26/09/202319 Minutes

Talent Acquisition Strategy: Why it Matters and How to Succeed

The webinar prompted fascinating discussion and insight into how some of the world’s leading space & satellite industry companies, SES, Spire, Intelsat and Astroscale, attract talent to their organisations.

Companies are exploring innovative recruitment strategies, emphasising industry reputation, exciting projects, and opportunities for professional growth and development to attract and retain top talent in the competitive satellite and space technology field. They offer diverse employee levels and expectations by implementing transparent salary structures and parity in pay and flexible working benefits. Do you know which organisation has introduced a 9-day fortnight to enhance the work-life balance, making the company an attractive workplace?

Continuous skill growth through innovative Learning and Development initiatives encompasses diverse methods, including DIY videos and instructor-led learning, catering to various learning styles and preferences among employees. One of the tools companies use to overcome the lack of industry knowledge of newcomers to the industry, is SBQ – a set of online courses and certification testing in space and satellite fundamentals. If you haven’t heard about it already, find out more about it at spacebq.org.

Q & A continued….

Thank you to our audience for taking an active part by asking many questions. We ran out of time to respond to the questions below but our panellists were kind enough to answer after the event ended…

1. As an agency, we have been working in the Engineering space for over 30 years and have a huge pool of candidates with transferable skills and a real interest in the Space sector. We have found it difficult to break into Space, however, the clients we are working with have already seen the benefits of our services and candidate pool. Do you have any advice on how we can work with companies like yours and prove ourselves as an ethical and efficient provider of talent?

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): At Astroscale, we work closely with our preferred suppliers (not all are only specialising in the space industry), as well as balancing direct recruitment and other channels to fill our vacancies, expand our talent pools and to stay abreast of the ever-evolving market. We get quite inundated with contact from agencies and it’s difficult to give everyone an opportunity. We particularly consider what makes the agency and partnership unique and how the potential partner can represent Astroscale as a brand ambassador. We also tend to focus each of our partners on specific areas of our business rather than have a ‘one size fits all approach’.


2. Question for Kayte – you mentioned early on that culture is very important for Astroscale. How do you focus on culture fit during the recruitment process given that it is a difficult thing to qualify when only meeting individuals for brief periods of time before they join the business?

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): That is a good question, and it’s difficult to always get it right. Respecting and embracing diverse backgrounds, opinions and personalities, ensuring non-bias in the process is of course also key. Uncovering the candidate’s passion, work ethic, teamwork and personal values are all vital to undercover during recruitment phases. Some of these areas can be tested in written/other forms should reasonable adjustments need to be made for neuro-diverse candidates. In addition, this small window of opportunity during an interview allows you to discover the whole person, what extra something special they can they bring beyond the job ad requirements.
Historically at Astroscale, not all final interviews have been conducted face to face if the person was living in another country due to constraints from either side (time, logistics). Recently, we had a candidate who was fantastic technically, but we were not sure the fit was right for our culture, so we decided to invest in flying the candidate over for the final stage. We never compromise on culture, despite often having the urgent need to bring in technical skills quickly. Teams also play a key role in the interview process, with colleagues interviewing their manager and peers participating in group interviews. Candidates are exposed to different people and perspectives to also judge if it’s the right company for them. Also having a ’culture gatekeeper’ during the recruitment process itself is key, this does not always need to be HR but someone that participates throughout the process that is a true champion and ambassador that emulates the company values.
Beyond this, it always comes back to ‘Purpose’ that drives our brand; a safe and sustainable space for future generations. Our future space sweepers need to demonstrate they have a meaningful connection to our mission and that starts with us helping them understand how their role will connect to the bigger picture and how they perceive they can bring their talents and whole selves to that endeavour.


3. Where do the panel feel there will be the biggest challenges in the near future in hiring for their respective businesses? Is it lack of talent in the market or the readiness of talented individuals to considering a career move?

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): Both. There is a lack of experience and skills (particularly technical skills), well documented by the recent Space Skill Survey published. It’s also a challenge to reach a wider audience to help people with transferrable skills understand that space is a potential industry for them that may have disregarded it, and work is ongoing in this area.

Jon Christensen (Spire): For us, it is probably a little of both. We tend to hire more senior-level people, which results in a need to find people that have some specific skills.


4. The discussion is all about now, quite a short-term view. To really solve the problem our industry must engage with students well before they leave school! And bear in mind that schools are often 60+% female! All of us in our industry need to engage with these young people, encouraging them to take up space or aerospace as a career and concentrate their early studies on the right subjects, making that career a real possibility. Therefore, are the companies represented on the panel today making that effort to go back to school and encourage students to take up space as a career?

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): Indeed, this was not covered too much in the panel discussion, but this work is just, if not even more, vital to inspire the next generation to explore STEM careers and furthering the awareness that space is accessible to all. At Astroscale, we have several initiatives running in parallel and I believe it’s an accumulation of approaches that will make a difference across the industry. A few examples from us: we have deployed different members of our teams to universities and schools to talk about space and space sustainability to create awareness, supporting activities and competitions with students to make them more familiar about space as a career. Furthermore we have allocated several senior professionals in Astroscale to mentor final year degree students to enter and grow in the industry, in support of the ‘Prospero’ initiative. We have also provided internships and work experience for disadvantaged young adults coming from schools in the Oxfordshire area. Collectively as an industry we can continue to make a different to inspire the next generation.

