Reframing the Great Resignation

At nearly every aerospace industry meeting we’ve attended this year, everybody is talking about losing great talent. Current resignation levels are at an all-time high in our community. The battle for talent is one of the most crucial challenges we’re facing today. As leaders of the AIAA Corporate Membership Strategic Advisory Committee (CMSAC), we’re asking ourselves what can we do about it, how can we reframe this situation: Continue complaining and suboptimizing our organizations’ workforce? Or double down on attracting and keeping great employees?

Our answer: Be proactive and double down. That’s what we agreed as a group. Now we want to enlist support across the AIAA membership to deliver it. It’s a huge task, and we are part of an industry that takes on the biggest challenges in the universe. That attitude is part of our DNA, and actually part of the answer. We must do a better job selling the unique features of the aerospace industry to candidates:

• A culture of support
• A community of belonging
• Missions that matter to society

To do this well, AIAA must serve as the thought leader on this subject and also the catalyst for action. Together, AIAA members can lead our community through this tough time, tackling the challenge and building a resilient workforce.

The workforce challenge we face as a community is well documented. We have the data. AIAA published findings on workforce development challenges in the “2021 AIAA State of the Industry Report.” AIAA also partnered with Aerospace Industries Association and Ernst & Young LLP to publish additional findings in the “2021 Aerospace and Defense Workforce Study: Realizing the Workforce of Tomorrow.” The AIAA CMSAC has been examining the issue, working with Mc- Kinsey & Company, and analyzing additional data and findings (see box). McKinsey also will be releasing results soon from a 2022 workforce study they just finished. Take a look yourself to better understand the reasons talented employees are leaving: pandemic uncertainty, remote/onsite/hybrid work arrangements, not feeling valued or having a sense of belonging, and suffering from overwork due to all of the above. You’ll also see why great candidates aren’t joining the aerospace industry: lack of a strong STEM skills match, not seeing much diversity in leaders or teams, remote/onsite/hybrid work arrangements, and not perceiving an exciting career path.

The aerospace community is a great place to work! We’re all in. Many of us would recommend a career in aerospace to a young person right now. In fact, respondents to the “2021 AIAA State of the Industry Report” gave the aerospace industry a net promoter score (NPS) of 29. As the world’s leading metric on loyalty, an NPS score of 29 demonstrates solid confidence and commitment to the aerospace industry by today’s aerospace workforce. And AIAA members scored the industry another point higher.

We’ve taken this challenge to the AIAA Board of Trustees for their support. The CMSAC advises the Board directly on issues impacting the overall aerospace industry, so we briefed them during their June meeting on our current priorities. They agreed.

Even with a sharp focus over this year, we know it must be a sustained, multi-year initiative to make the long-term changes that are needed. We proposed several tactics to get the work started — including the topic for discussion at AIAA forums, convening small groups to tackle education issues, and doubling down on sharing the impact our community makes to society. A key element to success will be mobilizing many AIAA members to create change even faster.

Consider yourself invited. Join us in our effort by taking a step immediately. Log in to the AIAA Engage platform and let us know two things: your current hiring challenges and the best ideas and programs that are currently strengthening your workforce retention. By sharing both our challenges and our best practices, we can gain some traction early.

As AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher likes to remind us, today’s students will make up the teams that will become the most technically proficient, professionally equipped, and culturally diverse workforce on the planet. These young leaders and team members will be the ones who can get us to Mars and beyond and believe the aerospace industry is the best place to work — both on and off the planet.

David Gallagher
Deputy Chair, AIAA Corporate Membership Strategic Advisory Committee, and Associate Director, Strategic Integration, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Michael Gazarik, Ph.D.
Chair, AIAA Corporate Membership Strategic Advisory Committee, and Vice President of Engineering, Ball Aerospace

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Reframing the Great Resignation