Go green or go home has become the slogan of the moment. Firms are doing everything from finding ways to decrease their carbon footprints to increasing their use of renewable energy, and the automobile industry is no exception with its foray into electric vehicles (EVs) over the last decade and half. However, the acute challenge now facing auto makers looking to go green is how to find the people to scale their growth.
As we’ve seen, electric vehicles have made significant inroads with consumers. In Q2 of 2022, US sales of electric vehicles, or EVs, had reportedly grown to 5.6% of the overall auto market - double what it was during the same period in 2021. The UK experienced a similar surge in EV sales’ share of the market, which rose from 11.6% in 2021 to 16.6% in 2022.
This rapid increase in consumer appetite has forced many top executives at established car companies to urgently reconsider their business priorities and the people pipeline needed to address them. “Leaders really need to think about their talent acquisition strategy - yesterday,” says Paul Budd, Vice President, Technology Talent Solutions, Korn Ferry.
However, with over 10 million job openings in the US alone creating a tight talent market, auto firms are having to think creatively about how to attract the right workforce - from top to bottom - in order to effectively accelerate their EV ambitions. Here are five things to consider when looking to attract top tech talent.
1 Craft an engaging culture
An automotive engineer might instantly be drawn to a long-established car company, but in the world of electric cars it’s all about software. “The real question EV firms need to be asking is, ‘if you’re a software engineer, why would you be interested in joining a car company versus one of the standard tech behemoths?’” says Budd. One answer, he says, centers around culture. Creating a new culture may feel like turning an ocean liner for legacy firms with deeply entrenched values, but their success depends on the ability to build the right messaging and convince talent that they are as cutting edge, if not more, as the Bay Area dotcoms who have overnight become their competitors in the race for talent.
A related challenge that legacy firms have to contend with is maintaining a culture of inclusivity as their workforce becomes progressively more split between manufacturing locations like Detroit and coastal tech hubs like San Francisco. By contrast, newer companies in the EV space, not tied to deep-rooted ideology and geography, have the benefit of being able to build an enticing company culture from day one.
One such firm, ECARX - which develops hardware and software solutions for EVs - does just that. With offices across the UK, China and Sweden, ECARX has created a space for top-tier technology development that’s alluring to talent precisely because it combines the appeal of a tech start-up with the stability of an established automotive company. “It’s really inspiring,” says Colleen Ryan, the company’s director of recruiting, “seeing how positively people are reacting to working with potentially paradigm-shifting technology outside of Silicon Valley, and how excited they are to play a founding role in building up a new team in the fantastic city of London.”
2 Accept that you're a tech company
Experts say leadership at traditional firms needs to radically and rapidly change their mindsets to accept that they’re no longer at the helm of car companies - they’re leading technology companies that make cars. That means creating a tech-friendly organizational framework that enables them to be nimble and react quickly to changing market forces. Because even if a firm manages to hire enough software engineers, those new hires will be checking the exits within six months if the company doesn’t live up to its hype of being an actual tech firm.
“A lack of structure and alignment results in high rates of turnover and a disengaged workforce,” says Marisa Smith, a principal at Korn Ferry’s global industrial and automotive practice. In response, some smart firms have been upskilling and reskilling their current employees away from heavy engineering skill sets toward software skills, giving workers who stick with the company a chance to develop their careers.