Zweig Group’s 2017 Policies, Procedures and Benefits Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning and Environmental Consulting Firms has just been released. The report covers many of the questions that firm leaders are faced with when they look to develop their firm’s administrative policies and set 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 human resources directors’ education, background, responsibilities, and compensation.

The survey found that the average human resources director in an AEC firm has about 18 years of experience and earns a base salary of $128,500. Most firms (74 percent) paid out a bonus to their human resources director last year. The median bonus for human resources directors, as a percentage of their salary, was 5 percent. Forty-two percent of all responding firms did not have a full-time human resources department, meaning that the staff handling human resources functions also handle other responsibilities in the firm.

In the absence of a full-time human resources director, the most common title of the person who is in charge of human resource functions is “head of finance/administration” or “other finance/administrative employee.” Eighty-one percent of respondents said that the person in charge of human resources functions participates in the firm’s annual business planning process. Only 20 percent of respondents said the person in charge of human resources functions has an MBA or other master’s degree.

Among the firms budgeting a pay increase next year, the median increase is 3.5 percent. This figure outpaces the Society for Human Resources Management figure for U.S.-based businesses of 2.7 percent, showing some optimism for continued growth in the AEC 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 about 50 to 80 percent of the premium for employee/family plans.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents offer tuition or fee reimbursement for continued education. The median dollar amount covered is $3,500. These costs typically (81 percent) are recovered upon successful completion of the coursework. Only 3 percent of respondents do not pay for any fees associated with a professional society membership. In the event that meeting fees or annual dues are paid by the firm, the overwhelming majority pay the fees in full.

Equipped with the data in Zweig Group’s 2017 Polices, Procedures and Benefits Survey, firm principals and human resources directors can make informed decisions regarding the administrative policies they will put in place next year. In the context of remaining competitive in an ever changing industry, knowing how your competitors are distributing their benefits packages can give your firm the tools it needs to make sure employees are getting the best benefits package you can provide.

The 2017 Policies, Procedures and Benefits Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning and Environmental Consulting Firms is available for purchase (print or digital version) at

Will Swearingen is director of Research. He can be contacted at

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