Tackling scarce talent and tech disruption: Reflections from an AEC Roundtable 

By Chris Swan, Managing Director, TRANSEARCH USA 

Amidst an intractable talent crunch and disruptive tech innovation, Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) firms are at a crossroads. 

How should they navigate these challenges?   

Reflections on these issues and tangible solutions were explored recently at an engaging TRANSEARCH USA roundtable featuring a large group of HR AEC leaders from across the country. 

“Talent and technology are two of the biggest challenges AEC firms are facing today, as talent gets scarcer and firms feel the pressure to become innovative tech leaders,” explained Julie Hasiba, roundtable facilitator and Managing Partner/Owner of Environmental Financial Consulting Group (EFCG). 

“For firms to stay competitive, they need to invest in the right people and solutions to improve the employee experience.” 

This article delves deep into the AEC talent and tech landscape and provides helpful advice and insight. 

Solving the Tech Disconnect 

The scale, scope, and speed of digital disruption in AEC are massive. For example, according to EFCG data: 

  • 95% of AEC firms are making tech investments to improve efficiencies and have set tech up as part of their core strategies 
  • 86% of AEC firms are ramping up their technology to enhance their value proposition  

While digital transformation is racing forward, people aren’t necessarily on board or keeping pace.  

“Leaders think they’re choosing tech to get great work from employees—yet our global survey of more than 12,000 workers shows a disconnect, in which leaders and staff see things differently,” PWC reports in its comprehensive study.  

90% of C-suite executives believe their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, but only about half (53%) of staff say the same.”  

Roundtable participants noted there was some divergence in their firms concerning the stats. Still, they did express the issue of leaders saying they’re choosing tech with their people in mind and employees feeling left behind, which is a common theme. 

“In our experience at EFCG, we have seen that when people feel they are not being treated or considered the way they want, they often decide to leave,” Hasiba noted, adding another problematic discrepancy. 

Specifically, she noted PWC data shows about two-thirds of employees “believe tech will improve future job prospects.” However, employees are equally nervous about what the future holds regarding digital transformation, with 60% of employees “worried about automation putting jobs at risk.” 

 Bringing HR, IT, and C-Suite leadership together will help to alleviate discomfort related to driving digital adoption. This trend is already taking shape. 

“Our CEO has bought into (leveraging) new technologies, and in HR, we fully support him,” noted Lisa Dippel, Vice President of HR at Posillico, a New York-based construction firm founded in 1946. “Our IT department has a business intelligence group that has been instrumental in pushing forward these new technologies.” 

Synching Tech & Talent 

Three fundamental building blocks for an AEC organization’s talent to stand tall are recruitment, retainment, and nurturing of an outstanding employee experience.  

Throughout the pandemic years, we’ve heard about the aspects of attracting, engaging, and keeping the best of the best, such as open communication, authentic leadership, and dynamic workforce culture. All these are fundamental, but to soar even higher, they need to be synchronized with tech solutions. 

At TRANSEARCH USA, our recruiting efforts are focused on ensuring we recruit the right leaders for each specific role. We partner with our clients and leverage leading-edge technology and a proprietary methodology called Orxestra™, which assesses “the DNA” of an organization and evaluates how well a candidate will ‘fit’ with the company.  

To help determine the likelihood of retaining leaders, we administer Hogan Assessments, personality evaluations that help gain a critical understanding of people’s values, day-to-day personalities, and leadership blind spots, which help predict success and career growth. 

Technology and talent must also be in lockstep in the arena of employee experience. EFCG provides a robust technology solution called Operational Network Analysis (ONA), which delves into employee relationships, interactions, reporting structures, and communication, and provides impactful insight to advance better ways of working. 

 Final thoughts & tips 

As we strive to tackle talent scarcity and build tech-savvy companies in AEC, we must have strategic plans and communicate how they will support candidates and employees. Candidates are attracted to firms that showcase their tech/talent convergence as a value differentiator, and employees are more likely to remain if they see technology as an enabler for their growth and development.  

To arm talent with the skillsets and mindset to adopt new technologies, set up change management plans, engage external partners with expertise in these areas and keep tracking progress with KPIs. 

The more your talented team is ‘in the know’ about ways technology can improve their journey, the stronger your teams will be to build a clear path forward for your business.  

 *EFCG’s talent strategy and technology strategy practices work regularly with clients on how to optimize results by bringing these two strategies together. 

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