Many businesses across the UK struggle with staff retention, even while the demand for new employees continues to rise. A recent report released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics revealed that there was a staggering 1,225,000 job vacancies in the UK between August and October 2022.

Within the engineering sector, and for nuclear engineering specifically, the increasing demand for skilled staff has generated competition for labour. In such a competitive landscape it becomes probable that certain workers will leave their current employer for new opportunities elsewhere. In fact, as recently as May 2022, in a survey it was predicted that as many as one in five UK employees planned to change jobs at some point over the next 12 months.

Engineering roles within the nuclear sector will be critical to helping the global economy recover in the aftermath of the global pandemic and subsequent economic shocks like the conflit in Ukraine. At the same time new nuclear capacity is needed to meet wider security of supply and net zero goals. It’s clear that construction and engineering skills remain crucial. Training for these roles could come from within organisations or through recruiting individuals with the necessary skill sets.

However, for the nuclear sector, engineering, construction and service businesses could find it difficult to retain even their most loyal employees as the demand for engineers grows yet more competitive.

The true impact of resignation

It’s disheartening when a staff member hands in their resignation. Although it can be joyous for the employee that’s found new opportunities, the effects of leaving can last way beyond their final day at the company.

Retaining staff for as a long as possible is paramount to a financially successful business. Research carried out by Oxford Economics and Unum revealed that employees earning at least £25,000 (US$32,000) per annum cost an average of £30,614 ($39,000) to replace. This means that losing just three employees can cost a business over £100,000 ($127,000).

When we look at where these costs are generated, we can see that the majority come from onboarding, training, and the reduced productivity of any new employee. However, if this money was instead invested into the training and development of existing staff members, this strategy would have likely kept them as a valuable part of the business. Regular training and encouraged motivation are therefore crucial to helping engineering businesses succeed, despite the apparent shortage of workers.

Training and motivation

For most employees, ongoing learning is a highly desirable benefit, and the majority also want to do it to benefit their company too. Some 86% of workers claim that job training means a lot to them, according to recent research from SurveyMonkey. Productivity and morale generate motivation to develop skills; 59% say that it would improve their performance, and 51% believe it would also boost self-confidence.

One sector that strongly values education and training is engineering. Vocational qualifications mean that staff can continue to add skills and capabilities to their list of qualities.

From these statistics, we can see that staff truly value their work and want to continue to develop and improve within their roles. For employees that are already adequately skilled, further training can assist their growth and result in increased loyalty.

Amplifying skills can help retain employees, whether that be something complex, such as teaching construction and engineering staff how to operate bolt tensioners, or something minor, like team building activities. Any manner of training can promote collaboration and a good working culture.

According to a LinkedIn survey of 2,000 business leaders, more than half (57%) claimed that soft skills were an essential element of staff development. It also identified that bettering the employee experience remains a priority for business, and that offering growth opportunities is a strong way to achieve this.

Engineering businesses such as the HTL Group consistently offer training opportunities for staff, as well as supporting the next generation of engineering. Training courses such as mechanical joint integrity is paramount for expanding the experiences of employees and specialists.

It’s been proven that training and skills development help retain engineering staff. A learning report on LinkedIn discovered that 94 per cent of staff would remain at a business longer if it invested time and money into their career development. If companies continue to deliver development opportunities, staff will be less likely to look elsewhere for the same opportunity.

A positive work culture

A study by Workbuzz discovered that 45% of British employees and managers rank a “great” culture as the most important factor when job searching.

Work culture is certainly key to improving motivation within the workplace, which is easily achievable. Flexibility should always be considered, even within the engineering sector, and now many employees expect businesses to offer it as standard.

When it comes to working hours and location, 88% of employees want flexibility. Now more than ever, workers are prioritising family and lifestyles over difficult workplaces – and after the last few years, who can blame them? Just like those in other fields and sectors, some engineers appreciate training sabbaticals or work schedules that fit around their lives.

Professional outcomes can also be a source of motivation. For 86% of workers, ranking outcome over output is preferable, which means that engineers could have more motivation to perform well when they’re exposed to the effects of what they deliver.

Flexibility and how work is measured should be adapted to preserve staff motivation. Prioritising the feelings of your staff will naturally help retain their loyalty and hard work.

Hanging on to employees in the engineering sector is becoming strenuous in the working landscape. The aftermath of resignation can indeed be damaging to businesses, but training and motivating staff can mean engineering companies succeed in maintaining the skills and loyalty of their very best workers.

Author: Shaun Gray, Commercial Manager at Enerpac Industrial Tools