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Understanding Engineers

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This ebook delivers a psychographic profiles of Engineers.

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Understanding Engineers

  1. Understanding engineersA KELLY SERVICES PSYCHOGRAPHIC PROFILE
  2. /02 Source: 2014 Kelly Global Workforce Index™ Competitive salaries Job stability Opportunities for personal and professional development Using technical skills to solve real-world problems Clearly defined roles and processes Micromanagement or workplace politics Uncertainty in employment Jobs that don’t use their analytical capabilities Failing to keep up with new technologies and their peers’ skillsets A lack of workplace structure ENGINEER LIKES ENGINEER DISLIKES
  3. /03 Businesses intent on technological advancement and greater efficiency rely heavily on engineering talent, which means engineers are among the most sought after professionals in the world.
  4. However, skilled candidates are in short supply. Employers in search of engineers to support growth and innovation have to contend with an employees’ market in which organizations face intense competition to secure the best candidates. The growing global competition for qualified engineers led Kelly Services, in collaboration with Fuld and Company, to investigate factors that might lead a top engineering candidate to choose one role over another. In the course of our research, we carefully reviewed United States–based online discussion forums and groups, industry association releases, blogs, resumés and trade press articles to gauge engineers’ interests and character traits. We also conducted primary research with a select handful of subject matter experts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) to gain high-level insight into what engineers value and avoid in professional life. We found that engineers are highly rational and value the ability to build a long-term career. They seek roles that allow them to apply core skills, solve problems and affect real-world outcomes. They favor employers that offer opportunities for advancement and tend to avoid roles that entail high levels of managerial and political interference or micromanagement. INTRODUCTION /04
  5. /05 What makes an engineer? “Unlike other professions, the decision to pursue a career in engineering is decided at a young age. Almost all the engineers I know chose their profession early on. Some things come naturally.” – Specialist in Western Europe, the Institution of Engineering and Technology
  6. Personality traits Each of the subject matter experts interviewed by Fuld and Company on behalf of Kelly Services observed that engineering candidates tend to choose their career early in life, as young children or high school students. “What drives them? It’s the ability to perfect, create and build something from the ground up,” said a Professor of HR at the Saint Petersburg State University. “The appeal is always coming up with solutions to problems.” Such observations reveal the basic premise underlying the modern engineer’s character: engineers are rational and pragmatic, focused chiefly on applying technical and analytical abilities to solve problems. Evidence gleaned in our secondary research suggests this rationality informs engineers’ everyday decision-making processes. Most adopt a highly empirical approach to their lives and carefully weigh the potential risk and reward in each situation. As a result, engineers are highly risk-averse and tend to act in ways that will produce the safest and most beneficial outcomes. This leads many to be frugal and pragmatic with their finances, spending only what’s necessary for personal progress. /06WHAT MAKES AN ENGINEER? Engineers are highly risk-averse and tend to act in ways that will produce the safest and most beneficial outcomes
  7. Employment traits An engineer’s rationality is central in their approach to professional life. Engineers’ pragmatism and love of problem solving leads many to roles that require applied analytical thinking rather than repetitive tasks. Engineers care most about efficiency and outcomes – and consider anything that gets in the way of these processes to be a hindrance. Engineers are most likely to be loyal if they are well compensated. If the scope of a role does not align with initial expectations, an engineer is likely to persevere for the sake of career advancement or return on investment in education costs. Engineers’ devotion to efficiency and innovation entails a strong work ethic. Engineering candidates understand the hard work required to deliver projects on time and to a high standard, and commit to long hours in pursuit of progressive outcomes. They also often work well independently and don’t require extensive micromanagement. However, engineers commonly lack soft skills, such as public speaking, management and leadership qualities. Many receive little tertiary training in non-engineering subjects. This dearth of soft skills can pose difficulties when engineers are required to collaborate with peers and present barriers to career advancement. /07WHAT MAKES AN ENGINEER? Engineering candidates understand the hard work required to deliver projects on time and to a high standard
