How to find the best engineering talent

It is well documented that the current skills shortage, across all technical engineering and construction disciplines, is having a huge impact on project delivery and the UK economy. Engineering UK’s “The State of Engineering 2015 UK” report has highlighted that the shortage of skills could cost the UK economy up to £27bn a year if companies fail to hire 182,000 engineers each year until 2022. 

The ability to secure and deliver large-scale developments is highly dependent on the expertise within and available to organisations.

I speak to many organisations based in the UK and internationally with regards to their talent acquisition strategies, and while all identify the skills shortage, many are also focused on reducing the costs of their current recruitment strategies and hiring budget.

I appreciate that recruitment and retention is a significant cost to organisations, and is often viewed negatively as an overhead which should be kept to a minimum; to appease commercial pressures and constraints. However, it is essential to the award of current, and future projects, as well as their successful delivery, to have the right talent on-board. The cost to firms associated with delayed or badly run developments will far outweigh any additional investment.

In February this year, 2015, the Major Project Association, consisting of leaders and organisations heavily involved with the delivery of large-scale, global real-estate and infrastructure developments, held an event addressing the impending skills crisis and, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI), this will reach critical levels by 2016.

Effects to organisations: short and long-term

The lack of qualified and skilled talent can have a huge effect on an organisation’s productivity, both in the short and long term. The impact on current project work-load delivery is obvious. However, the ability to secure future assignments without expertise and sufficient headcount has a dramatic effect on future financial incomes for a company.

Another often overlooked aspect of the skills shortage is staff retention. As we know, many skill-sets and experienced individuals are hard to find. Organisation’s that are fortunate enough to have said expertise, need to ensure they are being managed well, recognised and rewarded accordingly, to be kept away from temptation.  

A recent conversation with a well-known international engineering consultancy highlighted this and left me asking how can engineering-led organisations position themselves to be an employer that talented engineers, who are in demand, would want to join? What factors would motivate sought-after individuals to leave a stable role? And, if they can be tempted, why would they choose one firm, over a potentially long line of suitors?

   1. The first step: recognising the need for change

“If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." Henry Ford (1863-1947), American founder of the Ford Motor Company

As with most problems, the first step is actually recognising the problem and identifying a need to change.

I feel that a number of different factors need to be considered and addressed to form part of the bigger picture solution.These include: understanding the motivations and most effective marketing solutions to different generations of professionals: baby bomers, Generation-X, and the millennials. 

Today, we are lucky to have many alternative ways to communicate to people. The development of social media and web-based marketing, along with the time served methods of print and trade/networking events, have given us a wealth of tools to reach out to individuals.I feel that a number of different factors need to be considered and addressed to form part of the bigger picture solution.These include: understanding the motivations and most effective marketing solutions to different generations of professionals: baby boomers, Generation-X and the Millennials. As with most problems, the first step is actually recognising the problem and identifying a need to change.

However, I don’t feel that there is a one-stop solution which can be used across all generations. Just because new technology is available doesn’t mean that it is being embraced by all.

You only need to look at today’s young professionals who are so au fait with new technology and constantly logged into the latest smart device, to realise that methods of attraction need to vary depending on the target audience.

Whilst a personally addressed hand-written letter may, to some, show a sign of professionalism and a personal touch may, to others, seem an archaic practice of a firm not embracing technology and act as a warning sign of how a firm operates.Similarly, whilst some may appreciate the personal touch of a face-to-face meeting, others may feel Skype is a better use of their time and remove any logistical problems, in terms of travel or geographical location.   

The motivator for different generations is also something which needs to be considered. Whilst professionals earlier in their career would welcome the opportunity for further development and a long-term career path. A more experienced individual may have different professional goals or personal needs to consider to be an attractive workplace.

   2. Effective employer branding

All too often companies can appear arrogant when they are looking to appointing someone into their business. They presume that they are alone in the driving seat when it comes to making a decision about the appointment. This is a particular problem in engineering where skills and experience are in demand at an international level. Not many companies truly know where they sit as an employer within their industry versus their competitors. They might well have a fantastic brand that everyone knows but Employer Branding is a different subject altogether.

Employer branding is all about the environment in which employees work. Are there exciting projects and opportunities for career growth, is there work-life balance, opportunities for further development, good employee engagement and effective management/leadership styles? Enticing individuals based on pay is a short-term strategy that usually attracts the wrong type of people and generates attrition. The world of employment has changed and employees are increasingly considering these elements in their hierarchy of needs.

   3. Tailor-made solutions

Here at Collingwood, we understand that the problem of the skills shortage is industry-wide and global.

However, the solution for each organisation is unique and needs to be tailored, to take account of the skills and experiences required, and where this expertise needs to be deployed.

Our first step involves the understanding of your business, including culture, vision and values, and organisational needs. Discussing your short and long-term objectives and formulating a solution which was created with your business in mind.

Keys areas we would address are as follows:

Short Term

  • Skills gaps
  • Effective talent development
  • Innovations in leadership & mentoring practices
  • Recruitment campaigns
  • Targeted executive recruitment

Long Term

  • Employee development
  • Employee retention
  • Employee engagement
  • Candidate attraction/employer branding
  • Succession planning

To help you get started

Give us a call 01829 732374, over the years we have helped many organisations identify, engage and attract high calibre talent particularly around hard to fill, business-critical roles. We’ll happily give you some of our insights, experience and provide some advice on beneficial next steps.

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