Why Career Development is the Key to Retaining Tech Talent for Mobility Companies

According to a recent McKinsey report, lack of career development is the single biggest reason that tech workers are planning to leave the mobility sector. In this blog, we ask why and explain what you can do about it.

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Why is it so hard to hire and retain tech talent in the mobility sector? It’s easy to think you’ve done the hard part. You recognized that the future of your business was in AI and machine learning. You identified the teams that needed those skills, and you hired well-qualified people to fill those roles.

But you still have vacancies and the people you hired keep leaving.

Why? The short answer is career development. According to a recent McKinsey report, lack of career development is the single biggest reason that tech workers are planning to leave the mobility sector.

In this blog, we ask why and explain what you can do about it.

Why is tech talent so in demand in the mobility industry?

First, let’s ask why tech talent is so high in demand in the mobility industry.

The future of mobility is going to require exponential growth in tech capability. Tech talent is essential in modern vehicles for infotainment systems, advanced driver-assistance, and cybersecurity.

Then there’s autonomous transport. Whether it’s autonomous cars, trains or ride sharing services, automation is going to require the intensive deployment of AI and machine learning.

That’s not to mention the role of 5G, 6G and artificial intelligence in the design and manufacturing process. Key software roles in the mobility sector range from ADAS Engineers, C++ Developers, and Embedded Systems Engineers to Cybersecurity Analysts, AI Engineers, and beyond.

The difficult part is that the mobility sector isn’t the only industry competing. In 2022, the US tech sector added more jobs than in any single year since 2000: nearly 260,000 altogether. Finance, Healthcare, Defense, Energy, and a host of other industries are all competing for the same software talent as well.

Why is career development so important for mobility sector tech talent?

That brings us back to hiring and keeping your tech workers. You hire someone for a role in AI or machine learning, and they have a big impact, but then they leave.

What’s going on? If you’re anything like a lot of incumbent mobility firms, all your career development and leadership pathways are built for automotive engineers, not software specialists. In short, that means that when your tech employees start looking at their next career move, it isn’t with you.

Source: McKinsey & Co: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/attracting-and-retaining-tech-talent-to-sustain-mobilitys-growth

The pure software companies are a lot better at this. They set out a clear pathway for advancement inside the company, usually with simple labels to mark your progress (Level 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.). Not every great software engineer is necessarily a great manager, but that’s why they lay out pathways for both leaders and specialists.

In contrast, for software workers in the mobility sector, McKinsey has found that a lack of career development is the single most important factor making tech employees think about leaving. It is also the second most cited reason for tech employees who are actively planning to leave their jobs but have not yet done so.

What can you do to improve career development for your tech talent?

How do you attract and retain tech talent? McKinsey recommends that you create an effective employee value proposition (EVP) with career progression at the heart of an ecosystem teeming with advancement opportunities.

In practice? That means mobility firms need to create clear development paths, with work that helps employees navigate them. Jobs need to offer freedom, autonomy, and opportunities to innovate.

For example, don’t bring in software experts and leave them to work only on software. Allow them to work on projects around the business. Let them lead others and get involved in strategic decisions. Treat them just like you would any other growth-minded team member.

Think about job rotations. Software experts who are keen to develop their sales or marketing skills should have a chance to work with those teams. Leverage external partnerships as well and think creatively about how you can offer meaningful secondments.

Management won’t be for everybody and that’s why it’s important to have more senior roles for tech experts that don’t revolve around managing others. Research, analysis, and strategic planning are all areas for potential advancement.

That doesn’t just benefit the employee either. If you want technology to be your new driving force, you need to value software engineering experts as much as you do mechanical or electrical engineering experts.

Think too about coaching. The more your software specialists can learn from senior leaders and experts, the more they’ll understand the wider context, see the pathways that appeal to them, and contribute to the business. Feedback and effective performance management will empower your tech workers and make them feel more like they belong.

What are the advantages of being an incumbent mobility firm?

The good news for incumbent mobility firms is that they have a lot of advantages over their upstart counterparts in the tech sector.

At a time when tech firms are shedding an unprecedented number of employees, incumbent businesses can point to their relative stability compared to the start-ups that software workers are used to.

Moreover, where start-ups offer a volatile mix of bonuses and far-off payouts, incumbents can offer virtual stock options for the gamblers or a fixed salary for the risk averse. They have established and often more generous pension schemes, not to mention a proven history of success.

This plays into skills development as well. Established firms are more likely to have a well-established learning and development function, with access to e-learning and mentoring schemes. Where a 30-year-old might be a veteran in a start-up, the wise words of an experienced leader in the mobility sector offers something different.

As McKinsey put it, the combination of “stability, deep pockets, and reputation” can have a big impact.

That’s not without a word of warning. Gallup found that, while 67% of digital workers in the UK want more training, 93% of those who showed an interest felt there were too many obstacles. Similarly, PwC found that only 50% of workers are happy with the resources available to help them learn new tech skills.

It’s not enough to have “stability, deep pockets, and reputation”. You need to implement it correctly as well.  

At Hashlist, the tech career journey is something that we go through in detail with all our clients to help them build pathways that attract and retain talent. If you’re ready to start a tech talent journey that really works, get in touch today.