Perspectives 01.06.2017

Beyond Millennials: Meet the New Group Inspiring Workplace Innovation

By Perkins&Will

Millennials. Gen Y. Echo Boomers. Regardless of the name, this generation is unquestionably an influential cohort – particularly in our industry, where generational differences are often a driver of workplace design. As the biggest generation in the U.S. workforce, much has been made of how to design workplaces that attract, inspire, and enhance the productivity of Millennials. But there may be a better demographic filter.

Meet the Perennials, which Fast Company recently defined as the “ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. [They] comprise an inclusive, enduring mind-set, not a divisive demographic.”

The concept of Perennials better reflects our reality online and off. Amazon and Netflix get it right with recommendation engines that target people based on behavioral data over outmoded generational stereotypes. How do we replicate this strategy in the workplace? Here are a few considerations.

Designing from the inside-out

Workplace design can inspire organizations, increase trust, and spark innovation. In order to leverage this potential, designers must identify core organizational values and the key people who keep their organizations energized. The Golden Circle and the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, two concepts about organizational motivation and impact, help designers and organizations create spaces that are designed from the inside-out.



The Golden Circle explains how every organization, regardless of its size or industry, knows what they do. A children’s hospital, a corporate law firm, and a bicycle component manufacturer all know their service. Within the organization, most people know how to do what they do. However, usually only a handful of people truly understand why they do what they do. An inspired organization grounds itself with its core belief: the why.

Perennials: the key to the why

To find the organization core, it’s important to engage Perennials, who are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, and collaborative and typically go above and beyond to stay involved. They have their finger on the pulse of the latest advancements, and thrive in multiple networks. Whether they are the CEO or an intern, 70 years old or 22, they drive their organization to succeed. Their beliefs form the Golden Circle’s core.

Perennials make intuitive decisions based on what they believe. Within our U.S. population, the law of diffusion of innovation shows that about 2.5% are innovators, 13.5% are early adopters, and 34% are either early majority or late majority. To design an inspiring environment, the organization must influence the tipping point (15 to 18%) of the law of diffusion of innovation. To exert this influence, designers should tap into the Perennials, who are most likely to be innovators and early adopters.



In practice: Be the Match

Leveraging Perennials can yield positive outcomes for organizations looking to enrich their employees and clients. Be the Match, a nonprofit dedicated to helping patients obtain life-saving bone marrow transplants, is one example of how Perkins&Will helped propel and refresh an organization using the influence of its Perennials.

Facing increasing demand for transplant services, Be the Match desired a workplace that would allow them to attract new employees, work more efficiently, and grow within their space. Although some employees expressed reservations about this change, the organization recognized their Human Resources Department as Perennials, and worked with Perkins&Will to determine their needs for a future workplace. The result of this collaboration is a space that connects employees in pursuit of a single mission: delivering cures for blood cancers.

Be the Match’s new work environment is a dynamic space that empowers employees to choose where and how they do their work. Previously, there was a dedicated desk for every employee. In the new workplace, about 50% of the staff participate in a mobility program where they share a pool of unassigned desks and have the opportunity to work remotely. All employees can also work in a variety of other spaces: open or enclosed, collaborative or focused, formal or informal. As employees move throughout the space, they are immersed in the values of their organization and the inspirational stories of patients, donors, and health care professionals around the world.

The workplace was built on the integration of people, policies, space solutions, and technological tools that enable employees to work effectively and efficiently in service of patients seeking a second chance at life. Tapping the influential power of the Perennials resulted in a better connected and more authentic workplace – for all generations.

This post was authored by Yukari Yamahiro.