In a talent short market, access to talent isn’t the only hurdle leaders face.
Actively retaining existing employees alongside bringing on new talent is a dual issue STEM organisations must manage to bridge skills gaps – all while commitment to digitalisation accelerates.
52% of CEOs say that labour and skills shortages will have the greatest impact on profitability over the next decade, while 49% cite technology disruptors like AI stand to make the greatest profitability impact.
In April 2023, we surveyed 1,041 scientific candidates to uncover the reasons driving them to look for a new job in 2023. We found most candidates are looking to move for ‘Professional development’ (38%), followed by ‘Improved salary’ (35%), ‘Flexible working’ (14%), and ‘Workplace culture’ (12%).
In this article I explore this data in more detail, drawing on my experience in recruitment to equip organisations and scientific professionals alike with the knowledge they need to strengthen their understanding of the wider trends surrounding STEM recruitment.
Read on to find out:
- Why scientific candidates are looking for a new job in 2023
- How to improve employee retention
- How to strengthen your talent strategy
Why scientific candidates are looking for a new job in 2023
Reason 1 – Professional Development
The highest proportion of candidates (38%) ranked professional development as the key motivator behind their job move in 2023.
In my experience working with candidates, professional development is a common reason behind a job move. Many scientific professionals are looking for opportunities to grow in their careers, and professional development is a key mechanism behind this.
It’s also important to note that professional development can take many forms, from moving up to a more senior position, to gaining skills or undertaking qualifications, through to moving into an alternative area of STEM.
I would advise candidates to fully consider what professional development looks like for them, as this will vary according to personal goals and industry.
Reason 2 – Improved salary
35% of candidates ranked ‘Improved salary’ as their motivation for finding a new role in STEM in 2023. In my experience working with candidates, seeking a higher salary is the most commonly mentioned reason for a career move in STEM today.
In light of ongoing cost of living challenges, more professionals are rethinking their career timelines, committing on average around 3 years per employer before moving on to maximise their potential salary.
Reason 3 – Flexible working
14% of scientific candidates said they were looking for a new role to attain ‘Flexible working’.
Post-COVID flexible working has become increasingly important to candidates in science, even in more on-site based positions. This can prove challenging for some areas of the scientific industries, particularly for laboratory based roles.
However, the model does come with its benefits - According to research from the World Economic Forum, where over 12,000 employees in 29 countries provided their perspectives on post-pandemic work, 65% of employees revealed they were more productive in a hybrid work environment.
The flexibility hybrid work provides can help improve wellbeing, income, and mobility, enabling lower commuting costs and more autonomy in how employees work. This flexible environment can help drive productivity in individuals who may be commuting long distances, or for those who value a greater work-life balance.
Reason 4 – Workplace culture
12% of scientific candidates were looking to move jobs due to ‘Workplace culture’.
Research suggests that a lack of cultural fit is a major driver behind new hire turnover. 37% of mis-hired respondents in the research cohort left their position as the role did not match the interview, or the job listing. An additional 33% left due to a lack of clear expectations for the role.
How to improve employee retention
In this section, we’ll explore the key drivers behind scientific professionals looking for a new job in more detail while providing actionable advice for employers to improve retention.
Transparency around professional development
Organisations and hiring managers should work together to clarify what progression looks like in the role, and communicate any potential progression pathways in a transparent and honest manner.
Taking the time to map out clear talent pathways for graduates to specialise in niche areas, or develop specific technical experience can enable your organisation to not only retain employees, but grow the talent you need to succeed. Find out more about our work with building talent pipelines with world leading STEM organisations here.
While professional development opportunities are not always easy to establish in some scientific niches, taking the time to map out potential qualifications, mentorship and leadership opportunities can help strengthen candidate attraction, while improving the likelihood that new hires will stay with the business.
Offer a competitive salary
Today’s talent market is heavily candidate driven, with candidates often interviewing for more than one position at a time. Establishing a competitive salary is key to ensuring that you don’t lose out on candidates, and that your new hires are paid enough to justify not looking elsewhere.
SRG work in collaboration with our clients to produce salary guidelines to support competitive rates for all positions, no matter how niche. We also work with New Scientist to produce our annual Salary Survey which is packed full of analyses and global insights into STEM salaries in the UK, Europe and US. (download our Salary Survey here)
Consider flexible working models
64% of lab leaders are currently struggling to attract skilled candidates to their organisation, and 35% of UK STEM workers plan to leave their role over the coming year.
In a talent landscape where most global STEM workers derive workplace satisfaction from a strong sense of work-life balance, hybrid work should be something you consider as part of your talent strategy.
While offering work from home options is not always possible, flexible start and finish times can introduce an element of flexibility to improve candidate attraction and boost employee retention.
Modernising infrastructure to support a distributed workforce has been cited by laboratory leaders as the most important factor for futureproofing laboratories today, highlighting the important role hybrid work models play in securing the best talent, and remaining competitive in the long term.
Showcase and invest in your culture
Team fit is a key criteria for a successful hire, and is rooted in an alignment with company culture.
Take the time to invest in not only describing your culture through the interview process, but introducing it to candidates through tours and site visits.
This can help deliver a more complete picture of working in your organisation for candidates and help improve hiring accuracy and overall retention.
How SRG can help strengthen your talent strategy
Get in touch with SRG to find out how we can help you strengthen and fuel your talent strategy with access to expert candidates across the scientific and clinical industry.
About the author: Chris Beckenham specialises in finding scientists and technical talent for the chemicals and material industries, from R&D to analytical testing and manufacturing. Click here to connect with Chris on Linkedin.