Talent management in Aerospace, Defence and Security

How to attract the people you need and hold on to them

by Helen Orton 

Creating an environment where your employees thrive can be a differentiator for your business. Do you know what the people you want are looking for and what will make them stay?

Competition for skills has never been fiercer. Forecast figures suggest the UK science, engineering and  technology sectors will need over 800,000 professionals between now and 2020[1], far outstripping the likely numbers of relevant graduates. The story isn’t much brighter further beyond that: last year, only one university applicant in six was accepted onto aerospace engineering courses[2].

This shortfall could restrict business growth and profitability and potentially put the delivery of major programmes at risk.

What can you do?

Successfully attracting and managing talented people is a challenge. But there are some specific issues and questions you can consider:

  • Make sure you understand your unique selling point – Businesses that can clearly articulate what makes them different and the value they offer employees are more likely to recruit and retain the best people. What’s your retention rate? If people are leaving, ask them why. Do you know how you can enhance your brand to be more attractive to prospective employees?
  • Provide the right employment package – In a competitive market, raising salaries may not be enough to get the right people in. Businesses that consider whole compensation packages including innovative bonus structures and other benefits are far more likely to succeed. Broader aspects of remuneration such as opportunities to travel, flexible working and addressing the changing aspirations of different demographic groups will carry weight. Consider how attractive your total package is to future employees and have a balance of non-financial measures.
  • Develop a strategy to retain your best employees – You need to understand your existing skills base. What capabilities do you have and what will you need to help your business grow? Is your business changing or does it need to change? Do you have the right training schemes and succession strategy in place to prepare for experienced workers leaving the organisation and taking their knowledge and skills with them?
  • Encourage flexibility and mobility – Once you have clear visibility of your talent map and resource needs you may be able to redeploy or relocate people. However, cross-border working can be complex to administer. Have you considered alternatives to long term redeployment such as short secondments or remote working for your employees? Do you have a clear strategy for managing leavers and returners and making the most of their experience?
  • Make globalisation work for you – Operating in a global industry means competition for talent can come from anywhere in the world. Have you considered how to ‘turn the tables’ on international competition? Are you accessing the global talent pool or fostering links with foreign universities and technical colleges? We’re hearing that some of our clients are recruiting directly from overseas; another popular strategy is to send apprentices into nearby schools and colleges to encourage the development of local interest in their organisation and the sector.
  • Continuously develop your people – Developing people takes time but is an essential investment. Have you considered how you already foster a culture of development and which models are most successful? Does this align well with performance management and reward processes? Have you implemented programmes to accelerate the development of talent to minimise the less-productive early career period, when practical skills are being developed?
  • Champion engineering – Lingering misconceptions about the industry in general and the engineering profession may hamper your ability to attract and recruit. Over time, industry bodies and individual businesses can and should to engage with government, educators and with the wider population to help shift this perception.
  • Education and training – It isn’t all about graduates. Many organisations that set up apprentice schemes several years ago are now seeing returns on their investment as more experienced people can share their experience and skills while working alongside apprentices on live projects. Consider your local area. What relationships do you have with local schools and colleges? Are you well known as a great employer? Opportunities could lie in building these relationships now.

Giving you the edge

Implementing just one of these ideas won’t make a difference. You need to develop a system which incorporates a mix of different strategies to appeal to a broad range of people. This means thinking harder and differently about how you invest in and look after your people. Organisations that manage this will attract and retain the best talent and with it, their competitive edge.

We have extensive experience across the aerospace, defence and security industry and in the wider industrial products sector. We help organisations in a variety of ways, from designing effective compensation packages through to benchmarking their organisation and building effective talent management strategies.


[1] Royal Academy of Engineering econometrics of engineering skills project report: Jobs and growth: the importance of engineering skills to the UK  economy, Final Report, September 2012, p23.

[2] http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/subject/2012