Decoding success

Jan 14, 2024

Kyle Ahern

Best Firms invest in an employee-centric culture, organizational efficiency, and leadership development.

The landscape of the employee experience in the AEC industry is in a perpetual state of evolution. Recent years, marked by the “great resignation,” have forced firms to adapt swiftly, implementing internal strategies to align with the evolving needs, wants, and goals of their workforce.

In my interactions with clients and industry professionals affiliated with firms recognized as the Best Firms To Work For by Zweig Group, a common question arises: “How can we enhance our ranking?” or “What changes can we introduce to significantly impact our employees?” Let’s take a look at the distinctive traits that set the top-performing firms, specifically the 10 firms with the highest employee survey scores, apart within the AEC industry:

  1. Employee-centric culture. According to the Best Firms To Work For employee survey, culture emerged as the most crucial aspect of an employee’s work experience, resonating with nearly 40 percent of the more than 18,000 respondents. Among the top firms, the most notable separation in employee sentiment was the appropriateness of workload and the mitigation of burnout risks. Addressing the industry’s prevalent issue of long working hours and potential burnout, these top firms have devised strategies to effectively manage workloads. Despite the challenges posed by record backlogs and high demand for projects, these firms have invested in recruiting infrastructure and internal reorganization to ensure equitable distribution of workloads. By fostering an environment that values work-life balance, they have achieved a notable edge in attracting and retaining talent.
  2. Efficient organization and coordination. The second distinct aspect for the top firms revolves around employees’ perception of a well-organized work environment. An organized firm optimizes employee productivity by creating a space where tasks can be efficiently accomplished. This resonates with the prior point about workload and burnout – top firms invest in organizational strategies to alleviate unnecessary burdens on their workforce. They prioritize clarity by ensuring policies, procedures, and expectations are clearly communicated, empowering employees to focus on their designated roles. By streamlining project coordination and proposal processes, these firms demonstrate a commitment to operational efficiency, enhancing overall workplace satisfaction.
  3. Future-focused leadership development. Lastly, a culture of forward-thinking leadership sets top firms apart. These firms prioritize the development of future leaders within their organizations. Recognizing that individuals won’t be part of the workforce indefinitely, they invest in grooming the next generation of leaders. This practice not only benefits the firm’s long-term strategies but also nurtures a sense of recognition among high-performing employees. It establishes a roadmap for the future, instilling confidence in the organization’s sustained success. Moreover, it encourages a culture where dedication and hard work can lead to increased responsibilities and financial growth.

While these aspects represent just a fraction of what distinguishes top AEC firms from the rest, they hold substantial potential to transform organizational dynamics. Investing in workload management, organizational efficiency, and future leadership development can catalyze a positive shift within any firm. If your firm has yet to invest in these critical areas, now is the time. By doing so, you can significantly enhance the well-being and satisfaction of your most valuable asset – your employees. 

Kyle Ahern is an employee experience and data strategist at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.