Cubicles Can Be a Collaboration Killer


One of the most persistent myths about millennials is that they won't have anything to do with the old farts with whom they work.


Not true, found the creatively named Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, a group of 50 multinational companies committed to global talent innovation. Fifty-eight percent of Gen Y employees say they seek professional advice from Baby Boomers more than any other generation. A like number of Boomers report they enjoy helping millennials navigate the workplace.


So employees of all ages are open to knowledge sharing, and companies are becoming increasingly aware of its importance. They are looking for alternatives to traditional business communication tools like e-mail, which are not effective for collaboration. And collaboration software, especially delivered via the cloud, is a certifiably hot IT spending category.


Another way of promoting collaboration, of course, is putting people in close proximity to each other. Sort of a "Back to the Future" approach, if you will. Several technology companies, including Cisco, Microsoft and Intel, are tweaking their office layouts to emphasize open gathering spaces rather than cubicles. This Harvard Business Review article describes similar redesigns at pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim and biotech company Genzyme. Both are intended to promote collaboration.


Like other workplace perks, some companies are promoting their more open offices as a way to attract employees. Says Julie Durgin, a member of Genzyme's Leadership and Organizational Development Department:

The younger generations really love the modern and collaborative green office environment. We find that this has served as a selling point for bringing in high-potential talent.


It's worth remembering, however, that many employees appreciate more privacy than may be offered in open layouts.