Re-Engineering Engineering

Case Study


Talent Pipelining to Empower Gender Diversity & Succession Planning

Our FTSE 250 engineering client, with a total workforce of 11,000+ employees, was facing a pressing issue with both succession planning and gender diversity. Operating across multiple European sites, they were determined to find a solution to future-proof the business. The client’s Operation Management community, in particular, held a higher-than-average attrition rate as employees were consistently being targeted by large competitors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

The organisation was finding it difficult to put the right succession plan in place and attempts to promote subordinates were sometimes proving unsuccessful due to lack of technical expertise and relevant leadership experience. This led to an increased utilisation of recruitment agencies which rapidly became an expensive exercise. As more vacancies began to present themselves, problems arose due to the combination of skills gaps and financial restrictions.

Ultimately, this posed a danger of weakening operational effectiveness. Our client also had a significant gender imbalance in their workforce (common in Engineering, of course) with only 8% of female talent in leadership positions – something they were eager to address. It became clear to the company’s executives that intervention was needed, and, in June 2018, 6 Group met with the client’s HR Director to discuss a proactive solution.

What we proposed

We recommended the creation of a succession plan to resolve the recurring skills shortage. This would involve 6 Group identifying and engaging a large cohort of potential candidates across the sector who would have the right technical capabilities and who would be interested in joining the business when a vacancy arose.

It was agreed that a confidential talent pipelining project would be the best way forward. Also, despite there being a lack of female Engineering talent across the sector, we agreed with the client that doing the utmost to build a talent pipeline underpinned by gender diversity would be a priority throughout the project. What gave us confidence in achieving this was the utilisation of multiple sourcing channels by our Research & Intelligence division and the longstanding, global market awareness in Engineering we have developed for over a decade.

The overarching aim of the project was to provide the client’s HR with a live blueprint of Engineering talent across both the sector and desired European geographies. The output would be an extensive market intelligence report and talent pipeline detailing the availability of Operations Leaders; a discipline that the client wanted to future-proof with exceptional talent for years to come. Ultimately, this project would benefit the client through;

  • a significant reduction in external recruitment costs
  • a dramatic increase of time to hire
  • a true reflection of the Engineering talent market (including increased visibility of female Operations Leaders across Europe)
  • extensive candidate intelligence including experience, qualifications, location, willingness to relocate and readiness to move from current employer to the client’s organisation
  • a live intelligence report comprising employer brand awareness/sentiment, competitor organisational structure analyses, salary surveys and more

Our Approach

The first step was for 6 Group to map out desired and relevant target companies through a competitive intelligence analysis to identify Operations Leaders across Europe. Potential candidates deemed suitable were contacted by our Research & Intelligence division to gather further details and to ascertain whether they would be open to the prospect of working for the client’s business.

The engagement of potential candidates was targeted around bespoke manufacturing experience in, but not exclusively, Equipment Manufacturing, Automotive, Aerospace, Heavy Industries, Chemicals, Medical Devices, Energy and Industrial Automation sectors. To empower gender diversity at leadership level, 6 Group networked with and targeted women with relevant experience in the sector.

This included approaching female talent with supply chain and alternative technical backgrounds who could potentially transition into a Senior Operational role. Following the two-month research and engagement phase, 6 Group delivered an extensive market intelligence and talent pipelining report for Europe.

The Challenges


A few challenges were encountered when conducting this project:

Working anonymously: Some candidates were not interested in participating in an unbranded/anonymous exercise and would only consider discussing further if the client’s name could be divulged. To counter this, 6 Group introduced a Non-Disclosure Agreement mid-way through the project as a measure to increase the candidate’s willingness to engage whilst maintaining client confidentiality.

Online presence: In the Engineering sector, not everyone has an online presence. For this reason, establishing contact with some individuals at target organisations was difficult which created some delays. 6 Group utilised alternative routes to identify and contact these candidates, such as obtaining information and contact through referrals, attending trade fairs and events or calling through company switchboards.

Difficulty in contacting: As most of the targeted candidates were plant-based or in operational roles across multiple plants, most individuals responded only after several approaches or with a notable delay. 6 Group attempted various contact strategies, including calling at different times of the day and making contact through alternative online methods.

Lack of female talent: Identifying females with the required level of skills and experience was difficult. To overcome this, 6 Group approached as many potential female candidates as possible in relevant and related areas, using networking groups and referrals which increase the likelihood of engaging with top female talent.

The Outcome

From 549 potential candidates identified and contacted by 6 Group, only 48 were uninterested/unsuitable. We filtered the total cohort down to a final pipeline comprising 70 relevant and engaged individuals, 12 of whom were women (17% of the pipeline).

All potential candidates had expressed a willingness to work for the client’s organisation. As we initially set out to do, 6 Group included details for each candidate around location, experience, qualifications, willingness to relocate and a timeline of their availability over a 12-month period.

As there was an 8% female contingent in the client’s organisation, this project provided awareness of available female talent to help tackle the imbalance. Shortly after the project was concluded, a vacancy arose sooner than predicted in a manufacturing site in Europe. The client approached all candidates on the pipeline who were listed for this location and invited nine candidates for interview, five candidates progressed to the final stage and the client is currently deciding between its preferred two.  


6 Group is a global expert in building world-class talent pipelines across a multitude of sectors.

We always go beyond in all our client partnerships to deliver exceptional outcomes and truly empower your talent acquisition strategy. For a discussion about how we can support your talent pipelining or succession planning needs, get in touch using the contact form below.

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