There are more women in STEM c-suite roles than ever before. This year already, we’ve seen Scottish Engineering appoint its first female President and Vice-President, and ScotRail hire its first woman COO as it transitions to a new public body.

As a consultant who’s been recruiting for the boardrooms of engineering firms for over 30 years, these appointments feel like a particular turning point (although a very late one, and there’s much more work to be done).

In an ideal world, of course it shouldn’t matter that these important positions are occupied by women. But women still only represent 15% of the engineering workforce, and men still far outnumber women in decision-making positions, so it really does matter.

And while change is certainly happening, it’s happening slowly – and it’s not just a problem in STEM industries either. Representation of women in c-suite roles has increased from just 17% in 2015 to 21% in 2021. And today, just 5% of all CEOs are women.

What more women leaders means for business

With the hope that this really does mark a pivotal moment for STEM, I thought I’d take a look at why having more women in leadership roles is so important, and what impact gaining more women in c-suite roles will have on business.

Better diversity – key to closing the skills gap

Talking diversity might seem like stating the obvious here, but it’s worth highlighting that appointing more women in the boardroom doesn’t just mean better representation at the top.

More women in management also has a huge impact on diversity hires throughout the whole company. This is why any business that’s trying to make company-wide changes with regards to diversity should consider starting with the boardroom first.

More women in these top jobs also leads to better roles models for young women getting into STEM, especially those just entering the job market. As I mentioned in a recent blog on the engineering talent shortage, only 24% of STEM graduates are moving into degree-relevant roles after graduating.

Women continue to be extremely underrepresented in STEM and striving to hire more women into top jobs in engineering, cloud computing and data roles should be on every hiring team’s agenda. Making a future look tangible for ambitious women in STEM is key to closing the skills gap.

Higher profits

If you think bringing more women into executive positions at your company would be purely a matter of ethics, there’s a lot of interesting data around that might surprise you.

Did you know that businesses with more women in leadership roles are now proven to perform better and make more money too?

One reputable study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that having 30% or more women in leadership positions adds 6% to net profit margins. For every 10% added to gender diversity, another report by Mckinsey found this added 3.5% to net profits.

Better performance

One reason businesses with more female leaders generate more profit is due to higher levels of innovation.

A study of Fortune 500 businesses found that those companies with women in top management produce 20% more patents. Women CEOs make up just 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies, but those that boast more women in leadership far outperform those in the list that don’t.

To say women-lead businesses outperform male-lead ones wouldn’t be such a radical statement today, but it might’ve been even just a few years ago.

The global response to the pandemic made it glaringly clear that we need more women in decision-making roles, as those countries with female-lead governments coped remarkably better with the crisis.

Better places to work

Every year, Fortune releases a list of the world’s ‘most admired’ companies. Something worth noting about all the companies on the list from this year is that they have almost twice as many women in senior management than less reputable companies.

Companies lead by women aren’t just good for business – they’re good for employees too. Research has shown that organizations with more women leaders have a better workplace environment: There’s more transparency, better communication, and the workplace is more purpose-driven.

And if you have employees who are more engaged, inspired and satisfied as a result, this makes hiring and retaining staff a lot easier.

If all of this isn’t enough food for thought, how about the fact that half of Americans (including 46% of men) would prefer to work for a female CEO?

A sign of good things to come?

With all these statistics in mind, it’s clearly crucial that STEM industries recognise the societal and commercial benefits of promoting women into these important decision-making roles.

Let’s hope that these recent female c-suite appointments for Scottish Engineering and ScotRail are a sign of good things to come across STEM industries more broadly.

If you’re struggling to attract more women to your roles and diversify your organization’s workforce, please get in touch as this is something Lusona can certainly support you with.

While salary will always naturally be the main deciding factor when a candidate is considering a job move, 60% of job seekers say that employee benefits and perks can determine whether they accept a job offer or not.

