Ageing Workforce in the Engineering Sector
The average age of an engineer in the UK is 54
In 2016, Magor’s owner and MD worked with his senior leaders to plan and develop new company Vision and Values to reenergise the culture and practice. Although the culture at the organisation was good, it was becoming set in its ways. As a typical traditional engineering firm, where the norm was for many people to have worked there for over 30 years, changing the culture was not going to be quick or easy. Most of the senior workers and managers were nearing the later stages of their working careers. (The average age of an engineer in the UK is 54)
No succession plan or talent pipeline was in place and there was a danger that knowledge, skills and expertise would soon be walking out the door into retirement.
Magor engaged with a local FE college and with Call of the Wild to put in place an apprenticeship programme combined with a talent development programme. This enabled younger talent to be recruited into the business, and support the development of those currently at supervisor level to become more able and future managers.
Although currently there is an 81,000 shortfall of people with engineering skills in the UK workforce, so this proved more difficult than it first appeared. Adverts and invitations went out to talented engineering students from the college and from local universities. Liaison with schools and careers organisations also helped get the message out that engineers were in demand in the locality.
Individual Learning Plans
Individual Learning Plans as part of the Appraisal process were set in place to support and champion those who had the talent and ambition to expand their responsibilities in the organisation. At the same time the senior employees and managers were tasked with the roles of coaches and mentors to this emerging talent group to enable and ensure that they passed over their expertise to the next generation of staff and managers.
Do you know what the level of engagement amongst your workforce is? Do you know the extent your employees are prepared to give that discretionary effort?
With our example above we undertook an employee engagement exercise to establish what the current level of engagement was and what could be done to improve on this with a view to improving staff retention.
The general understanding of the term is that it is the amount of commitment your employees show for their work. Engaged employees give that extra discretionary effort go the extra mile and as a result allow your organisation to improve performance and gain sustainable competitive advantage. The more committed and motivated the employees the better the performance. What’s more, success comes from being able to attract, motivate and retain a talented pool of workers.
This is of the utmost importance with an ageing workforce as the more engaged they are the longer you’re likely to keep them.
To avoid a ‘brain drain’ with older staff retiring or leaving you need to think of creative ways in which you can persuade them to remain. One means of achieving this is by offering flexible working. For instance a gradual reduction in the number of working days, shared working with colleagues or reduced working day hours are all tools available. Even though this might not solve your long term problems it certainly helps to buy you time in the short term.
Equality and Diversity
Equality and Diversity played a large part in the recruitment and selection processes for new and existing talent. However and endemic issue in engineering is that the average workforce is made up of 9% women to 91% men.
However, there is a female senior leader on the strategic team now and positive recruitment strategies in place to harness a more diverse engineering workforce.