Start-ups – changing the engineering ladder?

~ Engaging your workforce in the age of the start-up ~


According to the Startup Tracker, in 2016, 660,000 new companies were established in the UK — a new record. Traditionally, the way to succeed in an engineering career has been to work your way up the corporate ladder, but is the influx of new start-ups changing this? Here, Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at EU Automation, looks at how engineering businesses can retain staff in the era of the start-up.


The UK has a serious shortfall of engineers. According to Engineering UK, 265,000 skilled entrants are required each year to meet business demand. The deficit means that engineers with the right technical skills and experience are hard to come by — 61 per cent of engineering businesses have reported difficulties recruiting skilled staff.


An engineering career was traditionally about establishing yourself in a company and working your way up the ladder. Now, workers are moving roles more frequently, as the perception of job hopping is changing.


For many young engineers entering the profession, there is a big question, do I join a start-up, a small or medium enterprise (SME) or a big corporation? Young engineers must decide what environment suits them and where they would like to develop their careers.


A new generation of engineers want to turn their ideas into innovative products and services. They are trained in the most recent technology and want to use these capabilities to become future leaders. So, how can you engage with them in the era of the start-up?


More than money

The next generation of engineers are motivated beyond just money. It’s not about table football or bean bags either — if you want to motivate young staff you should give them interesting challenges in areas that can really impact your business. Young software engineers, for example, may feel that a large company offers them less opportunity to influence the code. Change this and you’re on your way to retaining skilled staff.


Joining a start-up is typically more flexible. The business is agile, but also prone to failure. Larger companies can offer greater security and can also offer employees resources that wouldn’t be available in a smaller business. A global company may have an entire team dedicated to innovation, rather than just a few staff members.


By sharing your company’s values and mission with employees at all levels, you can bring start-up culture to your business. By building a great company culture, where each employee knows how they impact the success of the business, you can also improve workforce engagement.



Upskilling staff is vital to preparing the workforce for Industry 4.0 and will be a key factor in retaining staff in your business. It seems that the UK is well on the way to this as a study by Deloitte found that 77 per cent of companies will retrain people to use new technology.


At EU Automation, we take company culture and upskilling our staff seriously – it is our staff that build relationships with our customers and push our business forward. We’ve grown rapidly from a small organisation to one with over 100 staff, maintaining elements of start-up culture as we grow.


We’re able to determine each employee’s impact on our business, so they feel both valued and secure. The company also offers training to its diverse workforce, to help drive EU Automation to its position as a leading industrial parts supplier.


With over half a million new companies launching in the UK each year, engineering businesses can learn a few tricks from start-up culture, to help engage and motivate the future workforce, whatever the ladder they choose to climb.