Attracting the Best Means Learning to be More Flexible

It’s hard to think of an industry or sector that faces the same thrilling combination of opportunity, challenge and risk as we do in ours. To prosper (or perhaps even just to survive), our industry needs the very best people it can find. This would be the case even without the growing skills crisis.

For productivity to reach the levels required we need innovation. We need fresh ideas and fresh approaches. We need the very best minds and skills. What we can’t afford is for our future workforce to be constrained by traditional thinking, traditional methods of recruitment and traditional ways of working.

In short, we have to learn to become more flexible; in the way we recruit and in the ways we work.

Career gaps often put off potential employers, putting returners at a disadvantage in the job market. People who may have valuable skills and experience don’t even make it past the first stage of recruitment – how shortsighted is that!?

Returnships are a valuable route for engineers and professionals to return following a career break such as maternity or paternity leave. The programmes are typically three to six month paid placements with support to help rebuild confidence and get up to date with changes in technology and working practices. Ask yourself whether talented people restarting careers will be more attracted to employers that offer this type of support.

We also have to recognise that the 40 hour, five days a week work pattern doesn’t suit everyone. Like it or not we are in a highly competitive recruitment race. The talent may well be attracted to the firms and sectors that can adapt best to different personal needs.

Despite all of the equal opportunities legislation and corporate policy statements we know that people with disabilities or mental health issues still have a much tougher time finding good jobs than they should.

As employers we may need to adapt our facilities, offer flexible working arrangements and provide workplace support. There are thousands of talented people who would be happy to join us if we just learn to be less blinkered and more adaptable. This is all within the broad picture of diversity and becoming genuinely inclusive.

We should also accept that we might need help to change. Actively engaging with organisations such as Women Returners and mental health charities with expertise in helping people back into work will help us to get it right – we clearly don’t have all of the answers.

Let’s not bemoan a lack of skills and good recruits until we’ve done everything we can to make our industry welcoming and supportive of the broadest possible range of people.