Trusted Clayton & McKervey partner and Zweig Group principal Jamie Claire Kiser continues her conversation about A&E trends (see A&E Outlook to learn more); this time discussing critical staffing drivers that may impact A&E firms in 2022 and beyond.
As those of us working in professional service firms know first-hand, attracting and retaining people is the top issue. Jamie Claire and I agree that the only way to meet the staffing demand is to figure out how we’re going to find and keep the talent we need to deliver the work and perform at the right level.
Taken as a whole, the A&E industry is back to pre-covid level growth levels, and firms are up against fierce competition for the best people. For seasoned workers, the combination of burnout and challenges to the traditional office work model is of concern. In addition, the “great resignation” trend hasn’t missed our sector. As a final blow, many young people are getting signing bonuses out of school to work in other fields that they find more relevant or rewarding.
Beyond the current realities, the pipeline that once brought new graduates to A&E firms has dried up over the past couple of years. Since competition for talent is so fierce, it’s important for firms to define what their new hybrid work models look like and prioritize flexibility, sustainability, and the importance of engaging people properly in diverse, equitable, and inclusive company cultures. A recent Zweig Group research report indicates that remote or flexible work options have helped 69% of AEC firms improve their hiring ability. To this point, Jamie shared a memorable story about land surveyors. “Going back in time, three of the four people on Mount Rushmore were land surveyors. If you think about it, the whole A&E value chain flowed (often still flows) from land surveying, and we’re clearly not doing enough to attract young people into this specialty as a long-term career opportunity.” You can replace land surveying with a half dozen other specialties to get the fuller picture that firms need to work harder than ever to maintain adequate staffing levels.
One solution is to get creative about skewing the A&E employment brand to a younger demographic, and to respond to the evolving needs sought out by today’s labor force, such as increasing budget for training and career development (the number one benefit identified in Zweig Group’s Best Firms to Work For research). To be competitive, the industry must reposition career opportunities as the exciting geo-spatial, technology-driven career paths they have become. The reality is that the A&E industry is facing a once-in-a-generation shift in the traditional work model. Jamie recommends exposing more young people to the A&E industry as a viable career path and welcomes discussions along these lines with others in the field.
Continue the Conversation
Our A&E practice group consults on staffing, utilization, and compensation models for clients. Contact us to discuss the trends we’ve covered here as well as tax strategy, succession planning, and the overall financial health of your firm.