Proven Strategies to Attract Top Architecture and Design Talent
The ongoing labor shortage is a primary concern for firms that need to recruit architects and designers. According to AIA’s Work-on-the-Boards survey, 4 of the top 10 concerns of architecture firms in 2023 were related to staffing. The top staffing-related challenges were finding candidates for key positions (20%), filling open positions (17%), retaining staff (10%), and staff compensation (10%). Only rising construction costs and overall profitability ranked higher overall than staffing challenges.
With the number of architecture jobs expected to increase by about 5% a year through 2032, the challenge of finding highly skilled staff is only likely to worsen, as well. This makes it critical for firms to improve their hiring approach so they can remain competitive into the future. Here are effective strategies architecture firms can use to attract the right people to their roles.
What do architects and designers look for in an employer?
The 2023 Hiring and Workplace Trends Report released by Glassdoor and Indeed indicates that the overall labor market will remain tight throughout the coming year. For employers and company leadership, this makes it crucial to identify what the top talent wants from their workplace in order to fill open positions.
In that report, the top reason employees cited for seeking a new job is higher pay, a top concern for roughly 30% of job seekers. This is followed by the desire for remote work, wanting more overall flexibility, and being unhappy with their current manager.
Offering holistic benefits is one approach many employers are taking to attract talent in this competitive market. The number of job postings advertising benefits has increased steadily since 2019, particularly health insurance benefits and paid time off, which are the benefits most consistently sought by candidates. Specifically, access to mental as well as physical healthcare is a rising concern, and 63% of Glassdoor employer reviews mention mental healthcare in 2022.
While these statistics are from across industries, they hold true in the architecture and design fields. Career Explorer’s ongoing career happiness survey shows that pay is a significant concern for architects, with only 9% reporting complete satisfaction, and 43% rating their current pay at a 1-2 out of 5.
Across the board, architects and designs also want a job they feel has meaning, where they can use the full extent of their creativity and skills. Those who felt their work was challenging, and that felt their work environment allowed them to bring their best to the workplace, reported the highest rates of job satisfaction and were the least likely to be looking for another job.
5 recruitment strategies to find and hire top talent
1. Write effective and compelling job descriptions.
The job description is the first introduction that candidates get to your job opportunity, and often to your company, as well. If the content of that description doesn’t catch their attention, or if aspects of it stand out in the wrong ways, you could be missing out on the chance to hire top professionals.
At minimum, an effective job description needs to accurately describe the role and its responsibilities. Use clear and concise language, and avoid using jargon or buzzwords. Someone reading the description should have a firm understanding of the responsibilities and day-to-day work of the position, and niche terminology or vague wording can undermine these efforts.
Take the same care when describing the experience and skills you want to see in applicants, and make sure the qualifications for the role match the job. One way employers frequently sabotage their own hiring efforts is by including too many requirements, or listing things that are ideal qualities in an employee but that aren’t strictly necessary in the new hire. Instead, focus on the skills or knowledge that is necessary for success in the role. You can have a separate “preferred qualifications” section for any additional things that you would like to see but that aren’t completely necessary.
Finally, don’t forget that, in a certain sense, a job description is a marketing document that should aim to convince job seekers to apply for your company. Make sure you include information about your organization and its values and culture. Describing your company helps applicants understand the work environment they’ll have if they join your team, something that will help them decide if the position is a good fit. Along with this, it can help to include information about the compensation, benefits, or employee development opportunities you offer to staff. Often, the top architects and designers have several firms vying for their attention. A competitive salary, comprehensive benefits package, or career advancement opportunities can entice them to choose your business over other jobs that they could apply for.
2. Encourage employee referrals.
Referrals from current team members can be a big advantage for design firms, especially those that have challenging roles to fill. For one thing, referrals usually let you hire faster, with an average time to hire about 20 days shorter than for new hires without a reference. Referred talent also tends to stick around longer. Whereas only 25% of new hires through job boards are still with the company after two years, a recent survey shows 45% of referred employees stay with their employer for four years or longer.
Referral incentives can be an excellent way to encourage this practice. A monetary bonus is the most common type of incentive, usually in the area of $1,000-$5,000 per referred employee that’s hired. The more critical and difficult to fill the position is, the higher the bonus you’ll likely want to offer.
Along with cash bonuses and other incentives, getting your team involved in the recruitment process in other ways can also boost referrals. Include employees in recruitment activities like job fairs or school outreach events, and invite them to help conduct interviews. The more the team feels connected to the company’s hiring efforts, the higher the chances they will reach out to their network when your firm has open positions.
3. Utilize social media.
Most business leaders know that they should use social media to connect with clients and customers, but it can be an equally valuable resource for building your workforce.
Social media can serve as a recruitment tool in both direct and indirect ways. Posting your open jobs on LinkedIn and other platforms can make sure potential candidates who are already interested in your company are aware of your current opportunities. Companies can also reach out to professionals directly through these platforms. Actively engage with other players in your industry through the platform to grow your network and give you access to more potential candidates that you can approach when you have an opening.
In an indirect sense, social media can be very beneficial for developing your employer brand. Use photos and videos to give potential candidates a sneak peek into your workplace. Post content that gives applicants an impression of your company culture, how you support employee growth and career advancement, and show your commitment to employees’ work-life balance and the diversity and inclusion of your team. Including content straight from employees can be a big help here, too. Getting that information straight from workers builds more trust in potential candidates that the values you claim in your online presence are actually lived in the workplace.
4. Partner with a specialist recruitment firm.
Small architecture firms often face an uphill battle when they’re trying to hire the right architect or design candidate. They are in direct competition with larger firms for the same limited pool of talent, but can’t match their recognition or recruitment resources.
This is where the expertise and reach of an established specialist recruiting agency can be a big help in achieving your hiring goals. Recruiters have existing relationships with highly-skilled professionals, along with insights about the hiring process and what it takes to attract top talent. This can be especially useful when you need to hire in-demand professionals that can otherwise be difficult to even find, much less hire, in the job market.
5. Build a talent pipeline.
One lesson that design firms can take from recruiters is that you don’t need to wait until you’re ready to hire to connect with potential candidates. Establishing a talent pipeline gives you a ready set of people to reach out to when you have an open role, and that can save you both time and headaches during the recruitment process.
Many businesses have more resources to establish this kind of pipeline than they realize. You can start it with the potential candidates you’ve interacted with in the past. This includes people who applied to past positions, professionals who have reached out to you when you weren’t actively hiring, or former employees who may be interested in coming back if you offer them the right position and compensation.
Create a database where you can keep track of all of these potential candidates in one place. Then, when you’re ready to hire, you can reference your pipeline and reach out to those individuals who could be an ideal fit for this role, giving you a head start on your recruitment.
The key to hiring success in architecture and design
Hiring the right employees is never easy in any industry, and it can be a particular challenge with roles like architecture and design that require specialized skills. Utilizing the strategies outlined above can help firms overcome these challenges and attract the talent they need to complete their projects successfully.