EOFY Report 20/21
As we prepare to draw the curtains on another financial year, I would like to take this opportunity to pause and reflect on the year that was. We all hoped that 2021 would be a different year. It would signal the end of 2020 that saw us endure one disaster after another. It would also mark a new beginning in the wake of a post-COVID world. The hope for a vaccine, fewer virus transmissions, businesses back on their feet and a hybrid workforce were all things we were looking forward to – but the challenges continue. Through the unpredictability of the crisis, the ACA has continued to listen to members and address your ongoing concerns and needs with supporting your businesses.
Our Strategic Plan 2018–2023 continues to serve as the framework that ensures the ACA remains relevant to members and engaged in broad business conversations well into the future. The seven core strategic objectives underpinning the Plan aim to safeguard the business environment in which we practise architecture to be fair, equitable, and supportive of good design.
We made a firm commitment that the ACA is here for you and I assure you of our ongoing support. Our pulse check surveys (all five of them) gave us invaluable data to act upon. This meant the provision of timely information, expert advice, improved tools, relevant online events and creating platforms for communities to share and learn from each other.
Here’s a snapshot of our report card against each of those seven core strategic objectives.
1. Membership engagement, growth + diversity
Put simply, this objective is all about building and diversifying our membership base so practices of all scales can benefit from ACA membership. It also aims to validate the ACA’s position as the ‘go-to’ place for business of architecture support.
On behalf of the ACA, I would like to thank you – our members – for continuing to support us throughout a tough year. We have hit our highest membership retention rate, with 96% of practices renewing your engagement with the ACA. Membership has also strengthened, with an increase of 15% from this time last year, edging close to 700 member practices representing more than 5,000 technical staff. A very warm welcome to our new members.
Our member practices come from a wide range of backgrounds, serving different industry sectors. They are new and emerging, as well as more experienced and established practices. We still have some work to do and would like to see engagement with larger practices who can benefit from our efforts in advocacy and strengthening the profession.
Meanwhile, we welcome applications for affiliate membership – those who are involved in advocacy or studies pertaining to the profession, available to individuals, firms, corporations, associations and institutions, and granted by approval of the ACA National Executive Committee. Head here to find out more about Affiliate Membership.
At a branch level, each of our active committees continue to engage with members through 1:1 check ins, informative lunches, roundtable discussions, vibrant events and leading the Architects’ Mental Wellbeing Forums (AMWF) in your regions.
A shout out to all our branch committees for your efforts, which have been key to membership engagement and growth. You can check out all the amazing updates in our newsletter. Every corner of Australia has an active and vibrant ACA committee representing you.
2. Market/member segmentation
Segmentation of our membership and market base is critical for us to be able to service our members more effectively. This objective demands that we have a clear understanding of our market and member segments, which relies heavily on the data that we collect. We also need to be responsive to the various stages and professional needs of practices, and this goes beyond the size or type of practice.
Disruption over the past 12 months has been challenging and ongoing. The arrival of COVID-19 required immediate research on the impacts and implications for business. Our plan was to survey our members and non-members with Pulse Checks from the onset, generating insights to help us develop content, resources, advice, guidelines and contract amendments. We also swiftly reconfigured our face-to-face events into online webinars providing members and non-members with a platform to connect, learn, engage and network.
For smaller practices navigating the business world, the ACA’s Business of Small Practice Forums provide tools and networking opportunities for architects who are launching, running or growing small practices in a transitioning economy and connecting them to other professionals.
We are also delighted to have rolled out the ACA business advisory helpdesk, which services the various segments and needs of our membership. As a member, you will have access to specialist advice from our suite of experts in industrial relations, law, business and financial management.
3. Products + Services Gap Analysis
This objective is aimed at identifying and addressing gaps in resources, knowledge base and tools for architectural business operations. Our range of Member-Only Resources is regularly updated to meet the increasing demands on your business.
Here are just a few of them.
Time Cost Calculation Guide – V.3
There’s never been a more important time to understand what it costs to do business. As practices face difficult times ahead, the ACA launched Version 3 of the ACA Architects’ Time/Cost Calculator, which enables you to value Innovation and Commercial Risk within projects. The Calculator is also a benchmarking tool, enabling practices to compare the office overheads of similar sized practices with their own. Version 4 will be released shortly.
Resource Sharing System – launched in June 2020
Staffing issues present as a key issue during this time, with some practices having to reduce staffing, stand employees down, cut their hours and/or consider redundancies. Many were also asking about secondment opportunities. The ACA prioritised the development of a collegiate resource sharing system in direct response to the ever-increasing need to retain and support employees in the workforce.
HR Policy Templates – updated
The ACA has also updated all HR templates that are tailored to suit the needs of specific practices.
ACA Short Form Architect Client Agreement – updated
Version 3 of the Architect Client Agreement was launched. Just three pages and a cover letter, it is a fair and balanced model contract for use on small- to medium-sized projects.
ACA Guide Employment Agreements – updated
With the changes to the Architects Award 2020, all guide employment agreements were updated to reflect these new and improved amendments.
ACA Salary Calculator – updated
With the Fair Work Commission’s minimum wage changes announced in June, the ACA will update these pay rates and the ACA salary calculator as the new table of pay rates is released. This provides member practices with a clear process to determine appropriate award-compliant salaries under the Architects Award and other awards related to architectural practice. The calculator assists members to ensure they are operating legally and fairly, and helps practices to develop properly informed plans for the future of their business.
ACA CPD Events
Our online CPD events give all members an affordable opportunity to increase their skills and knowledge. If you missed an event, many previous webinars are available to purchase on demand.
