How to avoid engineering team attrition – my 12 tips

8 min read | Paul Gibbens | Article |

engineering team

Hiring is at an all-time high with 88% of engineering and manufacturing employers expecting to recruit new talent this year. However, securing these people is only half the challenge – keeping hold of them in the face of fierce competition is a whole other hurdle. But, with careful policy tweaking – and sometimes quite major shifts in organisational culture – you can avoid losing your team to tempting opportunities elsewhere.

1. Optimise your onboarding

Influencing employee retention starts from day one, so ensure a good first impression. Regardless of a new starter’s seniority, a user-friendly and well-signposted welcome pack and IT support will be well received. Make new hires feel part of the team and company culture; inviting them to lunch or out for a coffee is prime opportunity for conversation and human interest. After all, you hired this person for their skills but also their team fit.

2. Promote ongoing learning

A win for both employees and bosses, upskilling is increasingly popular among workers. Whether that be learning how to understand and leverage new software, recognising changes to best practice, or improving their presentation and leadership skills, people (generally) want to grow. Investing in your workforce’s professional development has obvious benefits for your organisation’s operational efficiency, but also shows employees that you care about their development.

3. Make your reward strategy competitive

The main reason engineers move jobs? Better salary and benefits packages, according to 52% of our survey respondents; in fact, 64% of engineers are dissatisfied with their current pay. Last year, wages rose 7%, with 89% of employers increasing pay – significantly more than the previous year’s 64%. This upward trend in engineering salaries is set to continue as 85% of employers and hiring managers expect to raise pay this year also. Have you checked how salaries measure up?

4. Establish a strong purpose

Better future opportunities came in second when employees were asked what might tempt them to stick or twist in their current role. A recent factor is a sense of purpose, which 85% of employees say is important when applying for a new role. If your organisation doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to wider causes – such as sustainability and societal issues – your workers may seek an employer that does.

5. Put DE&I in the centre

Cultivating a sense of belonging should be a key element of any retention plan. However, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) needs to more than just a tick-box exercise. This means going beyond tokenistic gestures, and instead making an active effort to promote a diverse and inclusive working environment. From reviewing established policies, processes, and behaviours to encouraging allyship, recognising and celebrating the power of difference and embedding inclusive behaviours is vital in retaining today's evolving workforce. Key to this is first understanding who your employees really are, which leads on to the next point.

6. Give your employees a voice

Communication is vital when maintaining healthy employee relationships, but it shouldn’t be a one-way street. Whether it’s encouraging and supporting employee networks, conducting employee engagement surveys, sharing personal stories, or involving employees in decision-making processes, your organisation should always be looking to provide platforms for people to be heard. By doing so, you’ll be fostering a democratic culture where your employees know their experiences, opinions, and perspectives are valued.

7Embrace flexible working policies

While every organisation will have its own work pattern requirements, engineers value the freedom of hybrid, flexible and remote working 53% would be tempted to change employers by the offer of a fully flexible approach to hybrid working. Unless a role unequivocally requires a fixed, site-based routine, enforcing one can seem arbitrary and out-dated. Offering a flexible working policy could be a relatively small adjustment for your organisation, but can make a huge difference to the engagement and work-life balance of your people, such as allowing flexibility around caring responsibilities or other commitments.

8. Establish clear boundaries and expectations

A lack of structure when it comes to expectations and outputs can leave employees feeling frustrated and stressed. You should ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and remits, and that work processes don’t change by the week. Rigour can equal freedom.

9. Recognise (and reward) achievements

Employee recognition is at the heart of a strong retention strategy. Celebrating both individual and collective achievement is an important way of cultivating self-worth and a sense of progress. This could come in the form of prizes, promotions, or a thank you citation in a team meeting.

10. Don’t neglect your office space…

With many employees now used to working from their home, office spaces are under increased scrutiny. Maintaining a comfortable, clean and efficient working environment demonstrates a commitment towards your workforce’s wellbeing, and should be seen as a mandatory investment. Whether it’s regularly stocked tea and coffee supplies or ergonomic chairs, it’s important you give your employees what they need to feel safe, comfortable, and productive.

11. …Or technology

Antiquated IT and aging legacy systems have long been a gripe with employees, who are increasingly used to the speed and ease of a digitally enabled lifestyle. By investing in up-to-date technology and accessible support services, you’ll help reduce friction in the workplace and project a clear message that you’re committed to the ever-evolving future of work.

12. Conduct exit interviews

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the most important retention strategies may come from those who’ve already decided to leave. Well conducted exit interviews can be a valuable way of gaining honest feedback, and the knowledge you receive could help shape your future retention strategies. Just remember to act on this intelligence.

A change of the guard can sometimes be necessary to evolve and grow, but unexpected and non-evaluated turnover is likely to have the opposite result. By adopting even just a handful of the recommendations listed, you’ll be providing a stronger reason for your team to stick around.

Get in touch today to find the talent you need, along with the strategies that will help you retain them.


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About this author

Paul began his recruitment career in 2005 before joining Hays in November 2019. Paul is an experienced customer-focused director with extensive knowledge of the nuclear, MOD & defence, oil & gas, rail, power generation, petrochemical, chemical, renewable energy, and manufacturing industries.

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