Infrastructure Talent Themes and Challenges for 2022

By Tim Shaw

What are the key themes and challenges facing infrastructure talent acquisition in 2022?

This is the exact question I addressed in my recent keynote presentation at FIDICs Global Infrastructure Conference. As we look ahead into 2022, there will be four major areas that need to be focused on to attract and retain the best talent:

  • Diversity
  • Hybrid Culture
  • Digital
  • Purpose

DIVERSITY – a drum that we need to continue to beat. Infrastructure is one of the world’s most vital industries, fuelling the prosperity of every nation. It is a major contributor to GDP, yet when it comes to gender balance it is beset by challenges like no other.

Beyond the clear ethical imperatives, evidence from numerous studies suggests that businesses with greater diversity in their workforce outperform less diverse peers both on financial metrics and when it comes to innovation. According to research by McKinsey, company profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher when women are well represented at the top.

For an in-depth review on the importance of increasing gender diversity in the Construction and Engineering sector, see Savannah Group’s recently published report – Breaking Ground. With increased flexibility in our working patterns, never has there been a greater opportunity for the sector to improve gender and broader diversity. It must grasp this opportunity with both hands.

Recognised by the Hampton-Alexander Review for “excelling in their work to further diversity and inclusion in the recruitment of senior leaders at Board, Executive and direct report level”, at Savannah Group we pride ourselves on our diverse appointments (42% over the past 2 years). If you want to enhance the diversity of your senior management teams, we can help.

HYBRID CULTURE – What is it? What does ‘new normal’ mean? Doesn’t it mean different things for different people and organisations, not just across varying geographies, but even within the same company!? Are companies really prepared to change and if so, how?

According to The Microsoft Index, 46% of workers globally are considering leaving their current employers to gain greater flexibility – ‘The Great Resignation’ – which gives some indication of the magnitude of this issue.

McKinsey released an interesting report recently, where they found that three-quarters of c-suite executives are expecting employees to be back in the office three or more days per week. On the other side of the table, they also surveyed 5,000 employees, where more than 50% want at least three days of remote work.

There are a lot of questions to ask and areas to address before anyone really knows what the ‘new normal’ means. This will continue to evolve throughout 2022.

DIGITAL – 2020 will be remembered as the year the world was forced to make a radical and life-altering pivot. Change was forced upon organisations, and they had to adapt quickly. One of the major themes that was accelerated was the adoption and use of digital technology. Whether it’s how we work, where we work, how we spend our leisure time, digital technology is now even more embedded in every area of our lives.

The barriers to change have been taken down and acceptance of change has never been greater. Despite this, Boards of companies have seemed slow to adapt and as a result, digital and technology leaders, still woefully underrepresented on them. This must change if businesses are to survive and thrive in a COVID-disrupted world. You can read more on this topic here: Building Digital Boards.

In 2019 MIT Sloan Business School published a report that concluded organisations with three or more digitally savvy execs/NEDs had, on average, 17% higher profit margins and 34% higher market cap growth.

Savannah has one of the most respected Digital & Technology practices internationally, with over 200 senior appointments in the past 5 years and 81% repeat business across the Fortune 500, FTSE350, public and private equity markets.

PURPOSE/ ESG – Those organisations that both set and deliver upon their purpose and ESG agenda will be able to attract the best talent. Job seeking executives are thinking very differently about who they want to work for versus two years ago. Increasingly, they want to work for companies that do good. Infrastructure is an incredibly attractive proposition. However, it is only attractive if companies walk the talk.

Everyone has been talking about their environmental, social and governance agenda for years. Websites and investor reports are all singing all dancing in terms of what is being done to improve ESG. Boards and executive teams have gone public with big sustainability promises. However, these statements are made with very little detail. Particularly around how the organisation intends to reach these goals. What exactly is the approach? Is there a transformation plan in place and who is going to deliver it?

The two most important leadership factors when undertaking change programmes is the senior leadership team and organisational culture. Over 70% of transformations fail. Not because the programme is wrong, but because the people are. With most companies undertaking some form of ESG transformation, the team leading it had better be right, otherwise, the chances are it will fail.

FINAL WORD

There has never been a greater opportunity to attract diverse senior talent into the industry. However, this will take a concerted effort. The ‘War for Talent’ is significant at all levels and companies will need to market themselves expertly, not only to beat the direct and obvious competition but also new entrants into the world of infrastructure. There are some significant challenges the world at large and particularly the infrastructure sector is facing in 2022. As we emerge from a tumultuous two years, those companies that can lead with diversity, strengthen their understanding of hybrid culture, digital practises and convey their purpose, will be best positioned for future success.

How is your organisation addressing these challenges?

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of the themes and challenges outlined above or if we can help with any of your senior talent needs.

 

Partner, Industrial Practice

Tim is a Partner in the Board and Industrial practice at Savannah, where he focuses on Infrastructure, Construction & Services. His deep expertise across the built environment stems from over 20 years in organisational and leadership development, executive recruitment, benchmarking and assessment. This has led to over 300 successful appointments with FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 organisations, as well as family businesses, private equity firms, infrastructure, and pension funds.

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