Crafting the Future of Work: Jenna Quinlan, Micron Technology

Jenna Quinlan is a Workplace and Real Estate leader at Micron Technology. In this interview, she discusses the current challenges around workplace experience and social interactions. She also looks back on strategies and initiatives she's taken in a post pandemic context.

What is your title, and can you just describe what you're doing in a few sentences?  

My name is Jenna Quinlan, and I'm the Senior Manager of Workplace Experience and Design at Micron Technology. From a real estate point of view, my role is to create inspiring and engaging work environments, and to support our employees (called team members) by providing them with what they need to be productive in the office.
I work closely with our People Org to come up with both angles and make sure our team members feel supported when they walk into the office every day.

When I say, “Workplace Engagement,” how does the phrase resonate with you?  

Workplace Engagement is one of the details that we're focusing on to create a space to “Earn the commute”, which means “How do we earn people's commute so that they really want to go in?”

We're always trying to think about that from a real estate point of view, asking ourselves what are the spaces we're designing? How do we continue to reinvent them? How do we look at every single detail down to the workstation? And how does it work for a team member?
What are the things that bring people in? Like events, or as everyone jokes saying, "free food isn't enough these days”.

We're really working to understand how does the workspace help support those types of employee engagements in a way that just brings people in, and if it's not to collaborate, it's at least social connection

What has changed in your approach to spaces in the post pandemic area?  

We are piloting something that I'm very excited about, free address (or hot desking) for a smaller team. Pre-pandemic, It was very much a one-to-one seating environment, but now we're at a time where we should start to push that a bit.

One-to-one seating is still great for most of our teams, especially for the work that we do. But there are lots of teams who get up quite frequently or hop on calls all day and they don't need to be tied to a specific desk. So how do we start to really branch out to find solutions that's not, one desk for everyone? What are the work scenarios that work for various types of our employee groups?

We tried really hard during the pandemic to interview different types of working team members, because Sales teams work differently than Engineering teams.
So we started catering to working types and groups, and I'm excited to finally pilot some of those new ideas that emerged and hope to see some success.

What does the role of social interaction play in your strategy?  

[As we look at real estate] We are definitely increasing the ratio of collaboration spaces, but in addition, we’re spending more time on how we design pantries/breakrooms and activity spaces.  Those need proper attention to make sure they are designed with this new way of working in mind, both from a technology point of view, as well as adequate space to congregate on. 

We have to create spaces where it's very easy for people to run into other coworkers, a space where someone can quickly jump on a call with someone or have an impromptu meeting. How do we design that? Maybe there's a booth, maybe there are large picnic tables with power built in, maybe there's a larger break room with lots of natural light and added new technology.

Do you use any metrics or indicators to measure the success of your Workplace experience and policies?  

It's a great question and It's something we're working on with the people Org. The goal is to get clean and consistent data, and it's such a challenge to figure out what's the right way to ask the question.

Although we work with our people Org to gain more general data, we also do a post occupancy survey to team members 90 days after moving, specifically for what we're going to pilot. It's a very small group of people that will get a very targeted post occupancy survey with very specific questions.
Whereas before we were more holistically asking: how is the workplace experience? Is there enough natural light? Do you have what you need at your desk?

Those were more basic workplace guideline questions. Whereas for the pilot it's going to be more about the free address environment and the flexibility: did you have what you needed? Did you feel like you were fighting for desks?
It's really about understanding the scale of how well people feel supported, and collecting feedback about what could be missing.

Now we've done enough surveys to enable us to cross compare the data against multiple sites. For example our Taipei site versus our Boise site, it's a great way for us to understand which spaces need to be further refined or to identify what has or hasn't been successful for future builds.

What would you say are the biggest challenges you’ve faced during this post covid transition?  

Trying to be smart with our real estate and space efficiency, because we have to be efficient yet provide flexibility to our team members.

For example, if it's best to be one-to-one seating - but people are only coming in three days a week, how do we really reevaluate what that looks like? And I think everyone's struggling with that because there isn't a clear answer.

There was a time where it was really important to standardize everything, for cost efficiencies or clarity about what a work station looks like in any office. Now I think it's okay to take a step back and curate various work environments that can support different groups and their differing needs. Different groups are responding post covid differently. Some of our engineers, for example, want to be in the office five days a week, and that's where they get the most of their work done. They need to be on site, at a physical desk where they have heads down space and they're not leaving their desks, so it makes sense that they have a full set up.

But for other teams, they're in seven to eight conference rooms a day, and they don't really ever touch down at a desk. Here the question is, what does that environment look like?

Being responsible with how we evaluate space and piloting, trying to get data and proving some of our hypotheses is really key to setting up an experiment.

At the end, we need to find the right data to determine whether the hypothesis was successful, and from there continue to take our lessons learned and implement change as we move on.

Do you have any resources that you'd recommend reading, or people you'd recommend following? 

I follow McKinsey and specifically Phil Kirschner, who has definitely put out multiple things over the years.

Also Cushman & Wakefield, and CBRE, they tend to publish white papers and articles and I try to keep a pulse on what I'm seeing. Gensler, one of our partners, has published quite a bit of articles on innovation.

I think it's just important to follow and read from different companies. They are all different and you can take lessons learned by others to find what fits best for you, your culture and how your company works.

So I try to take little tidbits from everywhere and see what makes the most sense for us.

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Timothée Bourcier

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