The pandemic has had a big impact on the kinds of benefits candidates are looking for in new employers - and the level of expectation too. If you’re struggling to attract candidates to your roles even though you’re offering the market rate, you’re not alone. Competition for talent is tough right now - and candidates know it!

However, if you include the right employee benefits to your compensation package that tap into what candidates are looking for, this will give you a strong advantage and help you stand out as an employer who listens to what employees want.

Here are some employee benefits that will make your roles hard to resist in 2022.

1. Flexible working

After two years of lockdowns, it’s likely you’re sick of talking about WFH arrangements.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that the working world has changed so much since the pandemic that having the option to work from home is no longer a perk as far as candidates are concerned – it’s an expectation.

Remember that ‘flexible’ doesn’t always have to mean working from home either. It’s just about recognising your employees’ needs and showing a willingness to work around them –  provided, of course, that they meet expectations in terms of their weekly or monthly job outcomes.

So for example, flexible start/finish times, compressed hours, flexi-time and job sharing are all options that show you’re willing to offer some form of flexibility to your employees. It’s not a free-for-all, but an opportunity to show you have the kind of workplace culture where you trust employees to get the job done to a high standard and offer some flexibility in return.

As difficult a pill as this can be to swallow, candidates nowadays are looking for ways they can fit work around their lives – not the other way around. Indicating a willingness to recognise and adapt to this will make your offer much more attractive than an employer who runs a tight 9-5 ship.

Having a strict office-based working model will make it hard for you to compete with employers who offer some sort of flexibility, so it’s absolutely worth trying to work out a way you can offer it in some capacity.

2. Childcare-related benefits

When school closures made distance learning the norm, suddenly parents became teachers on top of being employees overnight.

So it’s safe to say, the pandemic hit working parents hard, and job seekers with families will be looking for employers who empathise and offer employee benefits that respond to this.

During the first lockdowns, 27% of businesses reported that they’d implemented ‘non-traditional’ childcare benefits (e.g. childcare stipends and flexible working hours) to support staff with families and 99% of these businesses intend to continue this offering.

And sure, schools have reopened for now, but how employers responded to the situation will still be fresh in parents' minds.

So if a great candidate with a family is choosing between job offers and yours is the only one that doesn’t offer childcare benefits, just think about the impact that will be having on your hiring strategy.

3. Mental health support

Reports of anxiety and depression in adults have increased 30% since the pandemic. What could you be offering as part of your compensation package that demonstrates empathy with those who have been, and perhaps continue to struggle?

For example, some businesses offer employees the option of subsidised private counseling, mental health days off or even annual subscriptions to counseling and wellbeing apps.

Similarly, wellness initiatives like gym memberships, free yoga classes subscriptions to meditation apps all contribute to building an employer brand that shows you clearly care about staff wellbeing. And what candidate wouldn’t want that?

With the global talent shortage showing no sign of easing up in 2022, as an employer you’ll want to put a lot of focus on recruiting and retaining talented employees.

Providing an attractive package that includes the employee benefits mentioned in this article will play a significant role in attracting great staff, keeping your job offers competitive and ensuring your hires stay happy in the business for longer.

If you’d like to talk to a recruitment expert in your sector about developing attractive job offers your target candidates can’t refuse, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

There’s a reason why ‘unprecedented’ was’s word of the year in 2020.

In fact, society has changed so significantly in a short period of time that talking about these ‘unprecedented times’ has even become somewhat of a cliché.

We're still coming to terms with the aftermath of a global pandemic, Brexit, rising inflation, a national skills shortage, international political unrest and our response to climate change.

The impact of all this is that we’re now operating in what’s known as a ‘VUCA’ world for businesses.

But what exactly is VUCA and how does it impact your hiring?

What is VUCA?

VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It’s a phrase used to describe an environment of constant, unpredictable change that has become the zeitgeist of the last few years.

To break the acronym down, VUCA stands for…

To succeed in a VUCA world, you need to be comfortable with uncertainty. You need to be ready to adapt and open to challenging and reassessing the ‘norm’ of how you currently operate as a business.

