Opinion

Securing talent by looking beyond the wage

Grahame Carter, Matchtech

Finding the best staff is not just about the money. Matchtech’s Grahame Carter supplies a checklist of items to attract new employees. 

Today’s engineering industry is intensely competitive when it comes to recruitment and that’s especially true for organisations working in infrastructure.

In some areas, like CAD design, employers are able to outsource work to offices abroad relatively easily to plug any skills gap they encounter. However, the delivery of massive infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and network upgrades always requires people on the ground. We are already using the term ‘skills shortage’ for some disciplines within the infrastructure sector; it is not that easy to secure home grown talent to fill the roles that are opening in the UK’s rapidly growing infrastructure sector.

"Pay is certainly not the only consideration for candidates when hunting for a job."

In order to attract and retain the best talent, employers need to understand what motivates teams and what they’re looking for from their job – and that is often about more than salary.

To scope the views of those working in the industry, Matchtech recently surveyed engineers in the UK infrastructure sector as part of our annual engineering ‘Confidence Index;’ the results show engineers’ ambitions are strong, with 71% saying they expect their careers will progress in the next
12 months. 

Furthermore, over half of infrastructure engineers said they would be prepared to move abroad if the circumstances were right for them. Of these, a majority of 45% said they’d like to work abroad for a lifestyle change, and 20% said better pay would draw them overseas. So what can employers do to source the right candidates for them and ensure that they choose their company and projects in the UK?

Infrastructure projects do of course have finite budgets therefore employers cannot solely rely on dishing out hefty pay packets to entice sought after candidates, and must think more creatively about how they promote their business and other employee benefits. Besides, pay is certainly not the only consideration for candidates when hunting for a job.

"Aside from employee benefits, the project itself is a major draw for candidates. Our survey showed that over one-in-ten would consider moving abroad to pursue more interesting projects"

More flexible working, for example, is an increasingly sought after benefit. As our Confidence Index found, lifestyle change accounts for a large proportion of engineers considering moving overseas, so the UK industry has to be willing to enable working from home, time to travel and time for family. This can be a tall order when operating against strict project deadlines and facing a mountain of work, but flexible working doesn’t mean less work is completed. 

It’s about nurturing an efficient working environment, enabled by individuals’ preferred working times and methods. Furthermore, individuals must be regularly offered new opportunities to keep them engaged, so flexibility to move to other projects or engineering disciplines is also an asset that infrastructure organisations should make more of.

Defined training programmes are also important in attracting staff, as engineers are always keen to develop their skills and stay on top of new technology and techniques. However, employers are sometimes reluctant to train staff in new skills as they worry about them swiftly moving onto another job, meaning the investment is ‘wasted’. This is deemed particularly risky with contract appointments, but rather than worrying about whether engineers will leave after training, employers should be asking themselves, “What if people don’t leave and they aren’t trained?” Ultimately a business must ensure its experts are at the forefront of the industry, and by implementing a structured training programme they are more likely to draw in the talent they want and keep them for longer.

Aside from employee benefits, the project itself is a major draw for candidates. Our survey showed that over one-in-ten would consider moving abroad to pursue more interesting projects, so UK employers need to think carefully about how they promote the attributes of the work they are offering on home soil. Selling the project should be considered equally as important as selling the business. Of course projects come and go, but they will be a decisive factor for the candidate, so offering direct insight to the type of project work underway can be helpful in conveying the opportunities available and specific project elements.

Finally, employers must not discount the importance of their company credentials in terms of sustainability and working environment. Does the business have a consciousness beyond itself?  How does it support a positive working environment? Does it have a diverse and balanced workforce? Are employees given the opportunity to work closely with more senior experts? Addressing questions such as these, and giving a picture of the business ‘ethos’, is essential in not only encouraging candidates to choose your organisation, but also in ensuring the candidates are the right fit for you and retaining them. 

Want advice? You can contact Grahame at grahame.carter@matchtech.com