4 HCM Best Practices for AEC Firms

July 12, 2021
David Lee
Sr. Product Manager

Recently, Deltek published its 42nd Annual Clarity Architecture & Engineering Industry Study. As it pertains to area of Human Capital Management (HCM), four key themes were noted. This blog will highlight the themes, as well as actionable insights to apply to your firm’s strategy. For a more in-depth review of the challenges and actions that can be taken, watch our HCM Clarity and Coffee on-demand webinar or download our Essential Guide to Effective Human Capital Management.


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1. Talent Acquisition Challenges

As with many industries and verticals, the availability of good candidates in the marketplace remains a top concern, with 90% of architecture and engineering firms reporting it was one of their top three recruiting challenges in the Deltek Clarity Report.

Actionable Considerations:

The modernization of workplace practices including performance management, communication, and cultural focus play a huge part in the experience of the modern employee, which in turn assists in creating the story employers can convey to candidates.

Architecture and engineering firms will need to start by taking a hard look at their firms’ reputation in the marketplace, both with customers and their talent pools. In addition to modernizing practices to be more attractive to prospective employees, firms will also need to expand their talent pools by implementing Diversity and Inclusion best practices and targeting talent from other industries with transferable skills.

Finally, firms should consider rebranding efforts including communicating their positive cultural attributes to the candidate market.

2. Project Management Talent

Participating firms in the Deltek Clarity Report noted that staff shortages, inexperienced project managers, and poorly executed project management procedures are another key challenge moving forward.

Actionable Considerations:

In conjunction with the guidance above on expanding talent pools, architecture and engineering firms can achieve best practices by formalizing and implementing a culture of employee learning and development. The modern workforce craves development and variety.

This means not only investing in training such as project-based e-learning content, certifications, and seminars/webinars, but focusing on allotting the appropriate amount of time needed to develop talent/participate in learning programs.

A lack of time is generally the number one reason many firms’ learning initiatives fail, and as such, learning needs to be a focus, a goal, and potentially a requirement in order to implement successful project-based development initiatives.

3. Distributed Resource Management

Scott Galloway of New York University (NYU) put it perfectly when stating we have been “experiencing an accelerant for change, not a change agent.” The remote workforce had already seen an 80% increase over the decade prior to the pandemic, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Many firms were forced to accelerate their transition to a distributed workforce model, which is likely here to stay at least in the form of a hybrid model. Many employees have found a better sense of work/life balance while still remaining as (if not more) productive.

Employers and employees alike are seeing significant savings in investing in more of a distributed workforce model and managing a distributed workforce is one of the top challenges moving forward. One third of architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) Firms have already introduced, or plan to introduce, part-time remote work, while 14.9% are downsizing their office space to reduce overhead and adapt to a more pervasive work-from-home culture, according to the Hinge High Growth AEC Study.  

Actionable Considerations:

First and foremost, firms need to roll with (and not resist) modernization and change. While the remote work arrangement may not be ideal for every role or individual in an organization, there simply is no ability to do a 180 and go back to a full in-office arrangement for most firms.

As 75% of participating firms have been adopting some form of remote work arrangement, this means quite simply that these firms will be able to recruit talent from around the globe going forward, including hiring talent away from their competitors (i.e. you). Your counter to this is having a great approach to workplace modernization and culture in order to engage and retain your employees, while simultaneously embracing a distributed model so you yourself can recruit talent from around the globe.

From a workplace culture standpoint, best practices will include authenticity, communication and empathy. The modern workforce can spot the disingenuous from a mile away, and will no longer continue to work for organizations who they do not align with.

Additionally, proactive, consistent communication to keep all employees informed, engaged and in lock-step is critical. Various studies over the past several years show that up to 74% of employees feel they are missing out on company news and information (Gallup) and 91% of employees stated their leaders lack good information (Harvard Business Review), resulting in 57% of employees not trusting their leaders (Davis Associates).

Communicating the following information proactively, consistently, and frequently is key: mission-vision-values, financial performance/outlook, company goals/direction, employee resources/training, and organizational changes. Finally, empathy is everything, and is the hallmark of great leaders. In a world where employees are significantly concerned with life experience, the ability for organizations to listen, respond to, and support the lives of their employees is paramount.


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4. Employee Development

Our last key takeaway is that career development is one of the top challenges in workforce management moving forward. This includes investments in employee development plans, career paths, and career mobility as huge opportunities for firms moving forward.

Actionable Considerations:

Where can firms find the money to support these programs moving forward? One area is simply from the money being saved by moving to a more distributed model. Employers are seeing savings as high as $11,000 a year for every employee that works from home at least 50% of the time. With the demands of the modern workforce, as well as the challenges for retaining top talent, there simply is no choice but to invest in development.

To learn more about HCM best practices and market trends you can apply to your firm’s human resources strategy, read the Essential Guide to Effective Human Capital Management.


About the Author

Dave Lee, MBA, ACPMPO, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is currently a Senior Product Manager for the post-hire modules within the Deltek Talent Management suite with oversight of Performance, Learning and Development/Succession. As a former Vice President of Human Resources, Dave possesses nearly twenty years of Human Resources expertise with significant focus in talent/employee development and employee relations. Dave is a DDI certified leadership trainer and possesses an MBA from Walden University as well as various HR certifications.