This, of course, includes your recruitment strategy and practices too – processes that have worked well for you in the past may be completely ineffectual in this new environment. The key to overcoming this challenge is to take time to understand how VUCA might be impacting your business’s recruitment process so that you can adapt in response.

How VUCA affects hiring

If this sort of turbulence is going on at a business level, just imagine the impact VUCA must be having on candidates too. Your current and future employees are experiencing the impact of VUCA in ways you might not have even considered yet.

When you’re trying to grow a business in a VUCA world, making the right hires becomes even more paramount to your success.

How to hire in a VUCA world

To continue hiring the right people successfully into your organisation, you need to ensure your hiring process is VUCA-proof. Here are some things to consider:

Show empathy with candidates

For the majority of us, moving jobs is a big deal – never mind in a VUCA world where there are many unknowns and question marks over what the future might bring. Meet candidates where they are at both mentally and emotionally: It’s likely they’ll need more assurance and empathy in this new environment than they would have in a pre-covid marketplace.

Provide them with the opportunity to meet a range of people in your business so they feel a sense of belonging from the very beginning. Tell them about your values and what you’re doing as an employer to help your staff to demonstrate that you’re an employer who cares.  Be open and honest about your challenges but also the wins you have had. Vulnerability and honesty builds trust.

Create a strong EVP

Having a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is always important in a candidate-led market, but even more so in a VUCA world. What will the candidate get in return for their skills and experience? What’s in it for them?

Don’t expect candidates to understand your EVP based on your branding – these are two very different things. You need to have a devoted strategy to expressing your values, culture and company DNA to let the candidate decide if it’s a match for them personally.

Tighten up your hiring process

A successful hiring process in a VUCA world relies on a shift in understanding that candidates are sussing you out as much as you are assessing them.

And with Covid-19 now making remote interviews the norm, employers need to go above and beyond to ensure they’re creating a positive candidate experience every step of the journey.

A positive candidate experience includes providing quick response feedback and job offers. Speed matters more than ever in a VUCA world, so you need to move at a pace if you’re going to keep candidates engaged in your process. Slow offers also leave you vulnerable to counter offers from both their current employer and your competitors, so a faster process will benefit you as much as the candidate.

Stay close to your recruiter

Staying close to your recruiter even when you’re not hiring will help you navigate the job market in a VUCA world. Let them be your market intel - they will know about any changes in the market well before you feel them. Use their expertise to help guide your hiring decisions.

Candidates are overwhelmingly passive when the market is like this so it’s not a situation where you can wait for them to come to you. You need a recruiter who knows the market and your business inside out so they can proactively source the right people for your organisation and be an effective representation of you to prospective talent.

Hire agile

For any process to survive in a VUCA world, it’s imperative that you regularly review and evaluate: What has gone well in your recruitment process in the last 3-6 months? What could be done differently next time?

Adapting your process like this is a form of agile hiring – you work with your recruiter to develop your candidate journey, constantly reviewing and improving it as you go to ensure you’re responding quickly to any changes in the market.

As well as being more agile with your processes, it’s also worth thinking about the kinds of agile qualities to look for in candidates that indicate they’ll perform well in a VUCA world. For example, traits like resilience, curiosity, adaptability and analytical skills become more important typically in this kind of environment.

Let’s be real – it’s likely we’ll be in a VUCA climate for some time, so to stay on the right path with your hiring, you need to recognise and embrace VUCA, not resist it.

By working with Lusona as your recruitment partner, you’ll have experts on your side to guide you through this VUCA market and ensure you make the best hires for your organisation – no matter what the market looks like.

Since 2019, Engineers of all classifications have featured heavily on the Government’s Shortage Occupations List (SOL). Essentially, there just aren’t enough skilled Engineers in the UK to meet demand right now.

And while this is good news for candidates – who now have a lot of leverage in this candidate-short market – it presents a recruitment nightmare for employers.

