The 100 Giants predict they'll hire 1,900 new design staffers next year. However, the group has forecasted at least 1,000 new hires every year since 2013, but only in 2014 and 2017 did they come through with that many. Which all leads into the news that total design staff fell last year by 38 percent to 19,923, the first negative result in four years. Yet the number of project managers/directors leaped by 500 to 3,752.
That may explain why fees per employee rose to $337,000, up from $291,000—the highest total ever recorded, which means fewer designers working more projects. Their hours are maxed out, as well. Billable time came in at 87 percent, the highest in a decade, after averaging 80 percent the past five years. Meanwhile, salaries remained steady or dropped, particularly for designers. Principals/partners earned $177,000, project managers $106,000, and designers $70,000, down from $74,000 (with a corresponding drop in hourly rates from $147 to $133).
It's no surprise then that more of these Giants than ever say their biggest business challenge is recruiting and retaining qualified staff (90 and 60 percent, respectively). Compare that with the fact that only 42 percent of the firms see creating new business as a priority. And the number of Giants concerned with earning appropriate fees dropped to 66 percent (this number has been as high as 80 in years past).