If there’s one thing all the various players in our industry have in common—whether you work for a hospital, design firm, construction company, product manufacturer, or something else—it’s the challenge of hiring new talent. It’s not merely about finding the right credentials to fit the job in question. It’s about teasing out the needs/expectations of the younger generations. It’s about attracting talented individuals of different sexes, ethnicities, and backgrounds to fields that often lag behind in the diversity department. And in the world of healthcare, it’s about drawing creative workers to what’s often written off as an “unglamorous” sector—and of keeping those young professionals (conditioned by the Internet and social media to expect immediate gratification) when the projects they’re working on take years to complete.

There are other challenges, too, and we recently had the chance to dig into those during our first annual Healthcare Design Forum last month (Sept. 8-10 in Santa Rosa, Calif.). The Forum allowed us to gather a select group of industry thought leaders—including our editorial advisory board, listed at right—for something a little different. “Talent acquisition and nurturing the next generation of designers” was just one of a dozen potential topics for the planned small-group discussions during the event. But it was among the top three vote-getters from attendees, and when our opening keynote speaker, Emily Pilloton, told the group about her work teaching high schoolers about hands-on architecture and design, the topic took on a life of its own.

In my small group, there was much talk of Millennials: what they expect, how they want to work, what they’re good at (technology), and what they’re not (hand sketching). Obviously, these are generalizations, but the issues come up often enough that firm leaders, healthcare administrators, and manufacturing executives—all represented in my group of 11—are eager for new ways to forge connections.

In a report-out by the individual groups, attendees shared some great suggestions and best practices for talent acquisition in light of all the challenges above. And they applied their considerable brainpower to other key issues, such as improving HCAHPS scores through design and how to create adaptable/flexible healthcare spaces. We’ll be compiling more insight and photos from the HCD Forum and sharing them over the coming month in our pages and online. Planning for next year’s Forum is already underway, and we hope you’ll consider attending. Stay tuned for more details.