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HIRE & HIRE
To fill critical job openings at Boeing, a Shared Services recruiting team turns to skywriters, cookies-and a World War II-era actress
For Donna Wildrick and her team of 20 recruiters, the sky's the limit-barely-when it comes to attracting the skilled people that Boeing needs.
The Shared Services Global Staffing team kicked off 2004 by hiring weekend "skytypers" to circle over Los Angeles and Orange County with the message "www.Boeing.com/Careers," directing potential employees to The Boeing Company's jobs Web site. Boeing became the first aerospace company in Southern California to use the novel approach, long a staple of leading employers seeking talent along a sunny, 30-mile stretch of popular beaches.
Skytyping is just one of the innovative recruiting tactics Wildrick and her team use to generate interest in Boeing as an employer of choice-especially for prospective employees with engineering, science and information technology backgrounds. Boeing's recent new-business wins have created a growing need for people with critical skills. That means Global Staffing is playing a major role in helping fuel Boeing's growth and technology development. The team achieved success in 2003 by attracting approximately 3,000 new hires with the highly sought-after credentials.
"The intent of our effort is to get people thinking in a different direction: to look at Boeing as having many diverse programs and opportunities," Wildrick said.
It has been especially challenging to overcome the strong public perception that Boeing is in "layoff mode" as a result of the post-9/11 downturn in the airline industry and resulting reductions in Commercial Airplanes, she added.
In addition to the challenge of that perception, Global Staffing, a part of Employee Services, had to adapt to a significant swing in the company's anticipated hiring. At the beginning of 2003, the company needed 900 new hires for the entire year. However, with significant new business, primarily in Integrated Defense Systems and Phantom Works, the number of critical-skills job requisitions ballooned to more than 6,000 during the year. Wildrick said many of the positions required security clearances, making the recruiting task even more daunting since people with such credentials are typically employed and not actively looking for work.
On top of these seemingly insurmountable challenges, the demand for such skills became increasingly more competitive throughout 2003-an issue that attracted the attention of CNN Financial News. In a Nov. 7, 2003, story that featured Wildrick, CNN said that "a steady stream of Pentagon contracts is fueling the scramble for talent in the aerospace and defense industry."
The quest for recruiting similar talent continues in 2004. Global Staffing's Sourcing/Critical Skills Recruiting team is responding by increasing its participation in hiring events-targeted, general job fairs as well as Boeing-exclusive interview days and job expos. Among the key markets: Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Houston, New York, Detroit and San Jose, Calif.
True to form, the team is using some creative ways to stand out among the crowd of employers. At the Los Angeles Times CareerBuilder Expo last summer, the Global Staffing team baked and handed out more than 2,000 Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies. The cookies not only were a treat for job seekers, but Wildrick said the aroma of the baked goods also did wonders for drawing people to the Boeing booth.
On top of these efforts, the recruiting team has used advertising. Instead of typical help-wanted ads, the Global Staffing team and its agency partner JWT Specialized Communications created an ad featuring 1940s screen siren Hedy Lamarr, who coinvented a frequency-switching system that remains the basis of many high-tech devices, including wireless phones and military radios. Lamarr, who played Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 motion picture, "Samson and Delilah," was the second inventor to be featured in the recruiting ad campaign titled, "Don't let history happen without you."
Indeed, an extra-large version of this banner, measuring 96 feet by 28 feet, appeared for more than a month across the top of Boeing's S12 Building in El Segundo, Calif. The sign, which invited people to visit www.boeing.com/careers, turned the heads of thousands of commuters on the adjacent Highway 105 and countless travelers passing through nearby Los Angeles International Airport.
Thanks in part to the novelty of Lamarr's image, Wildrick said Boeing has generated extraordinary interest from prospective and current employees as well as the public, advertising industry, the news media and competing aerospace companies.
"Three of our competitors are now using the same colors as our recruiting ads, they're copying our look and feel, and they want to secure side-by-side placements with our ads," Wildrick said. "But they're copying what we did in 2003. Just wait until they see what's coming in 2004."