We launched our new and improved website earlier this year with increased functionality, making it more intuitive for users to navigate and explore. Once you land on our homepage, feel free to explore our various products and services such as:
- Members Only – a dedicated space to access all our great member benefits, from the time cost calculation guide, salary calculator, employment contracts, HR policy templates, specialist advice and much much more.
- Industrial Relations – we encourage all architectural employers to familiarise themselves with modern awards and other workplace law. The detailed information in this section helps members to meet these obligations.
- Advocacy – We provide advice to governments at local, state and federal level, make submissions to relevant inquiries, and speak up on the matters that mean the most to the profession.
- ACA Advisory – provides members with access to specialist employment, legal and business management advice from our expert partners at no additional cost.
- Community – we support a range of platforms and groups to help facilitate connection and build community, through targeted forums, member events and via a series of published profiles and case studies.
- Knowledge Hub – explore expert advice, thought leadership and informed opinion on current issues, running a practice and developing a strong and productive workplace culture.
- ACA Branches – the ACA is made up of diverse branches across the country. This section is your one-stop location for a glimpse into what’s happening outside your state. No border restrictions here, so make sure you visit!
- Architects Wellbeing – the ACA is leading the development of an Architects Mental Wellbeing Forum (AMWF) in Australia, which builds on the great work being done by AMWF in the UK. We also publish a range of resources and stories to support wellbeing.
4. Thought Leadership + Advocacy
ACA’s interest in this area has taken on quite a bit of momentum with calls to government on a range of issues arising from our pulse check survey results, which equipped us with tangible feedback on the Government’s initiatives during the pandemic. This research helped us advocate more effectively on our profession’s behalf. Through our strategic partnerships with the Australian Institute of Architects, ArchiTeam and the Australian Construction Industry Forum, our collective voiced strengthened our messages to the Government.
More work needs to be done, however, in the implementation of the building confidence report, and the ACA will continue to keep this on our strategic agenda.
The Architects’ Mental Wellbeing Forum (AMWF) is now in full swing with all our five branches up and running forums around the country. Our aim when we first launched was to raise awareness of mental health issues within the profession and to create a supportive community of practitioners in each state to meet on a regular basis to share knowledge, experiences and strategies in a bid to support practices and the people within practice. Our longer term goal is to feed this into the work that others are doing as well. An example of this is our role as one of the key partners of the Monash University’s research project Architectural Work Cultures: professional identity, education and wellbeing, led by Professor Naomi Stead.
In addition to partnering with Monash, we are working with the University of NSW on their Research in Digital Transformation of the AEC industry.
The ACA is also a critical contributor to the Architects’ Accreditation Council of Australia’s projects, including the Review of the National Standard of Competencies for Architects and their upcoming project on Pathways to Registration Mentoring.
5. Communications + Marketing
The ACA’s communications and marketing strategy sets out a plan to build on the effectiveness of our communications and improve our website traffic as a channel that serves to broadcast our content to the world. We have ramped up our social media presence, and delivered targeted email communications and timely content.
We launched our new and improved website last year, with the recategorisation of how we present content, intuitive navigation and a member only section all part of pulling audiences to our site and attracting high engagement.
We would love you to engage on our social media platforms, whichever you are comfortable with, and like, comment, share or post. Every bit of engagement matters and the multiplier effect takes over as we work together to amplify our important messages.
Much of the work the ACA does is supported by our national partners. A huge thank you to Planned Cover, Deltek, NexSys IT and Ardex Australia as our principal partners, and our knowledge partners informed Lawyers and Mecca Events, who have been instrumental in helping us deliver on our charter.
We would also like to welcome NATSPEC onboard again as our Architects Mental Wellbeing Forum sponsor.
Continuing our partnership strategy, we are working with beaton on the Client Choice Awards, the Built Environment Channel on content promotions through their screens across practices around the country, M4D on the business helpdesk, and ArchiBiz in delivering their Designing Architectural Practice Success (DAPS) course.
This year we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ArchiTeam, signalling our intention to work together to deliver maximum benefit for our profession. Also in the works in another collaboration with Niche Media on delivering a business of architecture and design conference.
Our belief is that this profession is way too small for us all to be doing our own thing, so partnerships are key!
7. Operational Plan
Objectives 1–6 are all well and good, but are impossible to deliver if they are not supported by systems, procedures and a framework against the ACA’s business requirements at national and branch levels.
Hence, a carefully constructed Operational Plan is in place with the leadership and guidance of our National Executive Committee (NEC) to ensure we keep on track and measure our performance against these objectives.
With elections finalised at the beginning of 2021, we were delighted to welcome the two new NEC appointments of Gilda Donegan as the QLD/NT President and Kukame McPierzie as WA President. A special thanks to retiring Presidents Rob Wesener and Malcolm Jones for their commitment, enthusiasm and hard work. Gilda and Kukame join our existing NEC members, led by National President John Held (SA), Vice President Agi Sterling (NSW/ACT) and Secretary Paul Viney (VIC/TAS).
We will continue to lead the way in providing essential tools and resources for member practices, along with a vital and engaged editorial program. All this work is supported by the ACA’s elected representatives, staff, members and partners.
On behalf of the ACA, we would like to thank you for your ongoing engagement. As always, we are keen to hear your thoughts, plans and ideas for the ACA. Our mission is to remain focused on membership value through good times and pandemics, to advocate strongly for the profession, and to provide robust, up-to-date and useful resources that allow you to focus on the Business of Architecture.
“A year from now you may wish you had started today” is an interesting quote by Karen Lamb, which is why here at the ACA, the time is always NOW to keep working on all the important initiatives, so we can better support you, our members for the future.