(This is a guest post by Bob Morgan, an architect based in South-East Asia)
Good Morning Jobseekers!
PART 1: Recruitment Options
You have just pulled another ‘Candlelit Vigil!’ – On top of a 60 Hour Week! – We all have to give extra effort at times; but now it is becoming a ‘Regular Weekly Event!’ During some Recovery Time, you recognize the need for help! – It really has become a case of ‘Not Waving but Drowning!’ – Most of us have been there, and have the Tee-Shirts!
The Employment Process must be regarded as a ‘Two-Way Street!’
If you are lucky, the Recruitment Process can be a ‘Breeze!’ However often, it can become a ‘Nightmare!’ Here we must understand some basic principles of ‘Recruitment, Employment and Retention.’ Firstly, there is a large amount of ‘Risk’ associated with Employment! – Much of which cannot be negated – Even where it can, there are penalties in terms of Time, Cost and Ultimate Satisfaction. Secondly, the Employment Process must be regarded as a ‘Two-Way Street!’ – Engendering ‘Trust’ and ‘Respect’ on the parts of both Employer and Employee. Unfortunately, these are two commodities that have become somewhat scarce in recent years.
Some regard the concept of ‘Recruitment, Employment, and Retention’ as being ‘Hire and Fire!’ – Or as ‘Something of a Black-Art,’ which takes place behind a door marked ‘Human Remains!’ However, the Service Records of Employees can ‘Speak Volumes’ of an organization. High Staff Turnover (The ‘Revolving Door’), does not make for a Stable Establishment! – Not only is it Disruptive, but it prompts an ‘Unsound Studio Culture!’ – And, it does not take long for an organization to gain a rather ‘Dubious Reputation.’ Therefore, ‘Recruitment, Employment and Retention’ is something which ought NOT to be driven by ‘The Bottom Line!’ – As should become evident.
Hiring your first ‘New Recruit’ can prove to be something of a ‘Game-Changer!’
Frequently, the decision to ‘Recruit’ will place further burdens on the Business! New Staff have to be ‘Sustained’ in terms of Workload and there are additional Responsibilities and Costs. Hiring your first ‘New Recruit’ can prove to be something of a ‘Game-Changer!’ Indeed, the ‘Overhead’ of recruiting your initial employee is a substantial one. Although you might be ‘Boxing’ currently at a ‘Flyweight Level,’ procedures for Payroll, PAYE, and Health & Safety will be no different to ‘Heavyweights!’ Let us examine some of the options available. Viz.,
Historically, this has been the most logical option. However, we must keep in mind the way in which both Markets and Employment Practice has changed – Things are very different to how they once were 30 Years ago! Recruiting Permanent Staff, can be a lengthy and time-consuming process – Especially so for the Sole Practitioner, where it is critical to make the right decisions – Potentially, you could be spending more time with an Employee, than you will with your own family!
A Clear Decision is also required as to whether there is a need for a Full-Time or Part-Time Appointment. Appointments with ‘Variable Hours’ will also determine the ‘Tenure of Employment.’ Dependent upon Territory, Legal Advice in terms of Contracts, etc., might also be required.
However, in other locations, ‘Informal Casual Employment’ is still the norm. It should also be understood, that ‘Zero Hour Contracts’ (Unguaranteed Hours) will limit your potential Candidate Catchment! – And, it can promote a poor image about you and your Practice, once an advertisement appears!
At times they can be the ‘Answer to a Prayer!’ However, we can again experience ‘Extremes’ in terms of both Quality and Efficacy. The benefit of Agency Staff is that they are there to ‘Assist in times of Crisis!’ – Just a few Days or Weeks, in order to meet a Deadline. Whilst the ‘Term’ of the appointment is relatively short, the ‘Cost’ can be disproportionately high!
This must be budgeted for, as Agency Staff might be earning considerably more than a Small Practice Principal is ‘Drawing’ from his own Business! Whilst the Agency accommodate Pay and Government PAYE Contributions, this route can effectively ‘Derail’ your structure of Hourly Rates and Charges, unless budgeted for in advance! Appointments should have a Beginning and an End, and must not be allowed to ‘Drift!’ – You are ‘In Business’ and there are limits as to how far ‘Being Nice’ can go!
