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Maximizing Potential: Getting the Best from Diversity

admin | 18.06.2012

Engineering talent is becoming a key differentiator in the future of many global sectors, and economies.

If you're a member of a multinational organization, then you know what it means to work within a culturally diverse workplace. The attached whitepaper was produced by IRC Global Executive Search Partners and we provide it for your reference. Click here for the pdf version.

Defining the Future

Engineering talent is becoming a key differentiator in the future of many global sectors, and economies.

Engineering professionals are in demand. Indeed, according to a recent World Economic Forum report (The Future of Manufacturing Opportunities to drive economic growth): An estimated 10 million jobs with manufacturing organizations cannot be filled today due to a growing skills gap … Companies and countries that can attract, develop and retain the highest skilled talent – from scientists, researchers and engineers to technicians and skilled production workers – will come out on top. In the race to future prosperity, nothing will matter more than talent.”

Sector shortages

It is not only the manufacturing sector that has an engineering shortage, as new technologies vie with established ones for the best talent, and countries with growth aspirations need engineers for large-scale projects. For example, innovation in energy technology includes grid-scale storage, digital-power conversion, compressorless air conditioning and electrochromic windows, clean coal, and electrofuels and new biofuels and, according to a January 2012 McKinsey Quarterly report: “Each has the potential to grow by a factor of ten in the next decade.” Developing such technologies will require significant engineering innovation, led by exceptional engineering talent. Reacting to the engineer shortage in Europe, IRC Global Executive Search Partners (IRC) EMEA region is actively addressing the problem with a plan to recruit engineers for the expanding oil and gas industry, particularly in Norway. The extent of the challenge is reflected in New Europe Online reported in mid-April, 2012: “Norwegian businesses face an alarming demand for engineers and information technology workers. Norway is currently short of 16,000 engineers more than twice as many as last year.” The IRC EMEA region has a wide geographic reach, with alliance member firms in Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom. In India, the engineer shortage is affecting many of the country’s growth sectors. According to a RICS South Asia report (Real Estate and Construction Professionals in India by 2020), released in November 2011, these sectors include: “real estate, construction and infrastructure industry, which is set for big investments over the next five years, [and] faces a huge shortage of engineering, architectural and managerial talent.” The report estimates a demand-supply gap of 82-86% in the core professions group, which includes civil engineers: “India would need nearly four million civil engineers, 396,000 architects and 119,000 planners, on average, over the next decade to deliver forecast real estate space and planned infrastructure. The average supply available is forecast to be 642,000 civil engineers, 65,000 architects and 18,000 planners.” Brazil’s sugar and ethanol sector needs multi skilled engineers, such as a chemical engineer with environmental or agricultural experience.

Follow the Money Predictably, the engineer shortage is driving up salaries. In Australia, The Australian News reports that “competition for engineering professionals is escalating within the resources sector, as mining, oil and gas, and energy companies vie with each other, and with contractors and consultants to the sector, for scarce engineering skills. There is strong demand for engineers of virtually all disciplines … which is inflating salaries. And the March 2012 Engineers Australia Salary and Benefits Survey reports a third of engineering posts unfilled, delays in 28% of major projects, and professional engineers’ average base salaries (across both public and private sectors) increasing nine percent in the past twelve months. A recent study by Brazil’s Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) suggests that engineer demand, and lack of certain expertise, will drive up salaries (as reported by Universia Knowledge Wharton). The study reports that between 2004 and 2009, the pay of biotech engineers rose 24.4% while demand rose 35.5%; geologists’ and geophysicists’ salaries rose 11%. It adds that an average economic growth of 2.5%, would see a 13% rise in demand for engineers. Of the 27 engineering disciplines represented in a August 2011 ASME (founded as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) survey, compensation varied from $130,000 in fire protection, and $124,000 in minerals and metals, to an average of $79,227 and $85,000 in agricultural, architectural, geotechnical, structural, HVAC and refrigeration, and civil fields. The median income of a mechanical engineer in 2010 was reported as $93,600. The Future? A One Petro report (published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers [successor to Petroleum Society of Canada]) asked – in 1965 – ‘The Shortage of Engineers - Are We Working on the Solution or Are We Part of the Problem?’ And, more than half a century ago, an article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May 1957 estimated that “by 1965, America will need 630,000 engineers and will have only 530,000.” In the long term, education would seem to be a solution: Canada’s University of Northern B.C. announced in January 2012 that the University’s Board and Senate approved a new major in Civil and Mechanical Engineering, once funding is provided; New conferences are being held to discuss the challenges – such as the IEEE Educon 2010, with its aim ‘to provide an interdisciplinary forum for academic, research and industrial collaboration on teaching methods, practical experiences and research towards the future of global Engineering Education; and The National Academies Press published a free online volume, based on a 2009 workshop held to explore how engineering curricula could be enhanced to better prepare future engineers. The workshop included individuals from industry, academia, government agencies, and professional societies. In the short term, the solution may still be unclear. What is certain is that engineer talent will be a key factor in economic growth – and finding, selecting, hiring and retaining those engineers will need globally aware, proactive search practices.

