Defense recruiters today face two compelling challenges – recruiting cleared talent in an ultra-tight market, and retaining that same talent once it’s been hired. Companies like Lockheed Martin are rising to the challenge. Bill Meeboer, Senior Manager of Enterprise Talent Sourcing and Innovation at Lockheed Martin recently spoke with ClearanceJobs and offered insight into how employers can serve national security by finding and retaining the best talent.
Job Hopping (and Salaries) Are on the Rise
In years past, hopping from position to position after short tenures was considered a liability by recruiters. But with more open positions than people to fill them, recruiters are forced to reevaluate their stance on job hopping.
“It’s certainly not the factor it was,” says Meeboer. “We’re seeing a lot of different patterns in the workforce and what different generations are demanding from their employers. We’re actually seeing – both within our company and competitors – doing more to try to retain that talent using things like retention bonuses or aggressive compensation.”
This flexibility and willingness to incentivize employees is not just to compete against other contractors – but against non-traditional competitors, like Silicon Valley.
“We’ve done a variety of different things with our compensation,” Meeboer explains. “For one, we’ve implemented a new bonus structure across all experienced professional levels. All of our salaried employees are now part of a structured bonus plan tied to company and personal performance. We saw that need in the market.”
That’s not the only perk Lockheed offers candidates. “We actually match 10% on our retirement plan, 4% coming from a match on our 401k and 6% into our retirement plan – regardless of what an employee puts in.”
As Meeboer explains, “We are looking at that total compensation package to try to keep folks here for the long term.”
Using Data-Driven Recruiting to Help Employee Retention
How can employers best equip themselves to attract and retain talent? Meeboer says data-driven hiring is a key driver of Lockheed’s success and high retention rates – because great people mean growth.
“We really do live in a data-driven reality. In the last five years in my various recruiting roles, I’ve seen the rise and the prominence of being data-armed and data-aware as being really not just the new currency of the land – but a requirement for recruiters to be able to operate with data. Where we’re going in the not too distant future is not just looking at the hire, but looking at the sources of hire and starting to measure things like ‘quality of hire.’”
Things like where that employee came from and if they were referred by an employee – Lockheed Martin believes knowing these essential data points is key to making successful hires. And equipping recruiters with data helps them understand the market.
“Sometimes we have to look at the best pathway to bring in a new team member,” said Meeboer. “So, we do arm our recruiters with lots of data. They do have a lot of information about attrition rates, what our competitors are doing, and what the market is doing so they can really have those value-added conversations with candidates.”
Recruiting Cleared Talent across Generations
As Meeboer has seen, the job hopping phenomenon is due, at least in part, to what different generations are looking for in an employer.
“The job hopping stigma is causing recruiters to ask a few more questions behind why people are making the moves they do. We’ve seen it as a generational thing, but we’re also starting to see that trend reverse, where the next generation of college grads are looking for something more long term. It’s been interesting to watch the trends.”
A challenge, though, is selling the mission to young people who may not realize all the history-making work a cleared career can offer. Lockheed works to showcase this to prospective employees.
“We compete against non-traditional companies these days as well as our direct competitors. Let’s face it, they do some cool stuff too. This is really the part of the job that I love. Lockheed Martin is viewed as a national asset. [Our] companies over the last hundred years have contributed to things like developing GPS and putting landers on Mars.”
And Lockheed is continuing that exciting work into the future. “Hypersonic flight is where we’re going next – things that go Mach 5+, building stealth technology. We really have all these things in the ‘what’s next’ category: artificial intelligence, autonomy, data science, cybersecurity, and even energy. We’ve really pivoted from being just a national defense company to global security that’s getting into those other adjacent sectors.”
But some things transcend generations – like the desire to learn and grow within a company. This is something Lockheed makes sure to provide employees at all stages in their careers.
“There’s lots of opportunity to give people growth and stretch assignments. We have a lot of rotational programs where you can have a day job and always be able to sign up to do something that’s going to stretch or grow you – which I do think employees of all levels and experiences are looking for in a job today.”