How to tackle engineering sector's staff retention woes – New Civil Engineer

11 Mar, 2022 By Joanne O’Donnell
Staff retention is one of the biggest concerns for businesses across the UK. Following the pandemic, demand for workers continues to hit new records. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 1,172,000 vacant jobs in the UK between August and October 2021.

Joanne O’Donnell, HR Manager at HTL Group
In the engineering sector, this increased demand has created competition for labour. It even means that some workers are likely to switch jobs for new opportunities that their current employer doesn’t offer. In fact, 24% of workers are planning to change employers in the next few months, according to a survey by recruitment firm Randstad UK.
As the UK drives its ambitions to ‘build back better’, construction and engineering is key to driving improvements in the economy. Engineering roles in the oil and gas and renewables sector will be pivotal to the economic recovery. Training for these roles could come from within.
In a competitive arena for engineers, construction and service businesses may struggle to retain even their most loyal staff. Here, we explore the true impact of poor staff retention, and why regular training and effective motivation are key to navigating your engineering business through the worker shortfall.
The true impact of resignation
A staff resignation is always disappointing. While we can be happy that individuals will find new opportunities, the impact of their leaving can extend well beyond their last day.
Financially, retaining staff for as long as possible is essential. According to research by Oxford Economics and Unum, workers earning £25,000 or more per year cost businesses an average of £30,614 to replace. Losing four employees in a year can cost over £120,000.
The majority of these costs come from the onboarding, training, and reduced productivity of new staff. But this money could have been invested into the training and development of existing staff members to ensure that they will remain a valuable part of the business.
Training and motivation
Employees want to learn, and most want to do it for their company’s benefit. According to SurveyMonkey, 86% of workers say that job training is important to them. The motivation to develop skills is the improvement of productivity and morale. 59% of workers say that it would improve their job performance and 51% believe it would give them more self-confidence too.
Engineering is one sector that values education and training, with vocational qualifications meaning that staff can continually add skills and competencies to their long list of qualities.
These statistics prove that staff value their work and want to continually improve in their occupation. For already skilled workers, additional training can help their development and lead to increased loyalty.
Boosting skills, whether it’s the operation of bolt tensioners in construction and engineering or minor team building activities, can help retain staff. Even then, soft skills are essential for promoting collaboration and a positive working culture.
In a LinkedIn survey of 2,000 business leaders, 57% said that soft skills were essential to staff development. Improving the employee experience should also be a priority, with growth opportunities being identified as the way to achieve this.
Engineering businesses such as the HTL Group continually provide training for staff and support the next generation of engineering. Training course such as mechanical joint integrity and renewable technology is essential for broadening the experiences of workers and technical specialists.
Together, training and skills development is helping to retain engineering staff. A LinkedIn learning report found that 94% of employees would stay with a company longer if it invested in their career development. Giving engineers access to development means they won’t look elsewhere for the same opportunity.
A positive culture
When looking for jobs, 72% of workers say that corporate culture affects their decision to work at a company. For those leaving a job, 32% also cited company culture as the reason.
The key to boosting motivation for work is culture, and it can be an easy fix. For many engineers, working from home wasn’t achievable given the nature of work. But flexibility in other aspects should always be considered, and workers now expect businesses to offer it as standard. 88% of workers want flexibility in working hours and location. Employees are now prioritising family and lifestyles over difficult working environments — and after the past year, who can blame them? Engineers may appreciate training sabbaticals or work hours that fit their individual needs.
However, motivation to work can also come from professional outcomes. Prioritising outcome over output is preferable for 86% of workers, meaning that engineers may have more motivation to work when they recognise the impact of what they deliver for a business.
In essence, flexibility and how work is measured should be changed to maintain staff motivation. Prioritising how your staff feel will inevitably help retain their loyalty and effort.
Retaining employees in the engineering sector is becoming difficult in the working landscape. While the impact of resignation can be damaging for businesses, through training and rethinking how to motivate staff, a company in construction and engineering can succeed in maintaining the skills and loyalty of their very best workers.
*Joanne O’Donnell is HR manager at HTL Group
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