Firm culture to outrank salary in staff satisfaction

Submitted by 34db7d9c-82e6-… on Tue, 01/11/2022 - 21:05
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AIA, projects we\u2019re\ngoing to continue to see some familiar headwinds: inflation, contractor labor\nshortages, and high prices and low availability for materials. In this latest\ninstallment of AIA\u2019s ongoing series about economic trends, Baker outlines what\nthis fulcrum between 2021 and 2022 means for firms, and why firm culture and\nworkplace comfort surpassed "],[0,[2],1,"compensation "],[0,[],1,"as the likely top worker satisfaction\nissue in architecture in coming years."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[3],1,"What did\n2021 mean for architecture firms? "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Toward the end of 2021, architecture firms\nsurpassed payroll levels from the pre-pandemic era, which means they were\nhiring people because there\u2019s work, and there\u2019s work because there\u2019s money. By\nthe end of 2021, a full 80% of firms said that 2021 showed at least flat\nrevenue and typically healthy growth, and the average increase in revenue was\nabout 5% to 6%. They ended the year well, in other words. But that [outcome] was\nreally uncertain at the beginning of the year, having endured 2020\u2019s recession\nand dramatic cutbacks. Things turned a corner for the ABI in February, but\nthere was no way to know where it was really headed. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[3],1,"Will the\nspecter of inflation continue to affect design and construction?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Design and construction have been one of the\nvictims of inflation, and you see it in all facets. Why is it such a problem\nnow? The origin was pandemic-related disruptions to production such as plants\nshutting down or slowing down due to illness and staffing problems in 2020.\nSome bosses furloughed their workers in 2020. Facilities were having trouble\ngetting raw materials and, therefore, couldn\u2019t produce refined products.\nEconomic history shows that there are occasional disruptions like this, as well\nas reactions, responses, and eventual corrections. But by late 2021, it became\nclear that the models have changed dramatically because this periodic disruption\nwas lasting longer than most periodic disruptions. Treasury Secretary Yellen is\ntalking about looking at the long term of inflation instead of the short term.\nFederal Reserve Chair Powell is thinking about changing his policies to address\ninflation head-on by tightening the supply of money available, for instance. As\ninflation ended up being a major part of 2021\u2019s storyline, it will continue to\nbe a major part in 2022\u2019s future."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[3],1,"What\u2019s the\ntakeaway for firm principals who must respond to inflation at the firm level?\nHow can they be proactive?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Architects don\u2019t control the availability of\nmaterials or labor. If they design a building and it goes out to bid and\ncontractors say, \u201cWell, gee, I used to be able to get steel for X-dollars per\nton and now it\u2019s Y-dollars per ton, my bid will be higher. My subcontractors are\nmore overextended than they used to be, so I will put this project at 18-20\nmonths to completion rather than 12-16 months.\u201d Owners aren\u2019t going to be happy\nwith that, and architects remain in the middle here. So the only thing\narchitects can do is be attuned to market conditions and be transparent with\nowners. Translate the problem for them. Find ways to help them understand the\nrisks involved. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[3],1,"Firm\nprincipals have new pressure points on the staff side, too. What does the ABI\nsurvey tell us about changing job satisfaction factors?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"For workers, the simple theory has been that\nthey\u2019re going to work for the firm that offers them the most money. Of course,\nthere are always exceptions to that\u2014for instance, architects who might want a\nparticular experience with a specific mentor might accept lower compensation\nfor a position because of the high value of the experience. In other words, there\nare sometimes non-monetary compensations that are more valuable than salary. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In November, when we asked respondents to\nanswer the question, \u201cWhat do you think will be the most important issue for\nstaff satisfaction in the coming years,\u201d compensation was not No. 1 on the\nlist. It was a close No. 2. The most important issue predicted for staff\nsatisfaction in the coming years was firm culture and workplace comfort. Based\non the survey results, non-monetary compensation, such as the quality of firm\nculture and workplace comfort, is more appealing and more valuable to more\npeople because of the events of the last 18 months. "]]],[10,0],[1,"p",[[0,[3],1,"If work is\nramping up and there\u2019s a demand at firms for qualified workers, how might that\ninfluence a firm principal\u2019s strategic plans for 2022?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In any sector of the economy, particularly one\nwith a lot of small businesses such as architecture, the easiest way to fill\npositions is to lure someone away from a competing firm. That strategy doesn\u2019t\nproduce more workers in the economy, but it does drive up compensation, and\ngenerally compensation has mattered most. Now, it\u2019s not about how much one will\nget paid, necessarily, but one\u2019s alignment with their firm on its values. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[3],1,"Anecdotally,\nI\u2019ve talked to a lot of architects over the past year who say they\u2019re working\nharder than before. More work in the door means more work to be done, so that\nmakes sense, even in light of firms staffing up. What does this suggest to firm\nowners about the culture of the office, if that\u2019s a burgeoning issue?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"One question that needs to be asked is, \u201cOK, if\nyou\u2019re working harder, are you also working smarter?\u201d Are architects and\nworkers challenged because half their peers are teleworking and half are in the\noffice, even with videoconferencing? Conversely, are workers challenged because\ntheir firm hasn\u2019t adopted a flexible work arrangement? One interesting thing is\nthat the sixth most commonly cited issue related to predicted worker\nsatisfaction in coming years in our survey was the social, economic, and\nenvironmental impact of the work they\u2019re doing. A decade ago, social, economic,\nand environmental impact no doubt was much farther down the list. Today, it\u2019s a\nrising issue. Does that suggest to a firm owner or principal a greater internal\nemphasis must be given to values and the workers\u2019 sense of purpose as a form of\nnon-monetary compensation? I think it suggests that while people feel as if\nthey are working harder, if they really felt strongly about the work they\u2019re\ndoing, then the hard work might also lead to greater satisfaction. "]]],[3,"ul",[[[0,[],0,"Check out the "],[0,[4],1,"AIA\u2019s Compensation Survey Salary\nCalculator"],[0,[],0," to find out about trends in your area"]],[[0,[],0,"Download your free copy of "],[0,[5],1,"AIA\u2019s Firm\nSurvey Report"]]]]]}
AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker analyzes 2022 economic trends and explores why firm culture and workplace comfort surpass compensation in surveys.
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