Policies, procedures, and benefits

Jul 18, 2021

What’s the same and what’ll never be the same again for AEC firms’ policies, procedures, and benefits?

Zweig Group just released the 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report of AEC Firms. This resource was compiled from a comprehensive survey of AEC firms as well as participants in Zweig Group’s annual Best Firms To Work For program. Considering extreme changes caused by COVID-19 over the past 12 months, Zweig Group compared pre-pandemic responses to those submitted post March 2020. Here are a few standout areas:

  • Hiring and recruiting remains a challenge, but technology may be driving the cost of new hires down slightly. Staff recruitment and retention was the number one challenge according to Zweig Group’s 2021 Principals, Partners & Owners Report, yet spending on each new hire was a median of $5,000 and an average of $8,932; a slight decrease over the previous year’s figures of $7,750 median and $9,454 average. In general, overall average yearly HR spending per full-time employee has remained stable, at just under $2,800. An increase in work-from-home opportunities hasn’t changed firm policies on paying to relocate both new and existing employees. Zweig Group’s Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry Report for Q1 2021 found that an average of 75 percent of the AEC industry workforce can effectively work remote/telecommute and 55 percent of the workforce was currently working remote. The 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report found that 44 percent of firms are paying relocation expenses for both new and existing employees, 17 percent pay for new employees only, and 5 percent pay for existing employees only.
  • Computer use – policies firms need but we know aren’t being followed! Zweig Group’s Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry Survey found that most firms reported a “slight increase” in spending on computers and equipment, as well as a change in software/IT systems/online storage over the last 12 months due to the impact of COVID-19. With an average of 55 percent of employees in the industry working remote, often using company provided computers, it was interesting to see the number of firms holding fast to policies regarding personal use of email, internet access, and other online services. Just over half of all firms surveyed have a policy limiting personal use of company provided computers during business hours, and 14 percent of firms have a policy prohibiting all personal use at any time.
  • Changes to flex-time, vacation time, and PTO policies. It’s no surprise that people in the AEC industry used less vacation time in 2020 than in previous years. The continuation of remote work and flexible work situations has also decreased a need for seasonal flexibility. Still, the 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report showed that 25 percent of firms still have “summer hours” such as half-day Fridays or Fridays off. According to the results of last year’s survey, more firms had such hours (33 percent). Paid-time-off allotments for individuals in the industry are steady. The average employee with zero to four years of service gets just under 14 days of PTO a year, increasing with experience to those with 15 or more years receiving an average of 22.4 days of PTO per year. Due to travel restrictions, many employees entered 2021 with a much larger “bank” of unused hours than in years previous. In the COVID era, the vast majority of firms, 90 percent (and 91 percent of Best Firms To Work For) allow employees to “carry over” unused PTO from one year to the next. Pre-COVID, just 73 percent of firms had this policy. Recent figures indicate that 84 percent of firms have a maximum amount of paid time-off that can be carried from one year to the next, with an average amount of 15 days – almost a full year’s worth!

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at czweig@zweiggroup.com.

For the 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Survey Report of AEC Firms, Zweig Group surveyed AEC industry firms on their workplace policies, benefits, HR staff composition, HR operating expenses, and other important workplace issues and challenges. The results of this study will help you benchmark your AEC firm in all areas related to benefits and compensation. The 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Survey Report of AEC Firms provides you with industry statistics on policies and procedures, so you can support your policy decisions with hard data.

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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.