Because of increasing advancements in technology, engineering teams require new employee skills but also continuous training, and thus, a constant talent pool. But the industry is far from able to meet that need.For example, 56% of executives in industrial manufacturing sector said that finding and retaining the best talent to make innovation happen was their number one challenge.1
This comes as no surprise, as manufacturing is ranked only 9th in sector attractiveness2, and came in toward the bottom of the happiest industries to work for, placing 11th out of 133. Lack of transparency, company culture, and opportunity for growth were among the reasons cited for this low position4. When it comes to competing for top talent against sectors like technology and consumer products and services, which are among the top three happiest industries to work for, manufacturing has to tackle its reputation issues.
For example, let's look at gender balance, a key issue in all industries right now: 75% of women working in manufacturing say that women are underrepresented within their organisation’s leadership team5, partly because of the perception of manufacturing overall. Women working in the industry report an industry-wide lack of mentorship, a bias toward men for leadership roles, and a poor organisational culture - and these factors are driving their desire to leave the sector. Manufacturing companies have to address these negative sector perceptions by demonstrating how they are different and showcase impactful initiatives for women in their organisation (e.g. mentorship programmes, flexible working, and increased visibility of key leaders).
How can organisations differentiate and stand out in a sector with a negative reputation? Tackling these perceptions head-on with an employer branding strategy based on storytelling will help to reach candidates who might otherwise not consider the sector.
Airbus: Great employer branding through 360° storytelling
In 2014, EADS became the Airbus group, gathering three divisions together under one name. In order to build a unique and authentic employer brand, the aeronautic company chose an innovative method with proven results: storytelling, with the campaign “Make It Fly”. They are now ranked 8th Most Attractive Employer across Europe, and 1st in France, where more than a third of their total staff are located6 - there's no doubt that the campaign contributed to this achievement.
Authentic stories improve transparency, address the credibility gap
Their website showcases employee stories, dedicating one whole page with text and video for each story. By giving a voice to the ones that are the most trusted, namely their employees, they ensure credibility and transparency when they tackle their sector reputation. They also have a section called “Inspiring Women at Airbus”, where they highlight the journeys of different women in leadership roles, demonstrating their commitment to addressing the gender gap. Here is Cristina, who is leading a very complex project within the company. Her story stands out as particularly persuasive and engaging: it shares concrete personal details about her role, it gives advice to candidates (explaining how she handled her career progression), and it highlights the challenges of the new project she took on.
“As a matter of fact, Cristina moved her life, she went from Barcelona, where she was living with her family, and moved to Madrid. Cristina is someone that is a very good friend of her friends and who puts people in the centre of whatever she is doing. She is humble, you can see from her her face and you immediately realise that it’s someone in whom you can have trust. I think she’s an authentic person. I think it was around maybe ten to fifteen years ago that I met her for the first time. She was around 25, she was really a young engineer. The first impression to me was that she was shy but at the same time she was really keen to face challenges and with the courage of facing difficulties. When I see Cristina now, I see someone who has enriched a lot, significantly. She has been moving through many different positions in the company, not always the easiest ones. Then I realised that now she is getting one of the most difficult but fascinating activities in the company which is the retrofit of the A400M, as position that not many people would have volunteered to take, but she has got the courage and the braveness to go there and this is something that I really admire. When I see Cristina now, I see a great manager with the potential to be a fantastic leader in the future in the company.
[Cristina speaking] I just believe that people can bring the most of themselves if they really enjoy what they do, and this is what I try to do. It does not matter whether we are women or men, we are just people, humans, and we need to love what we do and to make the people working with us enjoy and love what they do as well, because this is what brings more value to the company. “
More than testimonials: stories also highlight culture and heritage
Airbus’ storytelling efforts don’t end there, the group also highlight the stories of people who forged the aircraft industry, in a section called “Heritage”. This shows candidates that they are pioneers in their sector, and that joining the company would be walking in the footsteps of leaders, demonstrating a culture of technological innovation and pride in their work. In a sector with culture perception issues, this sets Airbus apart.
