AEC firms are entering a growth phase, but only if they can overcome these challenges

November 16, 2021

TwitterTweet it:'As markets rally following the pandemic, architecture, engineering and construction firms have a huge growth opportunity. But how can you make the most of it?'

While the impacts of the pandemic are far from over, recent evidence suggests the industry is at a turning point. But at this crucial juncture, how can architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) organizations recover quickly and decisively to start growing again with confidence?

We recently hosted a webinar to answer this exact question. Industry experts from Jarvis Contracting and Infrastructure Intelligence explored the current state of the AEC industry in the UK, the challenges firms are still facing, and how savvy AEC organizations can navigate those challenges to uncover new opportunities.

You can watch the full webinar on demand, or you can read on for a summary of the key points – and what they mean for AEC firms in the UK.

The AEC industry gets its momentum back

According to the purchaser's managers index from IHS Markit, June 2021 saw the strongest output growth rate in the construction sector since 1997. And for architecture and engineering, RIBA’s workload index paints a similar picture of a sector with upward momentum.

For at least part of the UK’s AEC sector, the message is clear, the re-opening of industries is creating an uptick in activity for AEC firms.

That’s not to say there is no volatility left for firms to wrestle with. Project managers and firm leaders alike will have plenty of questions about how to move forward. But for those that can grapple with the challenges ahead of them, the future looks bright.

Obstacles and instability are here to stay

Despite overall growth in the sector, all-new obstacles join age-old problems to stand in the way of firms and their new growth opportunities.

Supply chain disruption continues to escalate across the globe. In the UK specifically, we’re seeing limited availability of materials delaying projects and stretching already thin margins.

The return to ‘normal’ is also a key obstacle as more employees return to traditional work patterns. The new world forces firms to grapple with novel ways of keeping hybrid and remote employees engaged alongside peers in the office and on-site. And it’s forcing workers to consider how they return to work – or if they return at all.

In many cases, the uncertain return to conventional work is causing many to leave the industry altogether. As the work ramps up to previous levels, a lower level of fresh candidates across the AEC industry is leading to talent shortages.

Overcoming all of these challenges will be vital to thriving now and into the future. But those firms that manage it will be in the best place to seize new opportunities.


On Demand Webinar

Grow with Confidence: Next Steps for the AEC Industry

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Opportunities are there if you can find them

Firms left behind one world in 2019 only to operate in a completely different one today. But while the challenges and the level of risk are new, there are also a fresh set of opportunities available for forward-thinking firms:

  • Housing and infrastructure markets are growing rapidly and promise lucrative work for AEC firms
  • Sustainability and green building aren’t new, but they’re more sought-after than ever before
  • Emerging technologies like data analytics and AI can help firms become more competitive and efficient
  • An emphasis on project management to mitigate new risks in the post-COVID era means firms with a strong PM function are set to thrive
  • New ways of working and employee engagement could help firms become more attractive employers and win the war for talent

Depending on your target markets and the approaches you use to manage work and empower your teams, some of these opportunities may seem out of reach. But with the right strategies in place, you can pivot your approach in smart ways to recover with confidence as the AEC industry enters a new period of growth.

Three strategies to make the most of industry growth

The webinar panel suggests three strategies that can help you seize as many market opportunities as possible:

1. Diversify your market focus

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of serving a diverse set of markets. By moving outside your traditional focus industries, you can better mitigate risks, and start tapping into the booming housing and infrastructure markets or the growing green build movement.

2. Examine and adjust your approach to people

There’s no doubt the aftershocks of the pandemic have shifted the way we all work. As leaders make important changes to workflows and processes to reflect the post-COVID world, it’s vital they take a lead from the people in their business. Listening to a diverse range of opinions is the best way to keep all your people engaged and happy. More importantly, it helps you put employee wellbeing at the front and center of your business – a powerful differentiator in the talent market that can help you attract more candidates and plug skills shortages.

3. Build a technology core within your business

Technology helps AEC firms do more with less. But it does so much more. With the right digital tools in place, you can attract employees that expect the latest and greatest tools, you can unlock new business models and revenue streams, and you can optimize project management and remote collaboration processes. And as a result, you can quickly pivot to seize new opportunities.

Learn more from our expert AEC panel

This blog has touched on the key challenges, opportunities, and strategies AEC firms should be aware of as they navigate the post-COVID world. But this is just the start.

In the full webinar, our panel of industry experts explores:

  • AEC opportunities and how firm leaders can seize them
  • The importance of attracting digital natives to the workplace
  • What organizations can do to help their people adopt the latest technologies

Watch the on-demand webinar


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