Stories to recruit specialists

BAE recruitment wanted more applicants for specialist engineer roles at all levels. These specialist engineers are in demand and can be choosy about their employer, but it turns out one of the most persuasive ingredients in the mix can be hearing good things from the specialists already working within a business. So here was the brief; extract four good stories about being a senior specialist engineer from four engineers in one hour.

These engineers were super-bright and had been part of some incredible projects but they certainly didn’t like to talk about their ‘achievement moments’ – it became clear that for an engineer there is always room for improvement. There was some skepticism in the room at the outset. We started by sharing some simple short stories about ourselves and the engineers being excellent at logic and patterns, soon saw a shape evolving that all our stories were following.

We talked about elements a story must have, including jeopardy, and a world the storyteller helps us imagine; “What does it feel like, look like taste like?” I said. This triggered a wonderful story from a systems engineer about a night in a country pub eating a lamb korma and sharing a beer with two pilot colleagues. This engineer was seconded to the MoD and two weeks later he received a request from those same pilots, now sitting in their Typhoons thousands of miles away waiting to fly into enemy territory. They needed a series of checks and fixes to sent to them by our man before they could take off. He achieved the clearances in record time which meant the pilots were able to complete their mission quickly and safely. He said, “It brought home to me, what we do matters”. From a cosy Lamb Korma to a dusty desert runway – this captured the scope of experience at BAE beautifully.

The session brought out more stories, not all action and drama moments, some touchingly personal and some about the every day experience of working at BAE. I then spent one hour with a very senior specialist engineer with 600 engineers working to her. We went through the same process of exploring what made a good story. “I’ve been here so long,” she said, “I’ve got loads of stories to tell. I just don’t know what you want”. We talked about wanting to attract more women into engineering and she dropped in, “being a mother of triplets”. “Tell me about finding out you were expecting triplets”, I said. “Well, I was running a 3 billion pound internal bid”, she started, and then told me an extraordinary story of despair and then delight as BAE provided ways of ensuring she could be both mother and engineer. This lady has been with the company for 40 years and never told this story. It was a total privilege to hear it.

My day with the engineers was one I will never forget. Recruitment were delighted to find the untapped potential for wonderful stories from the engineers and I was reminded how every employee however technical or ‘expert’ can find their story with a little help.

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