One of the ways the company does this is by empowering employees to engage directly with potential candidates all over the world through live exchanges. They explore topics like their apprenticeship programme or what it's like to work in their cybersecurity department. This offers candidates an opportunity to find out more about the issues that concern them on a wider range of topics than a careers site usually covers, and to get that information from a source they trust - the firm's employees. Some examples of the questions these live exchanges answer:
"Can you share a bit of insight on the special cyber challenges for aircraft today, and for the aviation industry? I'm particularly interested in this recurring question of vulnerability to hack cockpits from the cabin, especially now with the laptop ban in place in certain markets." - Marisa G.
“The challenge here is for sure to provide the most security to the aviation systems and in parallel to provide the most exciting user experience to the passengers (i.e. entertainment, etc.). For sure, the critical systems have to be separated securely from all other "additional" systems” - Sascha G.
"What do you seek in candidates that other companies may not?" - Silvio K.
"Silvio, Team spirit and energy! We have 4 values within Airbus DS, creativity, respect, we are one, reliability. It is important to have different and complementary profiles who together make one team."
“Have you ever noticed a lack of information on a candidate’s resume? What was it?” - Kinga S.
“We find candidates do not always talk about their soft skills (behavioural / competency examples) on their CV. It is also very important to tailor your cover letter specifically to the company / role you are applying to.” - Emma W
The aeronautics leader uses storytelling for employer branding in a lot of other innovative ways, like:
- Showcasing their own story through an infographic video, A journey back to Airbus heritage, to demonstrate their longtime role as a key player in manufacturing and the opportunities for candidates to become industry leaders themselves.
- Offering a video that takes you through the journey of those who participated in the “Fly Your Ideas” competition, which challenges students worldwide to innovate for the future of aerospace. By engaging the next generation of engineering talent, they show a commitment to innovation and a culture of mentorship.
Building a first-in-class employer branding strategy to stand out in a lagging sector
What do first-in-class companies have in common? An employer branding strategy rooted in storytelling. This is supported by our recent research, which found that stories were 20% more likely to drive conversion that career sites alone. Here, some best practice advice on how to build your employer branding strategy with storytelling - with examples from Siemens, ranked 8th Most Attractive Employer globally in 2017, and one of the top three for the manufacturing sector as a whole.
Some top tips to start building a better employer branding strategy now:
Share employees’ stories across all recruitment channels, as they are the most trusted source of information7 and thus, are the most likely to persuade candidates to join your company. Giving your employees a voice will help demonstrate transparency and credibility, differentiating your organisation from sector-wide perceptions.
"We've taken 360o cameras and made a trip around the globe to record how our people work, how they interact with colleagues and customers, and how they develop new ideas. We’re now selecting some of these stories for our publicly available Future Makers Siemens 360o app."
Christoph Knorn, Global Director Employer Branding, Siemens
Tell the stories of the role models who helped build the manufacturing sector, to show that you belong to a field with a strong heritage and culture and are an organisation that leads the way.
"We've created a common ‘manifesto’ built around “making real what matters”. But to make this more than just a slogan, our people on the ground need to interpret and apply it locally. What are the pressing priorities that matter to a township in South Africa or a rural community in Sweden, for example, and how can we provide solutions?" - Christoph Knorn
Speak with candidates in real time to answer their questions and engage in a more robust, meaningful way. Live exchanges are an opportunity to showcase your company's culture and values.
Organise challenges and competitions with student communities to build a relationship with the next generation of engineers and attract the best to join your programmes.
"To change external perceptions, it’s also important to engage in different ways. For example, rather than just visiting students in colleges, we invite them to what we call a ‘student-brunch’. This setting is typically an unexpected downtown environment such as an old factory or a nightclub, which we hire for the day to give students a chance to talk to our people.The style of location and the informal interaction can all help to change their image of us as a company." - Christoph Knorn
Find great storytellers within your company, the ones who will show a real and authentic picture of your organisation and then leave a positive impression on candidates based on transparency
“To show the real Siemens, our employer brand should belong to the employees and be projected from the inside out. A big part of how we involve our employees is giving them the opportunity to share their stories. You don’t have to be a ‘love brand’ that consumers connect with every day to have stories that are worth hearing and sharing.” - Christoph Knorn