  8. /08 What do engineers value in a role? “Some people hate it when there is a fixed way of doing things, but that’s what engineers value – the certainty, the stability, the order of things.” - Automotive specialist, Association of German Engineers
  9. /09WHAT DO ENGINEERS VALUE IN A ROLE? As highly pragmatic workers, engineers value process, efficiency and outcomes above most other elements in a role. They are motivated by challenging tasks that require analytical thinking and problem solving, and feel most at home working on projects that resolve real-world problems. Tangible outcomes In the course of our discussions with various subject matter experts, we learned that engineers value highly the ability to create things from the ground up to perfection. Our secondary research reinforced this idea, revealing that engineers value roles that make use of their core skills. Engineers would rather spend time designing and developing the elements required for a project’s completion than writing reports or delivering presentations. Though engineers tend to work independently, we also found many candidates are keen to work and share knowledge with other cultures and disciplines that have better work practices and employ innovative principles. They are always looking for opportunities to create new things and adopt more efficient processes. Many candidates are keen to work and share knowledge with other cultures and disciplines
  10. WHAT DO ENGINEERS VALUE IN A ROLE? /10 Competitive salary Engineers’ pragmatic approach to life decisions leads many to place a high value on competitive salary packages. In our research, we found that graduates and candidates often compare salaries with their peers and assess their current level of remuneration against those offered by other companies. The six-figure salary is likely a subconscious goal for many engineers. Each of the subject matter experts we interviewed observed that compensation is an important factor in attracting and retaining engineering talent. However, our interviewee from The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in the United Kingdom noted the growing supply and quality of overseas talent has begun to alter the way engineers think about remuneration. Our IET interviewee claimed many engineering firms have begun to offshore for financial reasons, though a great number still consider the work of European engineers to be of better quality. While engineers in Europe are still well paid and hold salary as a high priority, many are adopting more realistic salary expectations in light of competition from international peers. Age is a significant variable in determining how engineering candidates view their level of remuneration. Engineering is a demanding sector that compensates long hours with high levels of remuneration. However, our research revealed that compensation matters more to engineers aged under 40. Senior workers tend to place greater value on benefits such as training and work–life balance than their younger colleagues. Graduates and candidates often compare salaries with their peers
  11. WHAT DO ENGINEERS VALUE IN A ROLE? /11 Stability Deference to rationality means many engineers place great value on professional stability. Engineers intuitively seek permanent positions, as these may satisfy an unconscious need for ongoing financial sustainability. Large companies, government agencies and defence organizations are often considered valued employers among engineers for this reason. Economic instability weighs heavily on engineers, particularly those with advanced specialist skills, as it implies lower job security and higher competition for employment. Recent economic turmoil in Europe and the US has led to a range of company closures, and this has forced many engineers into an increasingly competitive job market. Engineers intuitively seek permanent positions
  12. WHAT DO ENGINEERS VALUE IN A ROLE? /12 Most graduate workers possess the same basic technical skills as more senior colleagues Growth opportunities Firms unable to offer competitive remuneration often provide training programs to entice and retain engineering candidates and staff members. Professional hierarchies in engineering are defined by expertise rather than skills. Most graduate workers possess the same basic technical skills as more senior colleagues, and progress within a firm’s hierarchy as they acquire knowledge through experience. Engineers often defer to established and tested modes of work, but many appreciate the importance of adapting to future trends and new technology as a means of remaining valuable as an employee throughout their career. This impulse means engineers are often eager to learn new skills and view employer-provided training and certifications as highly valuable.
