Talent wars: A new hope

Mar 14, 2021

Over the last 12 months, firms have been forced to rapidly adjust how they approach many workplace strategies – including recruitment strategies.

AEC firms are successfully hiring talented people today and it can be more prosperous than ever if they are focusing on the right candidate qualities. Over the last 12 months, firms have rapidly adjusted how they approach workplace strategies like hiring, retention, telecommuting options, office hours, non-essential travel, professional development, company events, and the list can pretty much continue from there. It was almost impossible to continue operating as we had before and there is a lot of opportunity in being forced into that position. At Zweig Group, we gather data from and talk to firms every day and, as we move further away from the interruptions of 2020, the most successful firms are focusing their recruitment strategies in the following areas:

  • Diversity in thought, not just in people. Building a diverse team means more than hiring more women and people of color. The last thing your firm needs to be successful is to create an echo chamber of thought amongst staff. Open up your imagination to what a successful team of people should look and think like and how that can improve everything about your firm. Diverse teams often have completely different life experiences and that can cause them to see problems and solutions differently. For instance, studies are showing that people with autism succeed in IT jobs when companies focus on their technical abilities instead of traditional hiring metrics like a certain degree or personality traits.
  • Applicant tracking systems (ATS). Many firms have opened up the floodgates for potential candidates by enacting work from home or telecommuting work strategies. The overwhelming applicant pool makes it hard to navigate your way through this stage in the recruitment process without feeling like you are moving too quickly or missing a diamond in the rough. Investing in even the most basic of ATSs can help keep this process organized and moving forward. If they have applied for a role at your firm, the chances are good they have done the same with your biggest competitors.
  • Highly technical roles. Firms need to be more creative when hiring for highly technical roles and the training programs they are designing to identify future talent in their own ranks. According to Zweig Group’s 2020-2021 Recruitment & Retention Report, 58 percent of firms are reporting their most difficult positions are taking more than six months to fill. The good news is that younger generations are arriving to work with more technical skills than ever before and have the ability to learn quickly.
  • Upskilling. Individuals in any role at a firm will likely have to learn a new skill set to do their same job successfully in the future. It’s also likely that they have not mastered the skills they need for their current job. At the same time a majority of managers don’t think their current employees will be able to keep pace with the future skills needed in their roles. This is a solvable issue but it requires a culture of learning and engagement amongst the entire firm.
  • Soft skills. Firms should be developing their employees’ soft skills and not just looking for those with identifiable ones during the interview process. Basic training aimed at communication and mental health can offer critical tools for how to deal with conflict in a productive manner. Firms ignoring these topics will never truly develop an identifiable culture needed to inspire a team.
  • Enhanced benefits. Offering employees and potential recruits benefits like paid family leave, mental and physical wellness programs, student loan repayment, flexible work hours, and telecommuting options are all areas that are rivaling compensation when it comes to making the decision between your firm or the one down the street.
  • Removing energy drainers. These are people or workplace resources like a misused CRM that drain the life and energy out of you anytime you encounter them. These are also a main contributor to why someone would consider working somewhere else. Do not ignore your intuition or anyone else’s if it tells you that there is an energy draining situation that needs to be solved or avoided.

AEC firms that fail to make these adjustments and open their minds up will be stuck recruiting from the bottom of the barrel and will find themselves sacrificing the qualities above in order to fill a role. Failing to adapt will also create greater turnover and a higher cost per hire that can keep you from investing in areas you need to be like technology upgrades, new equipment, maybe even staff bonuses. This is probably the 20th instance of covering some kind of “talent war” topic in an article for The Zweig Letter and that really says something in itself. This is not a hill you should ever reach the top of; in fact, it just gets hard the higher you trek. Keep finding ways to get up the hill that work for not only you but those you wish to lead. Please email me directly at ccoldiron@zweiggroup.com or call my cell 479.200.3538 to talk about how Zweig Group can help make these adjustments for your firm.

Chad Coldiron is director of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at ccoldiron@zweiggroup.com.

If you are looking for an easy tool that gives you valuable employee insights, improved staff morale, and bolstered recruiting materials, please participate in Zweig Group’s 2021 Best Firms To Work For Survey. Entry in Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For Award includes the largest employee survey in the AEC industry, with more than 2 million data points gathered every year!

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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.