When I think about the people our society considers stars, I think of actors and athletes, not architects and engineers. That needs to change.
The AEC industry is a great one, with plenty of exceptional firms and people. The work being done is important and meaningful, improving lives in more ways than people realize. The only problem is that people outside our industry don’t realize just how great it is. Even worse, we often fail to recognize and celebrate our own successes. If we want to inspire the next generation of architects and engineers, that’ll have to change.
When I think about the people our society considers stars, I think of actors, singers, athletes, authors, and artists. These people are celebrated for different reasons, but they are celebrated nonetheless. This is what we, as an industry, have to start doing for the most talented among us.
Speaking of top talent, we have to start showcasing the rising stars of our firms, both internally and externally. They are the future of our industry, and their great work needs to be known. Celebrate them when they win a big job or complete a major project. Illustrate to them and other current or future employees that your firm appreciates their accomplishments. At Zweig Group, when something good happens, like an individual or team winning a job, everyone gathers around for a ringing of the company gong. It’s a small gesture, but it always ramps up the energy in the office and is great for the firm’s morale. And keep this in mind: If there are budding design professionals out there who know you’d value their accomplishments, they just might want to work for you, which is a big deal in the ongoing labor shortage.
While we need to acknowledge the talent and accomplishments of individuals and teams, we also have to celebrate the industry’s overall growth. Revenue and employee counts are on the rise, and we should be quick to let people know. Growth demonstrates that AEC firms are helping to improve peoples’ lives by giving them more opportunities for great jobs. This is incredibly important and is something we should be sharing with the rest of the world.
A lot of this boils down to marketing and how we are not effectively doing it for ourselves. Historically, the AEC industry has underinvested in marketing, and by a large degree. Marketing is seen as overhead rather than an investment, a fact that’s amply born out in Zweig Group’s 2018 Marketing Survey. Twenty-three percent of firms don’t send out a single press release. Forty-four percent don’t even publish newsletters. How is anyone – including engineers, architects, and consultants – supposed to know about our success if we are not saying anything about it? Generating interest in this industry’s remarkable work is a step we must take if we want to elevate beyond the confines of our firms and into the mainstream.
As the awards manager at Zweig Group, my role is to help firms brand themselves as a great place to work with great projects and people. That’s difficult to do, however, when we as an industry aren’t ready to promote, celebrate, and present ourselves like we should.
Kyle Ahern is the awards manager at Zweig Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.