Ping pong tables & bean bag chairs

In a volatile job market, do the sales of office furnishings signify a shift in the career aspirations of workers?

An article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal suggested that a decline in the sales of ping pong tables is a harbinger of a downturn in Silicon Valley. A New York Times article in April described advertising agencies casting aside a stodgy image with the installation of bean bag chairs and other furnishings emblematic of a start-up culture.

Recruiting and retention is about the work. Ping pong tables and bean bag chairs don’t create a culture, people do. When a competitor offers a better fit between an individual and an assignment, the bright shiny things become insignificant.

As Silicon Valley firms are selling off their inventory, New York Ad Agencies are stocking up, trying to emulate a culture that may be in decline and missing the point – the work is no longer attractive.

“People no longer have that innate desire and that instinctive desire to be in our business,” said Jay Haines, a founder of Grace Blue, a search firm that works with the advertising industry.”

That’s the story. Folks are moving on to the next new thing – meaningful work. Ping pong tables and bean bag chairs are relics of the establishment.