New challenges

We’ll Be Seeing You… video interviewing for executive-level positions

The Aberdeen Group’s 2011 talent acquisition survey found that 42% of companies used video in 2010 as part of the hiring process for senior executives, management and entrylevel job functions. (Aberdeen conducts primary research studies from a pool of more than 500,000 panel participants.) This article provides a brief overview of current video-interviewing options. Background Video interviewing is increasingly a topic of discussions on several HR/Search related LinkedIn groups. On LinkedIn HR Global, for example, respondents commented on saving time, and money, on long-distance, sometimes global initial interviews; on finding video a great tool for shortening the initial candidate list; and on video interviewing being the future in selection processes for multinational companies. And, a session on ‘Strategies for How and When to Use Video Interviewing’ was held at the recent SHRM 2012 Talent Management Conference & Exposition, in Maryland, USA. Scheduled topics included integrating digital interviewing in a hiring strategy; creating structured interviews; mobile offerings; and concerns around compliance, reliability and budget.


Of course, there are challenges in using this technology. These include deciding on the type of video to use (live, asynchronous, panel), on using a generic system such as Skype or a custom video provider (although increasingly sophisticated in-house technical adoptions mean free basic services such as Skype are increasingly used for business purposes), and on determining best practices.


  • Live interviews (such as on Skype), are generally used for the final interview before personal meetings, or for specialized positions when the hiring manager needs to find out more about the candidate.
  • Asynchronous video, on the other hand, allows a pre-recorded set of standard questions to be sent a pool of candidates; in turn, their responses are recorded.
  • Panel interviewing is Skype on a communal level – basically, panel interviewing means the search/hiring team (often the decision makers) can interview the candidates in real-time, similar to a conference call, with video and live interaction. It can be a time and cost-saver for cross-border or globally separate teams, cutting travel costs and providing up-todate collaborative communication.

Best Practice

Video interviewing is not a new idea: three years ago, in Talent Management Thought Practices, Dr John Sullivan considered it a Best Practice, and presented a business case for the ‘Interview from Anywhere’ approach. However, if interviewing by video can increase effectiveness, while reducing costs, and leading to an improve hire, then companies need to formulate a basic strategy.

Topics to consider include:

Maintaining the corporate professional standard
  • Checking technical specifications to ensure the technology works
  • Location (such as a conference room rather than an untidy, possibly cluttered (busy) office – and check to see what’s on the wall behind you
  • Time zones
  • Skype names
  • Recording - and legal aspect
  • Interview Questions
Both consultant and potential employee need to be as confident in virtual online interviews as with in-person meetings.

Still about People

Video interviewing has challenges. However, it is a useful technical tool in the executive search tool kit. And, of course, as with all technical tools, it is the people that take main stage: figure out how to work with the people part and the rest is simple.

Case Study: Beware exploding bridges – your resignation is part of your brand

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, MD of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, IRC South Africa, shares her ideas on resigning with élan.

A more spectacular resignation is hard to imagine. Last week [March 2012], South African-born Greg Smith walked away from his workplace of more than a decade, Goldman Sachs, in a manner that had global company leaders blanching over their croissants and newspapers, and the investment bank losing $2 billion in market value. It is the kind of middle finger-departure about which leagues of employees fantasize: Hand in your resignation letter and make your idiot boss pay for your suffering under his leadership. But such acts of professional revenge are most unwise and are likely to do as much damage to your personal brand as it may to the pride or reputation of your boss, says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, Managing Director of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, the South African partner of IRC Global Executive Search Partners. “Whether Smith was justified in his criticism of his former employer or not is not at issue. Very often criticism is valid. However, seen from a personal-professional context, such actions could have long-lasting consequences for an individual’s career. Although his courage for standing up to ‘the man’ may have been widely applauded, there are very few employers who will be standing with open arms to welcome him into their employ,” she says. Goodman-Bhyat says that the type of emotiveness and “instinct”-based behaviour that came across in Smith’s resignation letter are further factors that would make companies hesitate to take on an individual. “Big or small, professional-space companies are very reluctant to appoint employees who exhibit signs of being prone to indiscretion and emotional reactions,” she says. Goodman-Bhyat says that, although Smith’s resignation was on the far end of the scale, it served as a reminder to employees to resign in a way that retains dignity and professionalism and doesn’t burn bridges. “At the point of resignation, there really is no point in letting the boss feel the force of your resentment. Doing so will serve no purpose other than exacting revenge – if that - and can’t possibly add to your future career and prospects. It can, however, come back to bite you. “The way in which you want to leave an organisation is part of the long-lasting impression you leave not only with your direct boss, but also everyone who worked and engaged with you. “Keep it to yourself and keep moving. You are leaving. Opening a can of worms is unnecessary,” says Goodman-Bhyat. On the other hand, when it comes to issues of ethical breaches and criminality, these should certainly be exposed, but with extreme caution. Disclosure of such matters via ‘whistle-blowing’ should be dealt with very carefully, preferably after getting sound legal advice. "Even during the exit interview, if asked directly, it is wise to find a balance between discretion and honesty. Remember that the exit interview is not a therapy session where you can offload indiscriminately. Rather, use it as an opportunity to point out challenges and problems in the workplace, but continue to use your best diplomatic skills.”