Policies and benefits


    Zweig Group’s 2016 Policies, Procedures, and Benefits Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning & Environmental Consulting Firms has just been released and contains new data from our spotlight surveys. The report covers many of the questions that firm leaders face when developing administrative policies and setting annual budgets. The survey addresses maternity/paternity leave, paid time off, professional development, compensation, relocation, 401K plans, group health insurance, and more. The report also investigates the education, background, responsibilities, and compensation of human resources (HR) directors.

    The survey found that only 21 percent of firms with one to 24 employees and 47 percent of firms with 25 to 49 employees have a true HR director. In the absence of an HR director, the most common title of the person who is in charge of human resource functions was “operations/office manager” or “finance/administrative employee.” Seventy-eight percent of respondents said that the person in charge of HR functions participates in the firm’s annual business planning process. But only 18 percent of respondents said the person in charge of HR functions has an MBA or other master’s degree. Most firms (74 percent) paid out a bonus to their HR director last year. The median HR director’s bonus, as a percentage of their salary, was 4.7 percent. High- and very-high-profit firms paid out a significantly greater bonus than the other profit categories (see Figure 1). Among the firms budgeting a pay increase next year, the median percentage increase was 3.5 percent. This figure outpaces the Society for Human Resources Management figure for U.S.-based business of 2.7 percent, showing some optimism for continued growth in the A/E/C industry during the next few years.

    The survey also looks at just how valuable particular plans are for the firm as far as attracting and retaining top talent. For health care, many firms are paying a significant portion (70 to 80 percent) of the premium for employee-only coverage and around 50 to 80 percent of the premium for employee/family plans. Smaller firms tend to pay a smaller percentage of the premium for both employee-only and employee/family plans.

    Seventy-one percent of respondents offer tuition or fee reimbursement for continued education. The median amount covered was $3,000, but for those who pay a percentage of the costs, the median percentage paid was 90 percent of tuition. These costs were typically (78 percent) recovered upon successful completion of the coursework. Only 4 percent of respondents did not pay for any fees associated with a professional society membership. In the event that meeting fees or annual dues were paid by the firm, the overwhelming majority paid the fees in full.

    Equipped with the information from the 2016 Polices, Procedures, and Benefits Survey, firm principals and HR directors can make informed decisions regarding the administrative policies they will put in place next year to remain competitive in an ever-changing industry.

    The 2016 Policies, Procedures, and Benefits Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning & Environmental Consulting Firms is available for purchase (print or digital version) at zweiggroup.com/store.

    Will Swearingen is director of Books and Surveys at Zweig Group. He can be contacted at research@zweiggroup.com.