In today’s global economy, employee retention and engagement are rated as the number one priority for nearly every engineering business. While funding is steadily increasing for infrastructure projects, at the same time senior construction managers and owners are retiring. The result is a huge gap in age and experience of employees for many companies.
Many business owners are finding that their staff doesn’t always have the skills and capabilities to meet all of the requirements of a project. Sometimes, an engineering project requires expertise that a firm just doesn’t have in-house.
Rather than hiring additional employees, many engineering companies are outsourcing their work or using staff augmentation for third-party companies. They are turning to professional services firms to help meet their deadlines and requirements. Not only does this help free up management resources, but it also gives them the ability to complete projects faster. They are finding this has made a powerful impact on their growth, productivity, and bottom line.
As a result, third-party professional services firms in the United States, including those in construction, architecture, engineering and technology, are becoming more in demand.
In order for these firms to handle the increase in work, there is a huge need to attract younger employees into the profession. With the baby boomers retiring, the future workforce will consist of millennials—those who are currently 19 to 39 years old. They presently make up the largest portion of the workforce in the United States, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Data.
Millennials are known to have certain characteristics such as preferring to work in teams, enjoying a challenge and putting great emphasis on work-life integration. Now is the time for engineering companies across all disciplines to be proactive and put programs in place to train these future workers and ensure they are qualified to take on a variety of projects.
Seven ways to attract and retain these employees:
Reverse mentoring pairs a seasoned executive with an up-and-coming one. The younger employee is actually the mentor, offering up-to-date information on new trends in business and technology. Companies such as Cisco and HP have adopted reverse mentoring with great success. There are multiple benefits for both the mentor and mentee when they collaborate as equal learning partners. It allows the seasoned executive to become more proficient with technology and more informed as to the power of social media, which leads to more transparency in how we conduct business due to regulation and access.
It is essential to cross-train employees so a business can still operate effectively when a key player leaves during a critical time. When only one person handles a certain task, an organization can suffer if that employee is sick, goes on vacation or leaves the business for any reason. By cross-training staff, a company has more flexibility, as well as an agile and sustainable workforce. Not only will daily tasks become more efficient, cross-training also promotes teamwork by building a closer relationship with coworkers.
Everyone in an organization can benefit from information sharing. It is a highly-effective tool to encourage effective team communication and ensures continuity while helping companies reach their strategic objectives. This is even more important in the engineering, architecture, and construction industries, where a failure to transfer project knowledge leads to wasted project activity, reinventing the wheel, and compromised project performance.
Development of Leadership Training
Leadership can be encouraged and supported through project-based work and training. A blended approach of both formal and informal training usually works best. Of course, formal training will always have its place, where staff has the opportunity to align their career goals with the company’s mission and vision. Informal training is an additional layer of support to help build skills in leadership.
In lieu of annual reviews, receiving regular feedback is helpful, whether it is quarterly, weekly or daily. Constructive feedback is vital to an employee’s engagement, motivation, satisfaction, and career development. The ultimate goal of performance reviews is to improve employee performance in a constructive manner. Rather than waiting for an entire year to engage in these conversations, there are many benefits to offering employees the opportunity to change behavior, and to reward a job well done.
Work with Greater Purpose
Community outreach is also a priority for many Millennials. Consider setting up programs where employees can get involved in identifying causes and helping plan related activities. According to many studies, Millennials want to work for a company that is known to be ethical and socially responsible. It is important for them to have a meaningful job where they feel valued and have the opportunity to make a positive impact. This includes setting up sustainable and green practices such as recycling, ride-sharing, going paperless, and volunteering.
The 9 to 5 job may soon be a thing of the past. The new norm is “work-life integration,” where professionals blend their personal and professional life. Engineering companies need to start paying attention to structural changes that will attract and retain employees, such as offering flexible working hours and telework, since work-life integration is going to become a more common way for employees to manage their career and personal lives.
One of the most critical factors associated with the long-term success of a company is having exceptional employees. People and talent are the driving forces behind growth. Although a bright future is ahead, it is essential to find qualified workers for the industry. By embracing the changing workplace, engineering companies will be able to attract and retain employees and ultimately build a successful business with the workforce of tomorrow.
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