Architecture & Engineering Firms

A&E Recruiting & Retention Secrets

Posted on November 3, 2021 by

Kevin Johns

Kevin Johns

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Employee attraction and retention is a vital competitive factor for architecture and engineering (A&E) firms. Beyond the obvious price and technical considerations, success on any project really comes down to the skill and judgment of the people who are going to execute it.

When a client entrusts precious capital dollars to an A&E firm, it’s more than just a transaction. To a large extent, they’re staking their own career and reputation on that firm’s ability to bring the project in on time and on budget. They want assurance that your team can not only do the job, but also guide them safely through unforeseen events.

This market reality puts effective employee recruiting and retention high on any A&E executive’s priority list.

Defining the ideal team for your organization

It goes without saying that you have to know what you want to get what you want. Professional skill and relevant work experience alone aren’t enough. An important first step in winning the talent game is to get clear on additional attributes that an ideal employee would bring to your organization.

  1. Are they creative problem solvers?
  2. Do they have a growth mindset (for themselves and the firm)?
  3. Can they grasp the greater business context of the job they perform?
  4. Do they have the requisite people skills to bring out the best in others?
  5. Have they developed the resilience to thrive through change?

Having transparent conversations– not only with your hiring managers, but also with the peers who will work alongside new hires – will help you to ask the right questions during the search process and move candidates forward for the right reasons.

Recruiting and retaining the best employees

The Zweig Group (AEC industry consultants) have done extensive research on recruiting and retention. Recent Zweig survey results show that the top five practices reported by most A&E firms tend to be fairly traditional:

  1. Public recognition, either at company gatherings or industry functions
  2. Gift cards or merchandise gifts
  3. Cash incentives in addition to base compensation
  4. Event tickets or larger personalized gift packages
  5. Letters or certificates of recognition presented by owners or board members

As competition for top talent heats up, it takes increasing creativity to build an engaged workforce. Think about what it would take to entice your “top billers” to stick with you rather than accepting a modest salary bump from the competition. Here are some ideas:

  1. Professional development support
  2. Opportunities to earn equity or participate in profit sharing
  3. Introduction of formal Employee Stock Ownership Programs (ESOP)
  4. More flexible office, remote, and hybrid work arrangements
  5. Incentive pay tied to service milestones
  6. Cultural elements that promote participation, inclusion, and personal development
  7. Desirable perks for high performers such as paid sabbaticals

The evolving impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on work norms add another important variable to recruitment and retention considerations. Firms with multiple office locations have to remain especially alert to employee sentiments about large company gatherings and what collaboration looks like in a hybrid workforce.

Contact Us

Staffing can have a big influence on the overall health and profitability of your firm, and success in any of these practices requires advanced listening skills on the part of your leadership team. We can help your A&E firm understand and optimize the business metrics that matter most. Contact us today to learn more.

Kevin Johns


Kevin leads our architecture & engineering group and has a reputation for being highly detail-oriented & attentive to his clients’ needs.

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