by Robert Powers

Senior Vice President, Human Resources
Textron Systems Corporation

Recruiting and retaining the best talent is a business imperative setting up a tug-of-war in which companies target the same finite resources to fill key positions. This is particularly true in the defense industry, where Textron Systems is constantly on the lookout for people with the right skills and experience to help us create the high-technology products and services that America’s troops rely upon.

“Recruiting and retaining the best talent is a business imperative – setting up a tug-of-war in which companies target the same finite resources to fill key positions”

Achieving this imperative requires a multifaceted approach, including compensation and benefits, advancement and educational opportunities, work environment, and employee engagement.

Traditionally, employee activities used to be informal and localized; for example, softball or bowling leagues. Today’s employee networks and resource groups address the many other areas in which colleagues share common interests and backgrounds. They build a sense of community and connectedness beyond the inherent mission of the company, as well as provide employees and leaders the opportunity to communicate across all levels and functions of the business.

If the work environment is an extension of one’s personal life, that is a valuable “gotcha” point. Engaged employees are the company’s best champions for a diverse, inclusive culture, as well as for recruiting like-minded talent. In addition, the groups themselves have an impactful presence on fellow employees, driving the messages of diversity and positive change across an organization more effectively than any policy or process.

Informal mentorships also spring from resource groups. These relationships are a vital source of information-sharing, as well as an opportunity for professional growth and development of leadership skills.

From a business standpoint, employee networks are critical to keeping people interested, engaged, and feeling valued. For all of these reasons, the Textron Systems executive leadership team considers employee networks and resource groups key elements of the company’s employee engagement strategy.

Our strategy focuses on affiliations that are commonly shared around our businesses. The groups are chartered and supported by the diversity councils seated at each of our operating units, and currently include:

  • A young professionals group at our Wilmington, Massachusetts, headquarters—also home of our Textron Defense Systems operating unit.
  • A women’s network at our Austin, Texas, Overwatch headquarters, along with a military veterans network, which is particularly apropos because more than 25 percent of employees at this operating unit are veterans.
  • A women’s network at the Hunt Valley, Maryland, headquarters of operating unit AAI Corporation.

Additionally, similar networks are being planned across various sites. The meetings I have attended have a palpable energy. People are excited to share their ideas and enthusiasm for the business and its continued success.

The template for these groups is simple—give colleagues the chance to come together from all areas of the business, based on topics of mutual interest. The employee engagement benefits unfold from there. What’s good for our employees is good for our business—and when we do our jobs well, the good extends to our ultimate customers, America’s men and women in uniform.