PA Consulting shows how the industry can take control of the current situation and emerge stronger as a result
Aerospace and defence organisations have long struggled to keep pace with changing workforce trends and the shift towards more flexible and remote working, particularly in engineering design areas. Tradition, inertia and concerns over security and productivity have typically won out over radical change. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has sparked change at unprecedented speed, with most non-manufacturing activity transitioning to remote working almost overnight.
And while VPNs, individuals and security teams have all been pushed to the limit in the last few weeks, our own team’s experience and feedback from those across the sector is that most have successfully made the transition, with programmes continuing to deliver and special arrangements in place for occasional access to secure facilities for those that need them. Such success creates a huge opportunity, or perhaps a necessity, to treat the current situation not as something to simply get through but as the start of lasting change to the way aerospace and defence works. Indeed, other sectors are already heading this way with the boss of Barclays recently declaring this crisis may see the end of large offices.
Cost cutting will certainly be essential given the impact of the coronavirus on the aerospace sector and likely reductions in defence spending ahead. But industry leaders will also have a chance to address longstanding skills and capacity shortfalls that have been constraining critical programmes. Remote working enables access to a national, rather than local, specialist resource pool and offers a more attractive bet to top candidates, female talent and those with additional workplace requirements who value this flexibility and are underrepresented in the sector. Digital platforms, virtual collaboration and new ways of working will become more normal as people embed new working habits, seek to maintain a better work-life balance and consider the impacts of wellbeing.
So, what should aerospace and defence organisations be doing now?
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