  13. /13 What do engineers avoid or dislike in professional life? “Engineers do not like when there are intervening factors outside of their control or when they get stuck doing something because there are a lot of opinions involved.” – Automotive specialist, The Association of German Engineers
  14. Engineers dislike being influenced or affected by factors beyond their control /14WHAT DO ENGINEERS AVOID OR DISLIKE IN PROFESSIONAL LIFE? While knowledge of candidates’ work habits, interests and ambitions is useful for businesses trying to secure engineering talent, we believe it’s equally valuable for prospective employers to consider what turns engineers away from roles. Unnecessary interference Given their pragmatism, independence and dedication to processes and outcomes, it makes sense that engineers dislike being influenced or affected by factors beyond their control. Speaking with an automotive specialist from The Association of German Engineers, we learnt that engineers in the industry prize perfection in efficiency and safety above all other factors. The subject explained that safety is essential to automotive engineers because it directly affects consumers. Efficiency is similarly important as it allows production to align with corporate interests. Engineers are unlikely to respond well to factors that interfere with either of these two goals. “These things take time and they need to focus, which is something that they can’t do if someone else is intervening,” said the interviewee. Our interview subject from the UK’s IET similarly observed that engineers dislike workplace politics, as it has the potential to impede progress and prevent teams from reaching objectives. “Engineers just want to focus on working, and if social concerns prevent them from doing what they want to do, they do not appreciate it.”
  15. /15WHAT DO ENGINEERS AVOID OR DISLIKE IN PROFESSIONAL LIFE? Wasted skills Problem solving and analytical thinking are central to the appeal of a role for engineering candidates. Engineers are therefore reluctant to take on roles that don’t use what they believe to be their core capabilities. Our interview with a professor of HR from the Saint Petersburg State University revealed that engineers worry most about the inability to create and the potential lack of involvement in key processes. “Engineers tend to be resentful of being moved to the sidelines in the workplace, so we have to make sure we have an environment that cultivates and protects them from feeling like they are unimportant,” said the professor. As an example, our secondary research showed that engineers are reluctant to work in sales support roles. They are concerned that their technical proficiency will suffer if not in use. Many are deterred by the prospect of a sales role due to lack of professional development (“I won’t learn anything of value”) and uncertainty over salary stability (“This commission thing scares the heck out of me.”). Unclear career paths and questionable integrity of sales are also major concerns for many, while some are simply concerned about the communicative challenges demanded of sales support staff. Engineers are concerned that their technical proficiency will suffer if not in use
  16. /16WHAT DO ENGINEERS AVOID OR DISLIKE IN PROFESSIONAL LIFE? Professional irrelevance An engineer’s sense of worth is closely tied to the validity and usefulness of their skills. Many engineers are afraid of failing to respond to evolving trends and becoming professionally outdated or redundant. The ability to work with new techniques and technologies is an important element in the ongoing success of any engineering career. “Openness to new ideas [is essential to success],” said our interview subject at the Saint Petersburg State University. “Those who fail in this field are those who refuse to be open to new ideas.” However, engineers’ tendency to favour established techniques can prevent many from considering or applying new technologies and processes. Our interview subject at the UK’s IET noted: “Some engineers do not progress because they have become so used to doing things a certain way that they are not able to keep up with progress or new engineering techniques.” For these reasons, many engineers are acutely aware of the need to adapt to changes in their roles and industry, and eager to accept opportunities to improve their skills. Engineers are acutely aware of the need to adapt to changes
  17. /17 Sourcing and motivating engineering talent “Engineers tend to resent being moved to the sidelines in the workplace, so we have to make sure we have an environment that cultivates and protects them from feeling like they are unimportant.” – Professor of HR, Saint Petersburg State University
  18. While offering competitive remuneration may not be an option for all businesses, our research has revealed employers can use a number of other methods to attract top engineering candidates. Address their priorities Employers seeking skilled engineering candidates need to appeal to their basic professional interests. Engineers value roles that require technical and analytical skills to provide creative, tangible solutions to problems. They also tend to avoid management systems that interfere too heavily with the primary processes necessary to complete projects. When searching for candidates, employers should reinforce the link between technical capabilities and the associated outcomes or applications in each role. Employers should also review management structures to ensure that engineers’ interactions with managers are minimal and efficient, and do not interfere with workers’ core functions. /18SOURCING AND MOTIVATING ENGINEERING TALENT Employers should reinforce the link between technical capabilities and the associated outcomes
