Profile: On the Talent War’s Front Lines

By Bill Leonard Oct 1, 2013

If anyone understands the challenges of hiring and retaining highly skilled employees, it is Keith Peden, senior vice president of human resources and security for Raytheon Co. in Waltham, Mass. Approximately 40,000 employees of Raytheon’s 68,000-member workforce are engineers, so Peden and his staff focus heavily on recruiting, hiring and retaining the most coveted of all workers—those with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. Peden recently spoke to HR Magazine about the challenges his company faces in recruiting the best and brightest and then maintaining a corporate culture that keeps highly-sought-after STEM employees on the job.

Keith Peden

Education: 1972, Bachelor of Arts in political science and history, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo. 1973, Master of Arts in special education, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti.
Current position: 2001-present, senior vice president of human resources and security, Raytheon Co., Waltham, Mass.
Career: 1997-2001, vice president and deputy director of human resources; 1993-1997, director of benefits, compensation and human resource management systems, Raytheon Co. 1990-1993, director, worldwide compensation, benefits and human resource information systems, Lotus Development Corp., Cambridge, Mass. 1988-1990, vice president, Alexander & Alexander Consulting, Boston. 1986-1988, director of corporate services, Prime Computer Inc., Natick, Mass. 1980-1986, manager, compensation and benefits, Honeywell International Inc., Morristown, N.J.
Personal: Born in Ann Arbor, Mich.; married with three children.
Diversions: Sports, rebuilding old cars, boating, swimming and reading.

What are the top challenges that you face in your job today?

Our toughest challenges—and I think these are probably the top challenges of any employer—are hiring, keeping and developing talent. The global marketplace doesn’t stand still or wait for you to catch up. You have to keep pace, and I truly believe that the differential of what makes an organization a world-class company or an also-ran is its people. This is why Raytheon invests nearly $200 million each yearin its talent development initiatives.

What is HR’s role in ensuring that Raytheon maintains a corporate culture that supports its talent development efforts?

First of all, we are committed to the concept that a company reinvents itself through its talent. The innovative skills of our people is what makes the difference and how we as an organization adapt and survive in today’s rapidly changing business environment. So, in HR, we really focus on what we can do to develop our talent pool. We do this in a pragmatic way by carefully examining the competencies and then providing guidance on what employees need to build their careers.

How would you describe the corporate culture at Raytheon?

Our corporate culture is one of innovation and inclusion. Inclusion has a slightly different context here than the typical concept of diversity and inclusion that most HR people are familiar with. In this case, inclusion means getting every engineer on our project teams focused on collaboration. It’s all about thought processes and making sure everyone’s ideas and input are sought and valued.

Is this collaborative culture a strong selling point when recruiting?

Absolutely. If, as an organization, we aren’t providing an atmosphere that encourages collaboration and innovation, or providing the technology needed to support that culture, then the company will have a throwback atmosphere that won’t attract the best and brightest candidates. Without that culture in place, it becomes very tough to attract the top-notch engineering candidates we need to survive.

What is HR doing to ensure that Raytheon has the talent it needs?

It really is a war for talent now, and this war becomes more competitive every day. If the number of engineers graduating from U.S. institutions holds steady for the next few years, which is slightly more than 50,000 graduates per year right now, then Raytheon must hire around 2 percent of those graduates every year just to sustain our current level of business.

The need for talent is why Raytheon is highly supportive of educational initiatives and why we’ve partnered with federal, state and local governments. Part of this effort is the "Math Moves You" program, which encourages the math and science interests of middle school students.

This program focuses on students who are age 12 and older but not yet in high school because research has shown that interest and performance in math and science drop off in middle school. We already are starting to see some good results from improved math and science scores among the students in the program. It’s an investment in our future.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for HR Magazine.


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