Recruiting New Talent: A Firm's Most Important Challenge

Small architecture firms often have a tendency to underinvest in the resources necessary to recruit top talent. Creating a solid recruitment strategy is essential to reducing employee turnover amd minimizing cost, but it can also build your firm's reputation as one that creates sustainable futures for its employees.
A firm's strategic plan to recruit, train and coach new talent should be as carefully considered as the largest architectural project. Start by separating the recruitment process into three stages: developing a candidate pool, narrowing down the finalists and negotiating the hire.

First, however, your firm should prepare by fine-tuning internal policies and procedures, including the employee handbook, cell phone and laptop use policies, the employment agreement. A firm's internet presence should be reviewed and updated, as well, as prospective employees will search for information and form an initial impression based on your website, blog and social media sites, including Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. 

To develop a candidate pool, start with two documents: a position description and a job ad. The position description is often confused with the job ad, but it's generally a statement of responsibilities, requirements and expectations; the job ad includes more "selling points," including the firm's culture, employee perks and benefits. 

Once the new position has been posted on the company website, on social media and on professional networks, the pool of candidates can be gathered and narrowed to top talent. After an initial screening and possibly video conference calls, on-site interviews can be scheduled with finalists, and should involve as many in the firm as possible to give the prospective employee a look at the culture, people and operations. 

Finally, once a finalist is selected to hire, it's useful to make a list of all of the elements that are offered and can be negotiated, including vacation, work hours, telecommuting, new business development and more. Sometimes pay is not the most important element -- it could be the opportunity or culture. Once negotiations are complete, it's time to finalize the employment agreement to ensure that all parties are on the same page. 

Recruiting is hard work, but an organized approach and regular attention to the process of attracting new talent is key to a well-run and successful design business.  For the detailed article by Todd L. Reding, president of Charrette Venture Group (CVG) and Erin Poppe, CVG's StrengthsFinder export and leadership coach, see the Winter issue of Licensed Architect here.