What is a good employer?

Last night’s celebrations of the AJ100, The Architects’ Journal’s event centred around the UK’s 100 largest practices, was highly enjoyable (thanks to BDP, rated as number 2, for inviting me).

Last night’s celebrations of the AJ100, The Architects’ Journal’s event centred around the UK’s 100 largest practices, was highly enjoyable (thanks to BDP, rated as number 2, for inviting me).

Among the gongs were those for best employer. I’ve been thinking for a few days about what being a good employer in architecture means, since the Guardian put out the annual Great Workplaces survey. Not surprisingly, there aren’t any architects on the list. The nearest to architecture one gets is software company Autodesk, placed at number 13 on the medium-sized workplace scale with an employee comment that ‘Teh company has a special culture of its own. Here I feel at home’.

Unfortunately, it is an open secret that some of the best architect practices have ‘a special culture of their own’ and not in a good way. Great design skills can go with a – diplomatically put – focused approach that does not always think too much about the welfare of employees. But page/ park, which won employer of the year last night, is a well-respected practice, showing that good design and decent treatment of employees do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Still, one suspects that most architects would choose their employers firstly on their design ethos and only secondly on their HR skills. And that feels right to me. When I look at that employment survey and see companies like Mcdonald’s and KFC scoring highly I feel uncomfortable. I think ‘but I wouldn’t work there’. Not only do I not rate their products, but I can’t imagine loving the work either.

Surely a good employer is one that allows you to do interesting and fulfilling work and feel proud of the end product? 

You can see full results and analysis of AJ100 here, including results for the best new entrant, sponsored by The Rooflight Compnay.

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