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Attracting and Retaining Engineers

Thursday 13th May 2021

This post was written by Juliana Queiroz, engineer and founder of What Engineers Want, a consulting company that helps manufacturers and engineering firms to unlock their engineers’ full potential towards excellence and innovation.

Juliana Queiroz of What Engineers Want
Juliana Queiroz_Engineering Productivity Booster

Overcoming labour and skill shortages

Businesses stand or fall on the quality of their people – don’t you agree?
If we cannot have enough staff with the right level of skills and experience, that’s potentially a serious problem. Even though Australia is facing one of the highest rates of skills shortages in the labour market, our challenges are not new:
– it is hard to recruit,
– hard to retain and
– hard to keep our people motivated and engaged.

Effective outcomes within a business today requires a high level of staff productivity and performance whilst collaborating and innovating.

Today I propose 3 steps to overcome this skills shortage we are facing in our industry to finally have the dream team that will make the success of our businesses.

Attracting the right skills

It is important to understand that people have different expectations and we need to think about what will attract them to our company. Saying that, we need to be smart and creative in presenting job opportunities.

For example, we can make our business stand out by offering:
– attractive conditions
– competitive pay
– training and career development plans
– making new employees feel welcome
– being inclusive
– etc etc

Defining this competitive advantage is like working in our business. We need to think about what our competitors are offering and work on our unique value to stand out from the mass.
Our business is more likely to attract the best and brightest if we can offer something better compared to our competitors. In order to do this we need to identify our uniqueness.

Uniqueness is what we stand for, what we value and how we intend to impact people around us. To identify our uniqueness, we need to work out our culture.

When we work out our culture, we work out our reputation and the image of our business. This is a key factor in attracting people. Because it is our people who can promote our business the best, helping us to recruit without even know about it. To have that reputation, and be the place to work, we need to create a workplace where people want to work, stay and progress. Where they feel safe and comfortable. Where they understand their value and contribute to creating impact.

So, think about that. What can you do right now to improve your workplace to be more attractive?

Wait a minute! We don’t want to attract just anybody; we want to attract the right ones!

The key to finding the right person, the person we really need, is to focus on skills that we cannot do without. What we call “soft skills” might be much more important than we think. Let’s face it, training a person in trust, empathy, resilience is much harder than training them on a new technology.

So, what are the human skills you are looking for?
Try to focus on that next time you are in a recruitment process.

Retaining the good ones

If we only work on the paycheck and the tangible benefits, we are competing with a lot of other businesses out there! And it won’t help us to retain anybody. So, we need to understand what our employees really want, what they are looking for? And one size doesn’t fit all.
We have in the workforce nowadays at least 3 different generations, and each generation has different aspirations. To touch each one of them we need to adapt our speech and offer. Millennials are the biggest workforce in the market now. This generation is looking for a purpose, to make a difference, to experience moments more than having comfort and money. They are looking for a reason. We need to answer to that, we need to identify how to respond to their needs and propose the right level of challenge.

Working out our uniqueness will help to define the purpose of our business and how to communicate that in a way that touches our employees so they can assimilate it as theirs also. A purpose speaks for a reason for existing.

Why your business was created for humankind?
It sounds a bit lofty but highlighting your business’s benefits helps most employees to feel more engaged and productive.
When we provide people with a reason to come to work that they care about, they will give us the maximum effort and passion; not because they have to, but because they want to.
According to Gallup, “You can increase employee engagement from 14% to 67% by simply focusing on purpose”!

So why you do what you do?

Increasing employee engagement

Employee engagement is about how we create the right conditions in which employees can offer more of their capability and potential. It is based on trust and integrity. It is a two-way commitment between the organisation and its members.

When it works, employee engagement increases the individual performance, productivity and well-being and consequently increases the organisation collaboration, innovation and competitiveness.

Are you ready to create those conditions to unlock your people’s full potential?

First, we need a safe environment. For sure, we need to provide everybody a workplace with all the measures to keep them physically well. But having a safe environment is also working within their psychological safety … and what is that?

Psychological safety, at its most basic level, is the belief that nobody will be punished just because they made a mistake. The main idea here is to put in place a forgiveness culture. In the case of failure, we need to embrace ‘having a go’ instead of punishing.

Let’s clarify it with a bit of neuroscience: When we are in a conflict, provocative, or competitive situation, is like being in a life-or-death situation for our brain. The amygdala, known as the alarm bell in our brain, ignites the fight-or-flight response. This alarm hijacks the other parts of our brain, shutting down our capacity for reasoning. In other words, we lose our minds and our capacity to interact and collaborate, just when we need it the most.

We don’t want our job or any job to be a life-or-death situation. We want to contribute in an environment that respects us, an environment where we trust each other and where we feel we belong and can give our best.

So, to keep your people motivated and engaged to go the extra mile it is essential to give them the right conditions to do so in a psychologically safe environment. Give it a try!

Implementing these 3 steps – attract the right skills, retain the good ones and increase employee engagement – is not easy and requires us to see things from a different perspective. Our world is changing and to stay both relevant and competitive in the new landscape we need to be resilient. Change is needed to face the labour and skills shortage we are facing.

I hope this article inspired you to give the first step to embrace a new mindset and transform positively your workplace towards a better place.

Juliana Queiroz
What Engineers Want


Thanks Juliana, and a little bit from me. Engineering has the task of building the future by creating the infrastructure and tools needed for tomorrow to be better than today. This is not easy and there is often no single right answer. We trade off cost, time and performance every day to try and arrive at a workable and affordable compromise that meets that goal of making tomorrow better than today.

I’m glad I chose engineering as a career and have had the chance to contribute to some amazing projects. I look forward to continuing to do so and helping others have the same opportunity.


Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.


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This post is Copyright © 2021 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

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