June 2006 
Volume 05, Issue 2  
Cover Story

Meet your future workspace

What will the Boeing workplace of tomorrow look like? The Future of Work project is tackling this question. Their answers are intended to bolster productivity—as well as attract and accommodate employees


By 2016, the centennial of The Boeing Company, the U.S. work force will experience a major transition.

A recent report on U.S. labor trends by the Rand Corporation points to a shift toward a balanced distribution by age, sex and ethnicity. Key trends driving this shift include increases in U.S. immigration rates and in the number of women entering the work force. In addition, in the next 10 years, members of the "baby boom" generation will reach retirement age, creating opportunities for younger workers: Those in the "Gen-X" and "Millennium" generations.

What will Boeing's workplace be like in 10 years? The Future of Work project is asking—and answering—this question. "Our objective," said project leader Dick Stewart, "is to think now about the future work force so we can provide a workspace that provides a foundation for productivity."

Stewart leads a team of facility planners, human resource professionals, information-technology planners and communications experts that is centered in the Real Property Management organization of the Boeing Shared Services Group.

The FoW team directly supports the Boeing companywide growth and productivity initiatives. "The right kind of workspace reduces the costs of our facilities and improves their functional productivity," he said. "Our plans include bringing Lean production practices into the office environment."

"Our work force will undergo significant changes in demographics, expectations and ways of doing business. This project is proactively addressing these leading-edge changes," said Mary
Armstrong, president of Boeing Shared Services Group. "It also is part of Shared Services' ongoing effort to provide Boeing with a cost-effective, reliable business infrastructure; and execute an effective, integrated real-property strategy."

Rick Stephens, senior vice president of Human Resources and Administration, noted that HR is exploring a number of important aspects about the future work force, including generational and cultural preferences.

"Our focus must always be about creating value and a competitive advantage for Boeing," he said. "Our research will influence recommendations for flexible and creative work environments that enable greater productivity and performance by our work force."

Competing for knowledge workers

The demographic composition of the work force at Boeing, like other technology companies, reflects the aging of the baby-boom generation (those born between 1945 and 1964). The average age of Boeing employees is 46. About two-thirds of Boeing employees are eligible to retire in 10 years. If these employees choose to retire, or even delay their retirement until the average age of 60, the company can expect up to 8,000 employees to retire each year over the next 10 years.

It may be difficult to replace them. The "baby-bust" Gen-X generation, made up of individuals born between 1965 and 1984, is smaller than the boomer cohort. Boeing's competitors, facing the same demographic trends, will be recruiting just as hard. "Boeing's competitive advantage depends on identifying, attracting and retaining the critical skills found in the marketplace," said Donna Wildrick, senior manager, Recruitment Advertising in Boeing Global Staffing.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics point to a tightening in the labor market for U.S. knowledge workers in the next 10 years. The labor pool will grow, but at a slower rate than in recent times, while job growth is likely to continue at a strong rate.

Smart companies, most HR consultants said, will adapt by pursuing technologies that increase worker productivity, as they've done so well over the last 10 years. Such firms will focus on retraining employees for new tasks, reducing turnover, expanding recruitment to mid- and senior-level workers, and providing flexible workplaces and work practices to retain the right people, HR analysts said.

To compete for the highly skilled worker, Boeing will need to accommodate differences—not only those based on gender, ethnicity and national background, but on age as well. "A diverse work force is to our competitive advantage," Wildrick said.

The Future of Work concept

The Future of Work project envisions new office standards, creating new work practices and creating new connections between Boeing, workers and their communities. "The right space is a tool of the right behavior," Stewart said. "It must reflect our culture." It's also an opportunity to reinforce the Boeing brand, which aims to emphasize that Boeing people do amazing things every day.

The project is built on these concepts.

Office standards build in collaboration and connection. As succeeding generations emphasize collaboration and teamwork, space design will include more meeting rooms, chat spaces, team workrooms and gathering places. The information-technology infrastructure will adapt to accommodate groups working together across space and time.

Hoteling centers are examples of the new office standard. Boeing now has 21 of them at sites across the country—three times the number since year-end 2004. They leverage Boeing's information technology infrastructure that lets the company's global work force be linked at any time of the day. Hoteling centers provide an office environment with supporting services to employees who are traveling or who otherwise work away from a traditional office.

Today, the usage rate of all hoteling centers exceeds 50 percent for workstations and tops 70 percent for conference rooms.