Jon Christensen (Spire): We have participated in initiatives to engage with younger talent, both at the secondary school and university level. For example, earlier this year, we sponsored a STEM hackathon for grade school students. We hosted a Spire challenge where students had the opportunity to leverage our weather and maritime data APIs to develop apps to solve problems. We hosted the winners at our office so they could learn more about working in the space industry.


5. What are your thoughts on the 1-2 years of experience that almost every company is looking for? For graduates, seeking to enter the industry for the first time, can they prove competency in other ways?

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): At Astroscale, we have recently launched a graduate program that we are hoping to expand even further on in future. We have found this an ideal way to onboard graduates in a structured way. A rotational program supports their learning over a period of time and also helps them to ascertain what they want to venture into longer term. Entering the world of work together as a group of individuals creates also creates a special sense of community and support. Work with your teams and invest time to start small and think big.

Jon Christensen (Spire): At Spire, we seek out employees who bring foundational skills to a role – both soft and hard skills – and we support hiring people with non-traditional backgrounds. For example, we have one employee who joined the company as an apprentice when she was just 16. Rather than attending university, she obtained a Higher National Certificate in Electric Engineering through her apprenticeship at Spire. More than five years later, she has continued to grow in her career at Spire and take on new roles.


6. Recruitment is very important, but do you have any tips for how to better retain staff?

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): There are many levers to support retention of employees (as we all know from good people management practices, competitive total compensation and benefits offering, learning and development opportunities and clear progression paths). However, in my opinion getting the culture right and protecting it is paramount. In brief, ensure your company’s purpose and mission is on point. Communicate it well, explaining the ‘why’. Ensure employees feel connected to the wider organisation, not just their manager. Be intentional about connecting employees regularly (check-ins, team meetings, social interaction opportunities). Celebrate wins and little victories along the way. Address behaviour deviance and support growth. Repeat and course correct.

Sarah Bell (SES): Retaining staff is crucial in today’s competitive job market, and focusing on learning and development can be a powerful strategy. The concepts of modern workplace learning and catering to the needs of the modern learner are instrumental in this regard. Here are some tips to enhance staff retention:

  • Personalized Learning Plans: Encourage the development of personalized learning plans for each employee. Recognize that modern learners have diverse needs and learning preferences. Tailor training and development opportunities to suit their individual career goals and learning styles. This means probing more into requests for learning and asking WHY.
  • Continuous Learning Culture: Foster a culture of continuous learning within your organization. Promote the idea that learning doesn’t stop after onboarding or initial training; it’s an ongoing process. Support employees in their pursuit of new skills and knowledge.
  • Microlearning: Implement microlearning modules to provide bite-sized, easily digestible pieces of information. Modern learners often prefer shorter, more focused learning experiences. This approach helps employees learn without feeling overwhelmed. Here is a great example of how the Learning and Development team at SES has started implementing microlearning and providing on-demand, downloadable content for Customers, Partners, and Field Engineers (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXxm68KSt3Zc2KoJuzfOMx8F0D4cbK9kg&si=KyCW2zNa-In9OOST)
  • E-Learning and Digital Resources: Invest in e-Learning platforms and digital resources. Modern learners appreciate the convenience of accessing learning materials on their devices, allowing them to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule.
  • Skills Development Pathways: Create clear career development pathways that are tied to skill acquisition. Show employees how their learning and development efforts will translate into career growth within the organization. This not only motivates them but also reinforces the company’s commitment to the learner.
  • Learning Communities: Encourage the formation of learning communities or learning ambassadors within your organization. These could be in the form of peer groups, forums, or social learning platforms where employees can share knowledge and experiences.

By focusing on these aspects of learning and development, you not only improve retention rates, but create a dynamic and engaged workforce. When employees see that their professional growth and development are supported and aligned with the changing needs of the modern workplace, they feel a sense of support and genuinely valued within the organization.

Jon Christensen (Spire): We covered some ideas in our discussion yesterday, such as giving people the opportunity to grow in their career within the company, ensuring people understand how their role is making a difference in the world to make work meaningful, and creating a sense of belonging in the workplace.


7. What do panellists think about companies supporting their employees to upgrade their skills in terms of allowing them to participate in different space tech training courses? In this digital age, continuous upgrade of skills is essential not only for employees but for the companies.

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): Definitely, if it supports continuous professional development for the individual and the company and/or personal growth goals. As an industry it would be fantastic to see more progress on the development of a library of on-demand diverse resources that are accessible to spark interest in the industry as well as growth of particularly those entering the industry. As Laurie mentioned yesterday, there are a number of space industry related fundamental and specialist short courses available, for example The Courses – Space Business Qualified (spacebq.org).

Jon Christensen (Spire): This is something we encourage to help our employees grow in their careers and skill sets. We enable external learning through our education reimbursement program.


8. So much focus in recent years has been put on the shift to work from home. What are your companies doing to incentives people in more technical roles that require on site work to stay in those roles and not try to shift to a desk job? At the end of the day the technical maintenance and operations roles are vital to our industry but those roles seem to be over looked.

Kayte Gittens (Astroscale): There are certain roles that by default need to be ‘physically’ on site here at Astroscale due to the nature of work or responsibilities. For example: often AIT (Assembly, Integration, Testing) engineering working on the hardware in the clean room, Facilities Management etc which have a clear location dependency and is a clear requirement for the position. However, this does not stop the possibility to offer other means of flexible working (work around core hours), part-time/job share, compressed hours where feasible etc.