In the Architecture and Engineering (AE) world, talent is a hot commodity that never stops moving. Project requirements constantly shift, demanding an endless staffing shuffle of professionals across different roles, locations, and disciplines. For HR teams, it’s a dizzying game of musical chairs.

“We had one senior project manager who was assigned to five different job sites in an eight-month span,” recalls Jessica, an HR manager at a top engineering firm. “Each new project site required fully re-boarding her – setting up access to systems, facilities, project documentation, you name it. By the time we got her up and running, she was off to the next engagement.”

Volatility in a project world

A Korn Ferry study paints a concerning picture – by 2030, the world could face a human talent shortage exceeding 85 million. 1 This shortfall translates into a potential loss of a staggering $8.5 trillion in annual revenue by 2030, highlighting the urgency of addressing this critical issue.

This incessant shuffle is par for the course in the AE industry’s highly volatile, project-based model. Organizations must be highly agile, rapidly deploying and redeploying their talented professionals to meet the latest contractual needs. But such volatility creates massive HR headaches:

  • A project manager’s role fundamentally changes across different building types and construction methodologies – oscillating between being a specialist one day and a generalist the next.
  • Critical skill gaps can quickly emerge within a project, requiring emergency hiring or skills transfer from other parts of the organization.
  • Employee tenures are increasingly transactional, with in-demand professionals constantly jumping between firms.

Gallup data shows that only 13% of employees feel genuinely engaged in their roles. 2 In an industry with so much built-in volatility, cultivating engagement and retention becomes exponentially more difficult.

The eternal talent exodus

When an employee resigns, mountains of institutional knowledge walk out the door – from technical skills to client histories, work processes, and more. Should that person return in six months (as it so often happens), the “alumni hire” has to be completely reboarded and re-trained as if they are a brand new resource.

This constant backfill of roles and loss of skills is incredibly costly and disruptive for AE firms. The process of finding, attracting, hiring, onboarding, developing, and retaining talent becomes a black hole of effort and investment with no end in sight.

Experience chaos

With the barrage of staffing changes and fragmented ways of working, providing a cohesive employee experience becomes next to impossible. Performance management gets derailed as professionals bounce from project to project. Career pathing and mentorship are luxuries that few can afford time for.

“We had one young designer who sat through seven different performance review cycles across three years, none of which connected or rolled up in any meaningful way,” said Jessica. “By the time we tried to formalize a development plan, she had completely checked out.”

Breaking the cycle

For HR leaders in the AE space, it’s a constant battle against these macro forces of change and churn. The modern workforce environment demands a more intelligent approach to attracting, deploying, and nurturing talent as the lifeblood of the organization.

While industry dynamics can’t be eliminated, they can be better controlled and optimized. A connected, integrated technology platform that spans the entire HR lifecycle – from workforce planning and acquisition, through onboarding, development, and mobility – could finally break the cycle of discontinuity and inefficiency. With AI-driven insights and process automation, such a solution could dramatically improve HR’s ability to provide seamless, engaging employee experiences while enhancing business velocity.

In the relentless battle for talent, those types of advantages could prove decisive. Rather than just struggling to keep up with volatility, progressive HR teams could finally get ahead of the curve and focus on what matters most – their people.