Saturday, January 24, 2015

12431: Grey’s Generational Segregation.

PSFK reported Grey Advertising has segregated its office space based on generational differences. Business Insider published a companion piece on the matter, drawing comments from curious and annoyed readers. At first blush, Base Camp looks like a bad idea, especially as collaboration continues to be a big deal in the industry. While Grey insists the separate area fosters collaboration, how does collaboration happen across generational groups? It’s one thing to offer perks or programs to appeal to various employee segments—and even to provide special accommodations for specific employees (e.g., nursing areas for mothers, smoking areas, etc.). Physically segregating workers by age, however, will only lead to potential discrimination. For example, what if a millennial prefers the office accommodations provided to Generation X or Boomer staffers, or vice versa? Additionally, Base Camp is ultra exclusive, as it only caters to millennial associate account executives. Then again, the industry segregates people by race and ethnicity, as evidenced by multicultural advertising agencies and cross-cultural departments. Hopefully, the kids in Base Camp aren’t experiencing the second-class citizenship that minorities face in the aforementioned silos.

Ad Agency Gives Millennial Employees Their Own Separate Space

By Adriana Krasniansky

Grey Advertising shifts the traditional agency setup by giving millennials their own wing

The Millennial Generation, defined roughly as individuals born between 1980 and 2000, now represents 25% of the United States population. Its 80 million members hold over $200 billion in annual buying power, and they are the most coveted audience for businesses looking to remain relevant in a saturated consumer market. Grappling between millennials’ formidability and their shifting values, many companies are forced to ask: how do we approach today’s most powerful generation?

Grey Advertising, AdWeek’s 2014 Agency of the Year, asked itself just that. The agency, which employs over 1,000 individuals, indicates that 48% of its workforce falls into the millennial generation. In the past several years, Grey management noticed that millennials entering the office worked differently than their colleagues: they were more informal in communication, thrived on collaboration, and yearned for a work community.

In response, Grey adjusted by setting up an entirely separate office space for Generation Y employees. In their New York offices, Grey created Base Camp, a work environment exclusively for millennial associate account executives. While each employee still works with a separate team on client accounts, the group as a whole shares desk space, attends agency training in group, and learns from one another.

As a representative from Grey explains, “The philosophy behind the Base Camp community was to create an environment that gives structure, but creates self-sufficiency [and] encourages relationship building with key learnings more readily shared.”

Grey’s Base Camp initiative comes at a time when several of the agency’s clients—including Gillette, Papa Johns, and Marriott—are transitioning to include millennials in their core marketing base. By adapting to millennials within their own offices, Grey establishes itself as a agency aware of millennial needs and one willing to adapt to them.

As Michael Houston, CEO of Grey North America, tells PSFK: “The key to me about the Base Camp movement is that we’re learning from this group rather than showing them how we’ve previously worked. We’re working to understand their organic tendencies.”

Houston stresses that the millennial office space does not value one work style above another, but fosters different styles of creative thinking in the office. “Different is not necessarily bad,” he says, “But different is different…millennials are hard workers. They just work differently.”

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