDERMOTT HAS JOINEDAS DIRECTOR, DESIGN IN OAK BROOK OFFICE Ware Malcomb , an award- winning international design firm, announced Adrian McDermott has joined Ware Malcomb as director of design in the Oak Brook office. McDermott joins Ware Malcomb with more than 15 years of experience in architectural design. He brings leadership and design experience in mixed-use, multifamily, office, retail, hospitality, healthcare, sports facilities, and cultural project types. He is well-versed in leading a design team and has in-depth experience mentoring others in his field. In his new role, McDermott will assist in the growth and evolution of Ware Malcomb’s national design platform, specifically within the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast ANNOUNCES

regions. His technical knowledge and creative inventiveness implemented in each project, from concept through construction documents, continuously positions him as a design leader in the industry. “Adrian is an excellent team mentor and inspiring leader,” said Jinger Tapia, principal of design at Ware Malcomb. “His innate design talent and multi-faceted approach to projects will further strengthen our team for growth and success across North America.” McDermott holds a master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in Design from Northern Illinois University. Throughout his career, he has held various adjunct and visiting teaching positions in the University of Illinois Chicago, School of the Art Institute

of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is a contemporary and expanding full service design firm providing professional architecture, planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement services to corporate, commercial/residential developer and public/institutional clients throughout the world. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science & technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/ institutional facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and a Hot Firm by Zweig Group.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

a different way of thinking. Get them involved in coming up with new ways to do things. They don’t have all the mental constraints that some of us who have been doing this stuff for a longer time probably have. Never underestimate the power of youth to come up with new solutions to old problems. 4)Regularly conduct some small experiments and see what happens. Experimentation has to be part of your culture. It’s OK to fail at small things that don’t risk your company. Try things out in small ways to see what happens. You just may make some new discoveries. “Being innovative – not just in what you are selling but in your business practices – may be the way to break out from the pack. Not following the herd is something to consider. How can you be more innovative in your business practices?” 5)Make your management mantra, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.” Again, see point No. 4 above. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they are doing something using all the best practices and still having poor results. It’s because “best” really isn’t the best. The best for you and your clients and your employees based on your culture, history, and resources may not be what it is for everyone else. 6)Surround yourself with people who challenge you. Too much “cultural compatibility” in hiring and the wrong leadership that doesn’t want to be challenged is a recipe for lack of innovation. That will eventually lead to death of the business. Value those who disagree with you. Try to understand their viewpoints. Listen to them. And maybe you need to let them try some new things to solve the problem or capitalize on the opportunity that they see and you don’t. I could probably go on here but you get the idea. If you truly want “best practices,” that means real innovation versus following the pack. What are you doing right now to lead versus follow? MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at .

that being different – especially when you are talking about business practices – certainly isn’t always better! There are so many things that so many small companies do in this business that hurt them. I used to like to say, “Improving how AEC firms do things is like shooting fish in a barrel.” In other words, most firms in this business – particularly the smallest ones – are doing so many things wrong, it wouldn’t be hard to make progress quickly if they wanted to. Sometimes different is just plain wrong. But being innovative – not just in what you are selling but in your business practices – may be the way to break out from the pack. Not following the herd – not being a lemming jumping off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings – is something to consider. How can you be more innovative in your business practices? Here are some thoughts: 1)Learn about how businesses in some other industries are doing things. If I have learned one thing over the past 17 years since the first time we sold in 2004 the firm that is now Zweig Group, it’s this: Other industries may be ahead of ours in how they do things. I’m talking about high tech firms. Consumer product firms. Other businesses in industries that are full of creative and smart people and that have a lot of money to spend making things better. I don’t want to say that some of these businesses have smarter people than we have in ours – the people who own AEC firms are not dumb – but these other industries have different people and may be thinking about things differently than we do. Find out what they are doing, what their strategies are, how they are dealing with their people, raising capital, marketing themselves, and more. You may get some new ideas. 2)Get some diversity in your management. Sorry if I offend anyone, but the fact is we have way too many middle-aged white guys just like me in all of our management jobs and on our BODs. It’s not to say us old white guys don’t have plenty to offer, however, these other people do, too. And different ethnic backgrounds, sexes, and experience backgrounds will result in more innovation. 3)Reach way, way down in the ranks for input. Younger people have been exposed to some different tools and have

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