Also take account of the fact that most Agency Staff, do not see Temporary Contracts as a ‘Career Move!’ – They are more than likely there due to circumstances! – Recently Laid-Off! – Merely attempting to ‘Earn a Living’ rather than ‘Practicing a Profession!’ – Another ‘Tee-Shirt in the Wardrobe of Life!’
Here, a Freelancer will be ‘Self-Employed’ in his own right. The appointment can be for a Fixed Term, or can ‘Roll-Over’ on a Weekly or Monthly Basis. On the one hand the Employer has no liability for Agency Commissions. However, Withholding Tax, PAYE, Annual Leave and other Government Payroll Levies will be included in his Hourly Rate – Dependent upon Turnover, he might also impose VAT which in certain territories can be as high as 20%!
In the UK ‘Systematic Pogroms’ by HMRC (Revenue & Customs) has dramatically reduced the Freelance Contingent. Much here relies upon the Government Definition of ‘Self-Employed!’ – Which has not been interpreted consistently! Consequently, many have had to transfer into the territory of ‘Zero Hour Contracts’ under PAYE (Taxed at Source) operated by Agencies, or have left the Profession for good!
However, in South-East Asia, Independent Freelancers are a burgeoning market, assisted to an extent with Tax Incentives from Government, and ‘Guaranteed Self-Employed Status.’ With the ‘True Rate of Unemployment’ approaching 30% in The Philippines, there is often little choice between operating as a Freelancer or having no Income at all! – Zero Social Security Benefits!
This can be a viable solution, yet requires a fair amount of Pre-Planning and Goodwill. Here, a Small Practitioner can use the resources of another Local Practice in times of Crisis. Rates are agreed beforehand, or a ‘Reciprocal Exchange’ can be negotiated, and ‘Balanced’ at the end of the year.
This can be a useful solution, as it requires Practices to ‘Collaborate’ rather than ‘Compete’ with each other. Indeed it can also lead to Practices ‘Collaborating’ at a much more Strategic Level, and ‘Sharing Risk’ during the initial stages of Speculative Projects.
Although the above can be regarded as being ‘First Choice Solutions,’ they all carry the Burden of Cost – Albeit for the short-term. This might well be a ‘Cost’ that you are unable to bear. Indeed, your situation might be one that has been ‘Reactive to Circumstances!’
The Cash is not there, and you are unable to enhance your fee. On the other hand, you could well be adhering to a policy of ‘Zero Debt.’ Therefore, we need to examine some more ‘Alternative Solutions!’ Viz.,
Today, we are not looking at Retirees as being in any way ‘Geriatric!’ – Quite the contrary! Again, as Markets have changed, many have had their careers cut-short! – Sometimes by a ‘Couple of Decades!’ Yet they are more than capable of a significant contribution. Retirees can be ‘Flexible’ in terms of Rate and Attendance – Some might also be willing to accept ‘Deferred Terms’ – Easing Cashflow.
Moreover, adding Professional Retirees to your Personal Network, can also be of benefit. It might enable you to take a short break, having the benefit of a ‘Locum.’ Other Retired Network Professionals might also offer Advice or Services at a much reduced cost.
Apprentice or Trainee Technician
This is effectively a ‘Rebranding’ of Technician Training, with Apprentices being ‘Tied’ to a Practice for a period of up to 4 Years. A ‘Day Release’ is given for Further Education. Given that a New Start Apprentice will be 16 it is likely that they will have extremely low capabilities in terms of ‘Productivity.’ They will also require a high level of Supervision and Mentoring. The UK Government permits Apprentices to be paid substantially less than the Minimum Wage. However, this solution should be seen as being generated more by ‘Altruism’ on the part of the Employer.
A Graduate or Post-Graduate Intern might also be of Low Value in terms of Productivity and Efficacy. For many it will also be their first experience of ‘Work!’ Internships can work well, especially where a Practice Principal might be acting as a Part-Time Tutor or Mentor, and relationships have already been established.
