Architecture Firms Brace for Surge in Employee Turnover

Last year the American Institute of Architects (AIA) published a survey on compensation and employment trends in the architecture industry. The report, which the AIA updates every two years, highlighted several interesting trends.

One that instantly caught my eye had to do with the increasing turnover rates at architecture firms as the real estate market has improved. The chart below shows that voluntary employee turnover across firms of all sizes increased from 4.5% in 2010 to 5.6% in 2012.

American Institute of Architects

Source: American Institute of Architects, Compensation Report 2013.

This increase is hardly surprising. In 2010 when the real estate market was at rock bottom, nobody in the architecture industry was hiring. Architects and designers knew that they should be happy just to have a job, and searching for a better job was a pipe dream.

But flash forward to the second half of the 2012 when the real estate market was finally starting to recover. Architecture firms needed to start hiring to staff up for this uptick in new projects. As a result, architects and designers starting getting calls from recruiters for the first time since the real estate bubble burst.

While the increase in employee turnover from 2010 to 2012 was significant, it is nothing compared with what we will see from 2012 to 2014.

In 2012, the real estate recovery was still in its very early stages. Even though there was an increase in new projects that year, architecture firms were still very hesitant to ramp up hiring. But now that the recovery has two years’ worth of momentum behind it, architecture firms are getting much more aggressive in their efforts to bring in new talent.

Combine this surge in hiring with the pent-up demand for new jobs by employees who felt like they have been “stuck” at their current jobs since the recession, and you have the recipe for a very mobile workforce over the next few years.

Smart firms realize that this change is occurring, and they are responding by getting more aggressive in their efforts to retain their best people. These smart firms know that, unlike in previous years, their employees now have options for where they want to work.

Inertia or counting on your employees not having any better opportunities are no longer effective talent-retention tools. As the real estate market continues to recover, your best people will start getting more calls from recruiters trying to lure them to greener pastures. If you want to keep these people, you will need show that you are willing to invest in their development.

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Suzanne Meagher

Suzanne Meagher

Suzanne Meagher is a vice president with the Messina Group. Drawing on more than 27 years of experience, Suzanne specializes in providing top-notch personnel to meet the staffing and recruiting needs of the engineering, manufacturing, and architectural industries. Suzanne joined Messina in 1986, and her passion for building and nurturing long-term relationships with clients is reflected by the degree of trust clients place in Suzanne’s staffing expertise. When a national retailer needed more than 150 architects and CAD designers for the updating and redesign of the chain’s stores, the company turned to Suzanne and Messina.

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