ASLA Survey Reveals Improved Business Conditions

Business conditions are starting to look up for landscape architecture firms, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ first quarter 2013 Business Quarterly survey. Firms reported a surge in inquiries from potential clients for new work, as well as more stable or rising billable hours. These improved findings are reflected in more robust plans for hiring.

Fully 61.8 percent reported slightly to significantly higher inquiries for work, representing an increase from 42.1 percent last quarter. In addition, 76.1 percent of firm representatives responding indicated stable to higher billable hours in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 66.5 percent last quarter.

Year to year, 59.5 percent claimed slightly to significantly higher first-quarter inquiries from potential clients for new project work. Additionally, 76.1 percent indicated first-quarter billable hours remained about the same or were higher.

This uptick has improved hiring plans. Of all firms with two or more employees, 54.5 percent indicated they would be hiring in the second quarter of 2013, compared to 41.8 percent last quarter. Some 31.7 percent of firms with two or more employees said they plan to hire a landscape architect next quarter, either entry-level or experienced, a notable increase from 24.7 percent previously.

“The larger number of inquiries for new work is a welcome sign of a brightening economic picture, and more members are expressing confidence by hiring more staff,” says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “We are continuing to see incremental signs of improvement and believe that, at last, things are moving forward for the landscape architecture profession.”

The survey also asked about firms’ recruiting and retention efforts as well as their views on diversity. Survey respondents indicated that a flexible work schedule (71.5 percent), health insurance (60.7 percent) and a competitive salary (60.1 percent) are the most popular benefits used to recruit and retain top talent. Nearly two-thirds of firms (65.7 percent) agreed that a diverse workforce provides competitive value and success, and they named partnering with local schools and colleges (62.2 percent) as the main strategy used to recruit a diverse staff.

Key Survey Highlights:
Compared to the fourth quarter 2012, your first quarter 2013 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 13.3%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 30.7%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 32.1%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.0%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 12.8%

Compared to the fourth quarter 2012, your first quarter 2013 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 19.5%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 42.3%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 23.7%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 7.9%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 6.5%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2012, your first quarter 2013 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 22.6%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 29.5%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 24.0%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 13.4%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 10.6%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2012, your first quarter 2013 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 21.4%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 38.1%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 21.9%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.2%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 7.4%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the second quarter of 2013 (multiple answers)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 8.5%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 16.0%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 13.2%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 6.6%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 8.0%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 3.8%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 57.5%

What are some of the unique ways that your firm recruits and retains top talent (multiple answers)?
Flexible work schedule – 71.2%
Telecommuting – 19.6%
Competitive salary – 60.1%
Time off for volunteering – 16.6%
Supporting pro bono projects – 29.4%
Health insurance – 60.7%
Positive feedback – 46.6%
Opportunity for ownership – 23.3%
401(k) plan – 51.5%
Leadership development training – 23.9%
Mentorship – 47.9%
Networking events – 24.5%
Student internships – 22.7%
Participating in the ACE Mentor Program – 6.1%
Paying for ASLA membership dues – 45.4%

What are some of the strategies employed by your firm in recruiting a diverse staff (multiple answers)?
Creating benchmarks for measuring results of recruiting efforts – 18.4%
Tracking where to find a diverse pool of candidates – 37.8%
Partnering with local schools and colleges – 62.2%

Do you agree or disagree that having a diverse workforce provides competitive value and success for your firm?
Agree – 65.7%
Disagree – 8.6%
Not sure – 25.8%

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