The Generation (Z) Game

The next generation of architects is here, and it’s different to those that have preceded it. So what distinguishes Generation Z from those who have previously trodden the very same path?

Listen to the media, and Generation Z is lazy, too focused upon looking good on ‘the gram’ and attending bottomless brunches. They want something for nothing, and risk the future of industry falling to ruin… Funny though, take a quick hop back in time, and you’d have heard similar comments on ‘the youth of today’ about the same people now saying it.

Gen Z is different and the future of the architectural industry in the UK will be different, with a strong argument to say, better for it.

So… what’s inspiring this generation when looking for employment, and why?

Covid, MeToo, George Floyd, the cost of living and the climate crisis are just a few of the factors influencing a new generation. The experiences and lessons learned from each of these seismic events have shaped a view that things have to be done better, and architectural practices not listening are finding that the future of the profession is voting with its feet.

Just as Elon Musk outlined his demand for Tesla staff to return to the office, and Jacob Rees Mogg began his passive aggressive ‘wish you were here’ notes for home working civil service staff, many architectural practices have retracted the option for their staff to work from home.

Working from home wasn’t even a widespread thing prior to March 2020, so what’s the problem?

Covid saw almost all of us working from home. Some of us for a little while, some for a long time, and frankly, it just worked. It enabled underpaid Architectural Assistants and Architects to slash their commuting costs, improve their work/life balance, and start to consider what’s important in their careers. 

Since January 2022, as lockdowns finally concluded across the UK, there has been a consistent trend in the reasoning given for looking for a new job from candidates registering with urban: “My company is insisting that I return to the office full time.”  68% of the candidates registering with us, during the first half of 2022, have stated hybrid working to be a ‘must have’ in their motivations for a new job. For millennials, this figure increases to almost 90%. Reviewing stats for the same period in 2019, and the figure was less than 1% across the board.

Simply put, firms refusing to accept a hybrid working member of staff, are struggling to attract the best Gen Z talent, and fighting a losing battle to retain them.

With 65% of the job roles posted to urban by our clients throughout 2022 at the Part II to Part III to 3 years post-qualification, this is a crucial factor, with practices missing out on their number one choices when it comes to staff as a consequence.

Salary is, unsurprisingly, a strong motivator and was highlighted by 71% of Gen Z that urban surveyed in 2022. After years of architectural salaries falling in real terms, young people are recognising their value. The demand for late millennials and Gen Z has also helped push their salaries up significantly, with the average newly-qualified architect, with Revit skills, increasing from £36,000 to upwards of £40,000 in a matter of months. Many are achieving figures of up to £45,000, with no more than 2 years post-Part III experience.

Social value and company ethics also featured strongly with millennial motivations.

32% of Generation Z said that they were looking to join a practice with community-centric projects, compared to just 8% of the overall population of candidates surveyed. 

Gen Z has been pivotal in the development and agendas for many of the ED&I panels formed across the industry. Just this week, I visited a leading London-based practice at the invitation of their ED&I board, as we work with them to help enhance the diversity of candidates they’re attracting. 

Our contact shared some of the (often extremely blunt) feedback that the ED&I panel had published for the practice leadership team, and marked as vital for the improvement of the business. These voices and this passion is clearly strongly engrained in the values of many millennials. 

Values are such an important point for many: practice clientele also proved to be a significant motivator. 20% of millennials approached regarding the prospect of working on projects in areas of the world perceived to have poor human rights, particularly across the Middle East and Far East regions, declined to consider even meeting with said architectural practice due to conflicts with their values. 

Issues such as perceived ‘greenwashing’ or simply a lack of authenticity are also frequently highlighted to our consultants. This links closely to ED&I, where firms use the rainbow flag for pride month, or post that Black Lives Matter on their social media, whilst continuing to work with clients or on projects in countries where homosexuality is still a crime, and racism a fact of life. 

In generations past, such issues were rarely featured so highly in an individual’s job search, and this is reflected with just 9% of those from demographic groups preceding Gen Z listing these factors amongst their key motivators.

Lastly, Generation Z increasingly wants to see evidence of positive action, often reviewing the demographic mix of the management team of a practice before committing to considering them as a prospective employer.  

Quite simply, the next generation is here. Is it better or worse than previous generations? Who knows! It is different however, and employers who can understand and adapt to the different needs of their younger employees can only benefit.

Author: Mark Nagle, Operations Director at urban


We use cookies to improve your experience on our site find out more