General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) President Amy Gilliland explained how the company is tackling the industry-wide talent crisis at GDIT’s Women + Technology virtual event on October 26.

Gilliland said the ongoing talent crunch is something that GDIT is “watching closely,” and taking a variety of steps to address.  The problem, she said, “isn’t an aerospace and defense issue, it’s an across-industry issue. No company is immune, GDIT included.”

While the talent shortage was in evidence prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Gilliland said it should come as no surprise that as the country emerges from the public health crisis, many employees are reassessing their priorities, and the role that company culture plays in their workplace decisions.

On top of that, Gilliland added, “frankly, a lot of people are burnt out, we’ve been running a marathon at a 10k pace.”

“At GDIT, we knew we wouldn’t be the same company coming out of pandemic as we were before the pandemic,” Gilliland said.  “We used the 18 months while the pandemic was going on to really reimagine the way we viewed talent.”

Gilliland talked about responding to the talent crisis through three lenses: how do you attract talent to the company, how do you treat employees, and how do you help employees evolve their careers.

Attracting the Right Talent

The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to modernize at lightning speed, including when it comes to hiring new employees.

“Speed is really important in this market,” Gilliland said. “We don’t have the luxury of weeks or months to hire new employees.” Of course, GDIT still needs to “do our due diligence,” but Gilliland said the pandemic has taught the company that it can undertake the process faster.

“We need to go from interview to offer quickly,” she said. “So, we’re really driving that sense of urgency into the organization from a hiring perspective.”

On top of bringing the right employees on board quickly, Gilliland said targeting the right groups for hiring is also key. A military veteran herself, Gilliland said GDIT is particularly interested in increasing the number of veterans it hires. Mission focus is critical at GDIT – a value also shared among veterans, and Gilliland said GDIT’s culture, especially its corporate ethics, really resonates with veterans.

Gilliland added that GDIT is keenly interested in employee referrals, saying that they encourage happy employees to bring their friends and family to the company.

Focusing on Employee Experience

One of the first questions Gilliland likes to ask employees is “How was your first day?,” because you don’t get a second chance to get off on the right foot. That’s why another top priority for GDIT is ensuring that employees feel connected and supported, she said.

Tying back to the company’s focus on attracting veterans, Gilliland said the change from military life to private sector work can be a big lifestyle change. To help transitioning veterans, GDIT created a micro-mentoring program to connect new veteran employees to a support network.

A key part of keeping employees happy, especially in the post-pandemic environment, is improving workplace flexibility.

Gilliland said the pandemic has taught GDIT that people can do their jobs from a variety of places, and that sitting together in an office isn’t as critical as it once was. While she added that the nature of the company’s work means “the mission comes first,” GDIT has worked with customers to identify instances where employees can have workplace flexibility.

Helping Employees Evolve Their Careers

Retaining talent is a big priority, because as Gilliland put it, “it is expensive to hire new employees.” To that end, she wants to help current employees grow within GDIT, rather than have them look elsewhere for new opportunities.

Her goal for GDIT employees is that “if you want something different, I want you to think of GDIT first.”

The focus on development within GDIT is a culture shift for the company, but an important one for Gilliland. As someone who underwent several “career pivots,” Gilliland said she wants to make sure those opportunities are available to GDIT employees if they also want to change the focus of their careers.

Bringing technology back into the conversation, Gilliland said her goal is a “Netflix-like experience” when it comes to internal mobility. Essentially, she wants a machine learning-based website where employees can type in a few keywords, filter by their certifications, experience, and interests, and then have the website spit out current jobs at GDIT. Gilliland said the company is “getting closer to that being a reality.”

Another essential part of career development is skills development. Gilliland said the company is focused on looking at what skills customers will need as technology evolves, and ensuring that employees are gaining the skills and certifications needed to continue delivering on the mission.

Following General Dynamics’ acquisition of CSRA in 2018, Gilliland said the leadership team was very intentional about what kind of company it wanted to have. They knew they wanted to be collaborative and empathetic, and they wanted a company where people could be authentic.

“We were pressure-tested during COVID and we found that we are that company,” she said. Adding that employees remember how you treat them, GDIT has empowered its employees and worked with them so they can authentically be who they are.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.