The Battle for Skilled Workers: How Can You Win?

In the fast-paced, constantly evolving landscape of the space sector, recruiting and retaining skilled professionals has become increasingly complex. At Holt Executive, our ongoing conversations with clients reveal a recurring theme – the competition for top-tier talent is fiercer than ever.


Intensifying Competition: The Numbers

The Space Sector Skills Survey 2023 report underscores the gravity of the situation. The data reveals a surge in competition from other sectors. In 2023, a staggering 68% of respondents cite competition from outside the space sector as a major obstacle, a significant increase from 51% in 2020.

Surprisingly, the percentage who cite competition from other space companies has fallen slightly, from 49% in 2020 to 45% in 2023. But the overall struggle for skilled workers has intensified.


The Hunt for Golden Unicorns 

The space sector has always been fairly incestuous. Now, because candidates with the right niche skills are so few and far between, companies are stepping up their efforts to poach these ‘golden unicorns’ from each other – and they’re willing to pay whatever they can afford.

Where does this leave companies with smaller recruitment budgets? 39% of survey respondents in both 2020 and 2023 highlight uncompetitive pay as a significant cause of recruitment difficulties. This aligns with the feedback we receive from clients at Holt Executive, who express frustration as competitors outbid them in the quest for skilled professionals.


Holt Executive’s Insights and Recommendations

As we engage in conversations with clients, it is evident that the talent war is not merely a statistical concern but a tangible challenge. While salary is important, the reality is that some companies in the space sector can’t compete on pay. If this is you, what can you do, practically, right now?

  1. Consider the total reward package. What can you afford to offer in terms of bonuses and meaningful benefits?

The most sought-after benefits are those that show you care about your people’s wellbeing, respect their humanity, and support their ambitions. They include flexible hours, flexible annual leave, training and development, professional subscriptions, wellbeing packages, private health insurance, and life insurance.

  1. Look at what sets you apart and makes your company a great place to work. Money is not the only lure in the industry. Find your unique selling point and ensure it’s effectively conveyed to prospective candidates throughout the entire recruitment process. This will be different for every company – it could include:
  • Reputation: Highlight the brand reputation in the market. Is the company viewed as a ‘good employer’ with a positive culture that prioritises employee wellbeing? What does your Glassdoor review say?
  • Innovation and Exciting Projects: Emphasise the innovative and cutting-edge projects the company is involved in. Candidates are often attracted to roles that offer the opportunity to work on something ground-breaking.
  • People and Leadership: Recognise the significance of people and leadership. In industries with well-networked communities, individuals often move for the opportunity to work with inspiring leaders and become part of a supportive professional network.
  • Flexibility: Acknowledge the increasing importance of flexibility in the workplace. Provide insights into the company’s work patterns, expectations regarding office presence, and any flexible work arrangements, such as compressed hours or alternative schedules.
  1. Look at transferable skills. If other sectors are recruiting candidates from the space industry, the space industry can also recruit candidates from other sectors. Do your research or come and speak to us to find out which sectors you can draw from, then look for suitable candidates on LinkedIn. As a trusted partner in space recruitment, we can help find and talk to candidates from adjacent sectors, such as maritime or military.
  2. Upskill and reskill. Internal growth offers a win-win solution to the talent shortage: it reduces the need to hire externally, and it makes your organisation an exciting place to work for ambitious people looking to grow their careers, boosting your ability to attract and retain talent.
  3. Grow your own. By offering a development programme for those starting their careers, you can create your own talent pipeline. This strategy isn’t a quick solution but will bear fruit for years to come.
  4. Enable more part-time work and job sharing. This will help you keep people in the industry as they go through major life changes such as parenthood and aging, as well as helping you retain people who are simply burnt out.

We’ve also seen a notable trend among fiftysomethings towards reducing hours to volunteer or pursue a hobby. Men in their 50s are upending the industry perception that “women take time out, and men do the job” – we know one who jobshares so he can teach violin. If you demand that these professionals stay full-time, they’ll have no qualms about leaving, taking their top-tier skillsets with them.

  1. Consider mergers and acquisitions. The current skills shortage may lead to more M&A activity: companies looking for instant results in this fast-paced environment will merge or acquire to immediately gain missing skillsets.

In conclusion, as companies in the space sector grapple with the escalating challenges of recruiting and retaining skilled professionals, Holt Executive stands ready to guide our clients through this complex landscape.

We can help by providing market insights and acting as your trusted partner. We’ll analyse the roles and skillsets that give you your biggest challenges, and support you as you navigate through these challenges. By aligning budgetary needs with the imperative to secure top-tier talent and recognising the diverse elements of the total reward package, we aim to position organisations to successfully navigate the intensifying talent war in the space sector.

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