  19. Offer opportunities for growth and advancement Training and growth opportunities may provide an effective incentive for skilled graduates and can also help to retain workers intent on career progression. Engineers have an acute desire to remain competitive and relevant, especially in industries that change constantly. Many also lack soft skills required for long-term success in an engineering career. For this reason, education can be a powerful tool for employers trying to attract and retain top engineering talent. By offering comprehensive training in modern techniques and technologies, as well as soft skills development, employers can position their businesses as environments in which engineers can learn and advance their careers while working. /19SOURCING AND MOTIVATING ENGINEERING TALENT Engineers have an acute desire to remain competitive and relevant
  20. Foster a sense of community Despite their independent nature and ability to work autonomously, engineers value workplaces that are welcoming personally as well as professionally. Organizations seeking to strike a point of difference in a competitive employment market should consider fostering a collegial workplace environment for their engineers. Initiatives could extend from basic amenities and physical office layout to flexible working practices and social programs. Engineers also like to be acknowledged for their work. When asked how employers can keep their engineers happy, our source at the Saint Petersburg State University noted that engineers value having power in decision-making processes and putting their names to new projects and ideas. “We implement a lot of training programs and continuing education programs to keep talent happy,” said the interviewee. “Giving them exposure to new things and allowing them to take credit works both ways – it builds their professional reputation, but they also become more valuable as workers and they bring the firm along. It’s a win-win situation.” /20SOURCING AND MOTIVATING ENGINEERING TALENT Engineers value having power in decision-making processes
  21. /21 Five tips for attracting and retaining engineering staff ENCOURAGE CREATIVE THINKING REMOVE IMPEDIMENTS TO WORK NURTURE INNOVATION CREATE A WELCOMING WORKPLACE INVEST IN SOFT SKILLS
  22. The following are five steps employers can take to attract engineering talent in a competitive employment market. 1. Encourage creative thinking – engineers favor roles that require them to apply analytical and technical expertise to solve problems. Organizations can attract and retain engineers by promoting problem solving and creative thinking to keep them engaged. 2. Remove impediments to work – engineers dislike having politics and managerial influence interfere with their core objectives. Organizations should revise management structures and key performance indicators to maximize the time engineers spend on core tasks. 3. Invest in soft skills – as tertiary qualifications often don’t include soft skills, many engineers lack experience in abilities such as leadership and management. Offering soft skills training improves engineers’ ability to work within an organization and equips them with abilities essential for sustaining a successful career. /22FIVE TIPS FOR ATTRACTING AND RETAINING ENGINEERING STAFF
  23. /23FIVE TIPS FOR ATTRACTING AND RETAINING ENGINEERING STAFF 4. Nurture innovation – as with soft skills, innovative processes, techniques and technologies are essential for engineers to remain relevant and capable within their industries. By offering training and encouraging experimentation with innovative practices, organizations nurture engineers’ career growth and stand to improve internal efficiency. 5. Create a welcoming workplace – though engineers work well independently, many value workplaces that are also personally welcoming. Organizations can promote collegial working environments by supplementing professional development with social, civic and charity initiatives that staff can choose to partake in.
  24. EXIT This information may not be published, broadcast, sold or otherwise distributed without prior written permission from the authorized party. All trademarks are property of their respective owners. An Equal Opportunity Employer. © 2014 Kelly Services, Inc. ABOUT KELLY SERVICES® Kelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ: KELYA, KELYB) is a global leader in providing workforce solutions. Kelly® offers a comprehensive array of outsourcing and consulting services as well as world-class staffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire and direct-hire basis. Serving clients around the world, Kelly provided employment to approximately 555,000 employees in 2014. Revenue in 2014 was $5.6 billion. Visit kellyservices.com and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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