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Will the consolidation of the engineering consulting market reshape the industry?

eg.1’s Dominic Briance has written a piece for the New Civil Engineer magazine (digital edition), see article below…

Will the consolidation of the engineering consulting market reshape the industry?

The recent announcement of Aecom’s acquisition of URS, followed quickly by news of approaches to purchase Hyder by Arcadis and Nippon Koei, continues the trend towards consolidation in the engineering consulting market. These events have the potential to radically reshape the industry and significantly impact the talent landscape.

Competition for an increasingly mobile talent is becoming a major challenge for the industry. How organisations use their vision and values to attract, integrate and develop employees has never been more important, particularly as differentiation becomes more difficult.

The increasing convergence of the market is only going to compound these issues. With many engineering-led organisations focusing on elevating their services higher up the value chain, and traditional management consulting firms looking to augment their advisory capabilities with more technically-led services, true gamechanging talent is becoming ever more sought after. As a consequence organisations are having to think about how they recruit.

For engineering led organisations, it is important to re-evaluate internal structures and remuneration policies to attract the requisite level of talent. Engineering firms must understand the dynamics of how management consulting firms operate to mitigate against the risk of failed hires.

As the Balfour Beatty/Parsons Brinckerhoff example shows, organisations must ensure that their integration and on-boarding processes are properly established, measured and communicated. While we are beginning to see some firms recognise the scale of these challenges, many appear to remain uncertain as to how they should react to the shifting market paradigm. A “hire people because they are different but then sack them because they are not the same” mentality still exists within too many organisations.

Given the scale of these challenges there is a now a pressing need for organisations to fully embrace diversity, both from a gender and capability perspective, to widen potential talent pools.

The government sponsored Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (WiSET) initiative, and the public support from organisations such as Bechtel with its Women@Bectel events, is evidence of how some parts of the industry are beginning to embrace gender diversity. While these initiatives are very positive, in isolation these programmes will not be the panacea to the issues facing the UK engineering and consulting industry unless they are fully embraced across all levels.

It is also important to focus on the broader diversification of capability, to use experience and skills from other industries to augment and enhance existing talent bases. This will promote best–in-class thinking and help to combat some of the challenges the industry is facing. For executive search firms the challenge is two-fold – how to create holistically diverse research strategies and promote and then embed those values within our clients.

An open and inclusive industry will help to attract new and diverse talent into our sector, and by extension enable organisations to reach their goals and take advantage of the considerable challenges and opportunities presented by an evolving and expanding market.

The time to act is now.

Dominic Briance is head of capital infrastructure advisory at eg.1.