What is the focus of HR in architecture?

Written by: Kate Marks, adapted by RIBA Appointments
Published on: 14 May 2018

What is the current focus of HR in architecture? It may be useful to keep these examples below in mind when working for an architecture firm, to help increase your value as an existing or prospective employee.

Current focuses for HR and people management in architecture

There are numerous challenges in the current marketplace that practices are facing in terms of human resources. Here are some examples below that may help you to understand what employers are looking to avoid or improve.

Finding the right staff with the right skills:

This has always been a necessity, but can involve varying sizes of pools of expertise because people may leave the industry in economic downturns due to lack of opportunity or other personal reasons. Although there may be a rush to recruit in some areas, there is also a keen search for specific skills. A lesson learned from the previous economic downturn is that practices are less likely to hire simply for talent alone with the hope that they can find somewhere to fit in the individual.

Keeping the right people:

There is also a heightened desire to retain and develop the ‘good’ staff. Increased competitiveness as the market stabilises means that rival employers need to seek ever more innovative ways in which to hang on to the talents of those who exemplify the skills and behaviour they wish to support and perpetuate in their company.

Addressing below-standard behaviour:

The other side of the coin to keeping the right people is managing those who may not be such an asset to a practice. Although no one relishes difficult conversations, recessions do seem to teach practices that a problem ignored is a problem increased. There is a reluctant acceptance that the processes and procedures needed to address performance and possibly dismissal are there for a purpose and, although not to be welcomed, can be used to the advantage of the practice. This helps them gain the workforce they need and want to produce the work that they wish to do for their clients. The beauty is that every practice is different and someone who doesn’t work well in one particular working environment may flourish elsewhere and vice versa.

Management skills/leadership:

As all of the above points indicate, it’s now even more the case that simply being a good architect is not enough to run a practice successfully. Some people believe that leaders are born not made; nevertheless, some basic training in management skills will help to prevent the major forms of bad practice, and will – ideally – engender an environment where a practice's staff can flourish profitably to the benefit of their clients.

Succession planning:

The profession has been notoriously vague about succession planning, albeit we have more recently seen some fine examples of how this has changed for the better. Nevertheless, architecture as a form of vocation does not lend itself easily to structured retirement, and that poses a challenge for the next generations and the future of a practice. Without doubt, architecture and the creative industries are people orientated. Without the skills and knowledge of people, practices have no product and no business. 

Extract from HR for Creative Companies by Kate Marks and adapted by RIBA Appointments. Available from RIBA Bookshops

For more advice about what architecture firms are focusing on, or to discuss your requirements, contact our consultants today.

T: +44 (0)20 7496 8370

E: info.appointments@riba.org