Why do companies only think about recruiting talent from their competitors or industries?
We have consistently found this to be the case in such industries as aerospace, rail and oil and gas during the last 20 years. Companies relentlessly tell us that they need the best talent around to help support their long-term vision but even in the face of talent pools shrinking, due to an ageing workforce and less "youngsters" choosing their industries as the first step on their career ladder, they keep asking us to headhunt into the same old places.
We have run dual recruitment strategies for clients where we identify talent from their industry alongside those outside but who have the right behaviours and ability to learn and develop, but such is the level of being risk-averse that companies have very rarely taken the plunge for something new.
It is great that the rail and aerospace sectors are investing heavily in apprenticeships and younger talent but this strategy will take time to produce "ready to go" talent or leaders and so other approaches are needed to fill today's talent void.
I know an ex-senior leader from the armed forces who joined the rail industry to deliver a major £multi-million infrastructure project. Despite the project being way behind schedule, he was dismayed at the extreme barriers to change and find solutions to their very big problem. He was very much an outsider who didn't know rail. Perhaps it is not the lack of appetite amongst leaders to bring in talent from outside their industries that is the problem. Perhaps the problem lies further down in a very stable and change-averse culture?
I keep hearing noises that mindsets will change but have not yet seen any tangible evidence.
“The rail industry is affected by the same issue that concerns many infrastructure-based sectors in the UK – a shortage of skills and an ageing workforce,” Higgens explains. “Rail is a multi-faceted industry that employs people in a wide variety of engineering roles and they need a distinct skillset to perform well. As an industry, we compete against sectors such as construction, highways and energy to attract workers from an incredibly competitive talent pool. While the skills shortage is endemic, it is particularly scarce in areas such as overhead electrification and signalling.”