Three ways to retain engineering talent

Use these tips to keep engineers employed at your firm

By Angie Keller, Randstad Engineering, Atlanta September 20, 2019
Service, applications, people, computer, screen, office

There are a lot of challenges STEM sectors will need to overcome in the next decade. From upgrading the U.S.’s ageing infrastructure, to reducing manufacturing’s carbon footprint and guarding ourselves against the increased threat of cyberattacks — there’s a lot on our plates. To solve all these problems, we’ll need smart, dedicated engineering talent to lead the way. Unfortunately, they happen to be in short supply.  

By 2025, 3.5 million engineering jobs will need to be filled in just the manufacturing sector alone, but only 2 million of them are projected to be staffed, given the current shortage of talent. With so much competition, you need to make sure you can retain the engineers you do have to give your business the best chance of succeeding until the tight hiring market subsides. Here are three things you can do to improve retention levels on your engineering teams. 

  1. Up your upskilling efforts

With more job opportunities available to engineers, you may start seeing employees leave to take on new challenges that could broaden their skill sets and advance their careers. But if you take the initiative to provide training and development opportunities in-house, you may be able to anchor the gaze of a few of those wandering eyes and keep top performers on your premises for longer.  

Sixty-nine percent of employee respondents to a recent Gallup poll said that “professional and career growth opportunities” were important to them in a job — and that number jumps to 87% if we look at just millennials. Providing employees with the ability to learn new skills and hone their strengths helps improve retention by engendering loyalty: You’re demonstrating your commitment to their success and making it a priority to expose them to new skills that may make them more well-rounded candidates in the future.  

  1. Boost your benefits

Naturally, benefits and compensation packages are top of mind with employees when evaluating potential employers, so if you miss out on offering even just one or two highly prized perks — that may be all it takes to lose talent.  

Forty-two percent of employees said they’re currently on the fence about leaving their jobs because of inadequate benefits packages, so the threat to engineering employers with subpar offerings is real. Make a few adjustments to the range of perks you offer and monitor employee sentiment periodically to identify new trends in benefits expectations to keep your offerings up to date. 

In addition to upskilling, a recent Randstad survey revealed other popular incentives to consider to improve retention, like: 

  • Early Friday release. 
  • On-site amenities like gyms, dry cleaning and childcare. 
  • Flexible, remote work options. 
  • Unlimited vacation time. 
  • Benefits for different life stages (e.g., student loan support for younger workers, or more comprehensive health insurance for workers older than 50). 
  1. Keep your pay competitive 

It’s a race to the top as far as salaries go in today’s war for engineering talent, so it’s important to make sure your wages are competitive.  

While a strong benefits and perks package is important — 61% of respondents to Randstad’s survey said they’d be willing to accept a lower salary if a company had a great benefits package — providing a decent wage is still one of the most effective ways to retain your best and brightest engineering contributors.  

Settling on that figure, however, can sometimes be difficult. To help you know where to start when establishing your pay rates, use an online salary calculator to see what the market averages are for the positions you’re looking to safeguard.  

While you can’t change the reality of the talent shortage across the market, you can take steps to improve retention levels on your own teams. Provide upskilling opportunities, align benefits with worker expectations and pay competitively to give yourself the best chance of retaining engineering talent.

Author Bio: Angie Keller is the senior vice president at Randstad Engineering, which specializes in the sourcing and placement of temporary and direct hire professionals in engineering, energy, utilities, petrochemical, manufacturing, information technology and other technologies industries.