However and again, as we examine recent trends, we can see that Internships are not as they once were. Many Employers recognize that Graduate Interns require ‘Experience’ in order to move-on to Post-Graduate Study. Consequently, they believe that ‘Experience has a Monetary Value!’ This has led to many Interns being poorly paid – If at all! Notwithstanding that many, already burdened with Student Debt, will have ‘Slipped-Away’ from the Profession altogether. Such appointments vary tremendously according to territory, yet commonly exist on the ‘Fringe’ of Employment Law.
Establishing an early relationship with a Part 1 Graduate can however, prove to be beneficial for both Employee and Employee. Such a bond, will also have inherent flexibility, and could prove to be a key component of your ‘Succession Plan.’
Jobshare or Part-Time
Much here will depend upon ‘Personalities’ and the ‘Job Requirements.’ However, it can work well particularly with Mothers returning to work. If not fully applicable to Architects or the Studio Team, it might well be worthwhile for Administration, and Back Office activities such as Document Control, Bookkeeping and Monthly Payroll. Indeed, certain activities can be undertaken outside of the Studio Environment.
Internet Home Workers
Here, I can only add ‘If you Must!’ Essentially, ‘Dot-Com Internet Brokers’ act as intermediaries and are paid a Commission from a Client. ‘Clients’ advertise Work and ‘Contractors’ bid for it, in terms of Capability and Price. However, ‘Price’ is usually the main attraction for ‘Clients.’ Qualifications and Capability are substantial ‘Risk Issues,’ as they cannot be verified. Rates to ‘Contractors’ can be very low indeed. Quality, Delivery and Supervision are also a substantial concern – As are Language, and Modes of Communication.
Over the last five years my own workload has grown as Clients have had to learn (Painfully) that $1/Hour paid to Third World Internet Worker will not achieve First World Quality! In some instances an initial bid was rejected – Only for the Client to return several months later in ‘Panic!’ However, such Commissions were finally accepted on ‘Very Different Terms’ to the original bid.
Again, many will be able to recount Nightmare Scenarios, when following this route. Often, it can feel as though ‘Work’ is channelled into a Vacuum. Yet what is returned can be extremely disappointing! – Requiring further ‘Reworking.’ However, much here is dependent upon Briefing and Supervision – Especially where English is not the First Language. Rates and Charges might seem attractive – But, you pay for what you get!
Nevertheless, there are Offshore Organizations who do perform well. (Without wishing to ‘Blow my own Trumpet) My own Practice is based in The Philippines, and we have several Retained Architect and Developer Clients in the UK and Middle East. They benefit from reduced costs, yet receive a Competent and Reliable Service – In English! In return we have a Consistent Workload, and Healthy Income which is not reliant upon the rather ‘Vague and Shady’ Local Market.
As can be seen, there are many options worthy of consideration. However, much will depend upon circumstances, available time and of course, money. Thought should also be given to your Business Plan, and whether ‘Recruitment’ aligns with your planning. Unfortunately, many elect to abandon the Business Plan as soon as they are ‘Up and Running’ – Yet when used correctly, it can continue to offer ‘Reassurance,’ as the business grows.
Next week, we will present Part 2: Recruitment Specifics and will deal with the ‘Mechanics’ of the Recruitment Process. Whilst giving a General Overview, some ‘Tuning’ will be required to Local Markets, and Prevailing Legislation. My own experiences relate to the UK, Middle East and South-East Asia. Yet although very ‘Diverse’ they can prove to be somewhat seminal, in formulating Policy and Procedures! – “Loading an AK47 in Iraq was not part of my Professional Practice Syllabus!” – But it did encourage me to be ‘Resourceful!’
A Client in Iraq once criticized me! – “You Westerners must always have a Plan B!” My only response was “Probably the reason why I am here!”
Bob Morgan BA(Hons)Arch Dip Arch
Bob’s career began in 1974 as a Trainee Technician in the United Kingdom. After School of Architecture he specialized in Volume Developer Housing and Healthcare Projects. Since 1996 he has pursued a very ‘International Calling’ – Working throughout the Middle East, and now South-East Asia. In 2010 he founded SAMANIEGOMORGAN which provides High Quality Design and Documentation Services to UK and Middle Eastern Architects and Developer Clients.