It’s time for MR to design a workplace for the future

The research and insight industries need a new workspace strategy to attract and retain young talent.

As the next generation of top graduates prepares to enter the world of work, the merry-go-round of activity designed to lure new talent into MR swings into action.

But, for many MR firms, the battle to recruit and retain those who possess a talent for maths and analytics is becoming a bridge too far. The reality is that each year, our industry is losing a large number of highly skilled graduates to dynamic, bleeding edge firms like Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Now, MR firms also faces recruitment competition from the cool kids (yawn) in media and advertising, who are desperate to on-board grads that can meet their needs for data analysis.

In a bid to respond, many MR firms have revamped their graduate programs to improve the opportunities for personal development, career progression, and training. These actions have also been supported by increased salaries. More recently, others have looked to innovate with new research formats and techniques.

While all of this activity was essential, the reality is that the industry is still losing young talent. Put simply, they’re just not sticking around. Some say bigger salaries aren’t a priority for Millennials, others believe that for some graduates, many MR roles appear mundane. No matter how many new innovative research roles are created, for example, the main stay for MR businesses is qualitative/quantitative research or tracking studies and, for some, this just isn’t as exciting as some other careers.

But I believe there’s another issue to address: MR firms need to rethink their working environments and bring them more in line with Generation Y’s expectations. This group has ‘grown up’ with a much more fluid, project-oriented approach to work, seeking to accomplish their goals in a more open and shared manner than with previous generations.

For Millennials, ‘collaboration’ is the watch word. For them opening up the workspace is important; replacing the oak doors with glass and the high-walled cubicles with small workstations that make it easy to talk and share ideas. If MR agencies really want to compete with the new breed, they also need to build in the creature comforts and amenities that really add magic. Huddle rooms, coffee-bars, relaxation spaces and fitness rooms are all commonplace elsewhere and could make attractive differentiators.  What about outdoor areas too?

Beyond the physical workspace, another critical amenity for this generation is technology. Millennials have grown up with mobile devices and social platforms and expect this technology to pervade their working day, just as it does throughout their evenings and weekends. If we’re into using social platforms for research, which of course we are, we need to walk the walk.

The idea of creating a new MR workspace may be a step too far for some. Others will speculate that these suggestions lack substance and are little more than passing trends. But whatever stance your firm chooses, engaging in the discussion and taking a view is the most important part. Like it or not, the Millennial generation will inherit this and every other industry, so it pays to listen. Who knows? It may be their influence today that will mark your firm out in the future. Surely that’s a sentiment worth researching.


Originally published in Impact Magazine.