Work environment and practices provide flexibility. The work environment should provide increased flexibility to accommodate the demands of family and leverage the benefits of the outside community.

Increasingly, work practices are accommodating employees willing to blend work and family life. Indeed, this may be crucial to retaining the boomers, some of whom may choose semiretirement as they age, as well as attracting "Millennium Generation" members—born between 1985 and 2004—who have little difficulty blending all elements of their lives.

Meet your future workspaceRight now more than 11,000 Boeing employees have work agreements with their managers to work away from the traditional office—from hoteling centers, the offices of business partners or customers, or from their own homes. These telecommuting and "virtual" work agreements create clarity about employee and business expectations, goals, and objectives, and about how communications with business partners and customers will be maintained. The 2005 Boeing Employee Survey results show those with these virtual work agreements feel as connected and engaged with their work groups as those who work in a traditional office setting.

Workspace connects brand and community. The FoW concepts encompass a stratified approach to brand communication: It creates a sense of pride from within, in the amazing things the company's people do—and inspires awe and wonder among those outside the company. Emphasizing the Boeing brand supports the company's greatest recruiting tools: current employees.

At public entrances, visitors and employees see brand images that link Boeing to the community and customers. As a person enters, the Boeing brand images become related more closely to the work being done in the space.

FoW envisions a layout for workspaces, buildings and campuses that provide a sense of continuity and connection with the community. Accessibility to the community will encourage employee service and continuing education.

Services now found outside the plant or campus will become increasingly available inside the workplace. New arrangements to share large Boeing meeting spaces with community groups will increase the sense of community connections. Indeed, the Move To The Lake effort at the Commercial Airplanes plant in Renton, Wash., personifies elements of this philosophy. Engineering and administrative offices were moved into the 737 plant in 2004 so individuals supporting these functions could be alongside the assembly line. The integrated space creates an environment that encourages collaboration between the many disciplines responsible for designing and building an airplane. Renton also features an Employee Service Center that gives employees easy access to services such as dry cleaning and photo processing—without making the long trek out of the plant. 

FOW's next steps

"From all of our research," Stewart said, "we have learned when it comes to our future work environment, one size does not fit all. The generational difference and the wants and needs of our future and current employees will be changing."

Another major insight of the research, Stewart said, is the need to integrate a variety of functions to create the lean, productive infrastructure Boeing's future business will need. Facilities, information technology, security, community relations, communications, hiring and training all play important roles.

SSG Real Property is working now with business partners in these functions across the Boeing enterprise to build cooperative, future-oriented strategies.

"There are steps we need to make in 2006 and every year thereafter to create the workplace of 2016," Stewart said. "Our challenge is to offer our employees a workplace that enables their success and the continuing success of our company."  


Hoteling centers: Worth a visitHoteling centers: Worth a visit

Boeing employees are boosting their productivity and finding balance in their lives today as telecommuters and participants in the Boeing Virtual Office program. Many find the company's network of the company's hoteling centers provide a convenient compliment to their personal workspace.

Here are some accounts of how hoteling centers help employees—and Boeing.

St. Louis

"To new employees, [virtual office arrangements] are an incentive to come join us," said Kurt Nufer, an Information Technology manager in St. Louis about his team, which uses hoteling space. Much of the programming work his team does, Nufer said, "can be done anywhere. Now, you have to provide an office setting so people can meet with teammates, customers and suppliers. But for the balance of their time, my team can go home and do work productively. We've seen improved productivity."

Huntington Beach, Calif.

"It's very empowering to be a virtual office employee," said Jennifer Wong, a software quality engineer on the Future Combat System program for Integrated Defense Systems. "Depending on what kind of work I have to do that day, I can adjust my environment. If I have to run to meetings and need to check in quickly, I can go to a 'touch down' desk. If I have to do a lengthy document review, I reserve a 'heads down' desk with a large monitor for my laptop. If I need a space for teaming, I can use a conference room."

"At first, the group was apprehensive" about moving to a virtual workspace setup, said John Shyne, a manager in Shared Services Group's Site Services organization. "They said it felt like they were losing their personal space. But that was quickly overcome when they realized they didn't have to drive to work every day, and that everything they needed when they did have to come in was in the hoteling centers. ... Employees in the future will require them. If they can't have them, they'll look elsewhere."

Boeing has 21 hoteling centers around the United States. To learn more about these facilities, visit http://virtualoffice.web.boeing.com/hoteling (internal link only) on the Boeing Web.



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