Engineers themselves are feeling the pinch too: A recent survey shows 37% of UK Engineering professionals believe the current skills shortage will have the biggest impact on their sector in the next five years.

With so many different factors contributing to the talent shortage, it can be hard to know how and where it’s possible to make any impact. While the Government continues to look for new ways to tackle the engineering skills shortage, what can you do as an employer? Here are a few ideas to consider…

1. Review your offering

If you’re struggling to attract the people you need, look to your employee compensation: are you offering what the candidate really wants, or what the business feels is fair?

Naturally, the first option employers turn to when they’re struggling to find talent is salary inflation, and this has clearly been the case for the Engineering industry in recent years. There’s been an average 10% salary increase for UK engineers in 2021 alone.

But money isn’t everything – employees want more than this. What employee benefits can you offer to attract great engineers? 9 in 10 workers say they want flexibility in their next role. While it’s true that flexible working isn’t the easiest option to offer in an industry like engineering, it’s not impossible.

Have a think about how you could make flexibility work at your organisation. The option of working just one day a week from home could make your roles much more attractive to candidates than what your competitors are currently offering.

2. Train candidates to retain them

A combination of Brexit and Covid-19 have lead to the Great Resignation shaking up hiring in almost every industry; 69% of employees say they’re ready to move jobs. What are you doing to change their minds?

Offering a clear career path and internal development opportunities will not only make your roles more appealing to new candidates, but reduce attrition amongst your existing employees substantially. As much as 82% of employees say they’d quit their job because of a lack of career progression available to them.

So what can you do to ensure your engineers experience a sense of progression inside your organisation? Remember that development doesn’t always need to involve promotion if your internal structure can’t accommodate this. Development can also mean training in new skills that satisfy your employees’ need for learning and self-development, even if there’s no promotion at the end of it.

3. Consider how you appeal to young graduates

Research has shown that although the number of undergraduates entering STEM programs is increasing, only 24% of recent STEM graduates are moving into engineering roles six months after graduating. Instead, these candidates are taking up employment in areas like management or teaching.

What is your organisation doing to appeal to younger candidates and to recruit graduates for entry-level roles?

Engineering is perceived by many younger workers as old fashioned and lacking diversity. Men still outnumber women 8 to 1 in engineering roles, while BAME men are 28% less likely to work in STEM. Research has also shown that 29% of LGBTQ candidates also say they’d avoid a career in STEM for fear of discrimination.

Failing to appeal to young graduates presents a problem: A large number of skilled engineers are predicted to retire from the industry in the next few years (for example, 70% of the current nuclear engineering workforce will be retired by 2025). Therefore, bridging the skills gap at graduate level is key to overcoming the talent shortage now and in the coming years.

4. Move quickly

When you’re competing with many other businesses for skilled engineers in a talent shortage, every minute counts. How can you streamline your hiring process so you’re able to make faster job offers before your competitors do?

For example, could you streamline the interview process so it involves two stages instead of three? Or could you give your recruitment partner more responsibility in managing the initial interview stages so your time is only required when choosing candidates from a final shortlist?

Work closely with your recruitment partner to establish ways you can make the recruitment process tighter and more efficient. This might involve prioritising hiring over certain areas of the business at times, but this will work to your advantage in the long run. If you’re not able to react quickly, you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to counter offers from competitors and current employers too. 

5. Only work with reputable recruitment agencies

For engineering candidates, the only downside of being in such short supply is that they will be getting bombarded daily with comms from desperate recruiters. This happens because employers will leave roles open for any recruiter to fill on a first-come-first-serve contingency basis. This kind of recruitment is counter-productive and is what gives the industry a bad name.

Working exclusively with a reputable recruitment partner will ensure your organisation is represented by professional recruiters you can trust. Reputation is everything, and any candidate who is bothered daily by unprofessional recruiters will likely turn the role down even if it’s the perfect opportunity for them.

Lusona is a recruitment brand that is well known and respected in the UK engineering sector. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you address talent shortages at your organisations, please get in touch.

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