What Really Matters to Prospective Employees in the Space, SATCOM and Aerospace & Defence Sectors.

There was a time when employees’ priorities seemed straightforward: offer them a good salary and a reasonable commute, and you could assume you had a happy employee. Then the COVID era arrived, not just a blip in everyone’s calendar but the harbinger of a seismic global shift in many aspects of life. Entire industries adapted to the demands of the pandemic, and personally, our priorities came into sharp focus. All these changes have shifted our understanding of what employees want from black and white to an ominous grey. We’ve tossed the rulebook out the window and are now trying to rediscover what truly matters to prospective employees.

Fast forward to today’s dynamic job market, where understanding the preferences and priorities of employees is crucial for companies striving to attract and retain top talent. At Holt Executive, we are deeply committed to understanding our candidates’ needs. Therefore, we conducted our research by releasing a series of polls and inviting our network to participate. The feedback we received significantly contributed to painting a picture of what truly matters to prospective employees in 2024. So, without further ado, let’s delve into our findings.

Responses to queries regarding satisfaction with total compensation and benefits unveiled a diverse spectrum of perceptions. Surprisingly, while 20% of respondents deemed their package competitive, an equal 40% felt it fell below average. Equally intriguing, another 40% considered their package to be above average. We’ve pondered over the factors contributing to this divergence in perspectives. Could it be an acknowledgment that individuals remain committed to the sector due to its culture of innovation and abundant opportunities rather than compensation? Is it an astute recognition that certain other sectors offer more lucrative remuneration packages? Or, perhaps, does it reflect that some companies have taken more proactive retention measures in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the subsequent rise in the cost of living, while others have not?

For those who felt their package was below average, we questioned what reasons would incentivise them to stay. We observed a considerable number of companies in the sector relying on project-based funding, leaving smaller startups vulnerable to downsizing when funding diminishes or ceases altogether. Additionally, there’s a notable trend of companies undergoing mergers and acquisitions activity. This leads us to consider whether employees who feel underpaid might remain in their roles because their current company offers stability amid these industry dynamics.

Delving further into the psyche of job seekers, we asked about their foremost priorities when considering potential employment opportunities. The overwhelming majority—82%—cited “opportunity” as their top priority. This was a result we were pleased to see, underscoring that the primary motivation for employees in the Space, SATCOM, and Aerospace & Defence sectors is the passion for their field and the desire to do interesting work. This bodes well for employers and further emphasises the importance of taking care of your employees, supporting them in their growth and development, and providing interesting work opportunities, as they will happily reciprocate by looking after your interests.

Moving beyond the allure of salary and opportunity, respondents identified several additional factors that influenced their perceptions of job roles. A significant majority—59%—highlighted “company culture” as the most pivotal aspect, underscoring the importance of fostering a positive and inclusive work environment. Additionally, 29% cited the “leadership team” as a critical consideration, suggesting the importance of cultivating a strong leadership team to shape employee experiences effectively. It’s widely accepted that the industry is incestuous and well-networked. Anecdotally, we are aware that people move and/or follow those whom they admire and who provide strong innovative leadership. We observe networks in operation when recommending and referring potential hires. Other factors, such as “location” (10%) and “company innovation” (7%), also garnered attention, proving the multifaceted nature of job seekers’ decision-making processes.

Our research also explored respondents’ possible reactions to counteroffers from their current employers. Notably, 47% indicated that it would be “too little, too late” to sway their decision to leave, reflecting underlying issues beyond compensation that drive employee turnover. However, 33% expressed willingness to consider staying, indicating the potential efficacy of counteroffers in certain scenarios. Intriguingly, 14% admitted they would stay for the wrong reasons, and 7% said they would be hoping for a counteroffer.

In our experience, as an employer, you should think twice about the kind of message a counteroffer sends, as well as the authenticity behind your offer. As seen in the above results, employees are becoming savvy to the reality of counteroffers, with that reality being that they often serve as a last-ditch effort to retain talent that was otherwise being neglected in some way. Pre-emptively looking after your employees’ interests and ensuring holistic awareness of your workforce’s needs negate the need for time and energy spent negotiating counteroffers and ensure a happy, productive team.

On the flip side, employees should exercise caution if hoping for a counteroffer, as this may result in disappointment if the current employer doesn’t come forward with one or is not prepared to make a counteroffer that’s appealing. Additionally, there’s the risk of being perceived as wasting time. Lastly, if you make the effort to look for a new role, be clear about your reasons for doing so. If it’s not solely about salary or financial benefits, a counteroffer might just delay the inevitable move to seek alternative employment.

Finally, when considering employees preferences, it’s crucial to examine their stance on returning to the office, embracing full remote work, or finding a balance somewhere in between. This pivotal decision not only impacts daily operations but also shapes the overall work culture and employee experience. A noticeable trend in recent months is employers attempting to bring their employees back into the office environment. However, this initiative is met with resistance from a significant portion of the workforce who have grown accustomed to remote work arrangements. The debate arises: is it time to revert to pre-pandemic norms, and what exactly does “normal” entail in the year 2024? In our daily interactions with industry professionals from various sectors, it’s apparent that many now view full-time office attendance as unnecessary. Instead, they prioritise the flexibility and convenience of remote work, with a preference for working from home for the majority of the week. Among those we’ve spoken to, the vast majority express a desire to work remotely for at least four or five days a week. Those who have been compelled to return to the office often report little benefit and may even perceive the transition as detrimental to productivity and overall well-being. As the dynamics of work continue to evolve, organisations are faced with the challenge of redefining traditional workplace structures to accommodate the changing preferences and expectations of their employees. You can read more about navigating the evolution of work in our recent blog about exploring hybrid and flexible working models.

In summary, the landscape of employee priorities has undergone a profound transformation, catalysed by the seismic global shift brought about by the COVID era. Our research findings shed some light on these evolving dynamics, revealing an understanding of what truly matters to prospective employees in 2024. Notably, while satisfaction with compensation and benefits remains varied, the overarching desire for opportunity emerges as a dominant theme, reflecting a passion for the field and a hunger for meaningful work. Company culture and leadership, alongside factors like location and innovation, also play pivotal roles in shaping candidates’ perceptions of job roles. Insights into employees’ reactions to counteroffers underscore the importance of authenticity and genuine engagement in retaining top talent. Meanwhile, as employers express intentions to transition their workforce back into the office full-time, the vocal resistance from employees raises significant questions about the wisdom of disregarding their preferences.

If you would like to delve deeper into what matters to employees in your sector right now or need assistance implementing these insights into your talent attraction and retention strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jules Hyam at Julie.Hyam@holtexecutive.com. At Holt Executive, we are dedicated to helping companies in the Space, SATCOM, and Aerospace & Defence sectors understand and meet the evolving needs of their workforce. Contact us today to begin optimising your approach to talent management.

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