4 Reasons Why STEM Organisations Are Struggling To Hire

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4 Reasons Why STEM Organisations Are Struggling To Hire

4 Reasons Why STEM Organisations Are Struggling To Hire

Uncover 4 reasons why STEM organisations are struggling to hire, and get strategic advice to stay ahead with Keith Mulgrew, Sector Head at Search By SRG.

Despite unemployment rates remaining high, sourcing and recruiting talented employees in STEM remains a challenge – particularly at senior and executive levels, where the right hire can critically impact business efficacy.  

In this article, we examine some critical challenges STEM hiring managers face and provide actionable advice to help you advance your hiring strategy and successfully hire senior and executive talent. 

Read on  to discover four reasons why organisations are struggling to hire in STEM today: 

  • Reason 1: Talent availability 
  • Reason 2: Evolving workplaces 
  • Reason 3: Establishing a competitive salary 
  • Reason 4: Advertising a unique employer brand 


Reason 1: Talent availability

Ongoing economic disruption in the UK is heightening the competition for executive and senior talent across the scientific sectors.

While the latest reports from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) show that overall, UK recruitment activity has declined as economic uncertainties hamper growth, many STEM organisations are seeking to strengthen their strategic and operational direction with technical executive talent and face pressure to ensure that their recruitment choice is as efficient and accurate as possible. 

However, many senior employees are choosing to stay at their current organisations through this economic instability, which can be challenging to source. This makes a strong talent attraction strategy particularly vital to ensure access to the right candidates. 

Meanwhile, pre-existing skills shortages heighten the talent availability challenge while costing organisations nationally an astonishing £1.5 billion every year.

Talent attraction strategy 

When working to bridge a niche skills gap within the scientific and clinical industry, it benefits a company to be flexible with the origin sector for a candidate. 

A recent project I worked on with a Contract Research Organisation (CRO) required a Subject Matter Expert with a high level of experience in a very niche area. Rather than purely targeting the Pharmaceutical industry as the initial preference, the client opened the search to other industries with similar transferable expertise. Thanks to this wider scope, the client was able to secure a stronger candidate from an alternative industry to fill the position.

Reason 2: Evolving workplaces

The pandemic shifted workplace expectations, giving rise to remote work on a never-before-seen scale. Our research reflects this evolution and shows that most global STEM employees have a strong work-life balance as their greatest priority in the workplace. 

While many scientific organisations have returned to working on-site, many have evolved their strategy and highlight hybrid, or remote working options, as a key competitive factor in job descriptions. Doing so increases not only applications but employee satisfaction and productivity. Research from the World Economic Forum demonstrates that, post-pandemic, 65% of employees feel more productive in a hybrid work environment.

Talent attraction strategy

While working on-site in a laboratory can be non-negotiable in some instances, to remain competitive, laboratory leaders must prepare for the future of work. This is well recognised - updating laboratory infrastructure to support a distributed workforce has been noted as the most critical factor to futureproof laboratories by laboratory leaders. 

Additionally, when considering location and workplaces generally, candidate attraction can be challenging even in areas where talent is typically prolific such as science parks, as organisations saturated in the same locale compete for talent. Or in some locations, niche expertise can be inevitably scarce, making it challenging to source the right number of candidates. In both situations, it’s important to recognise that it may not always be feasible to expect a range of excellent candidates to choose from, and that one wholly aligned, exceptional, candidate can be enough to fuel your organisational strategy.

Keeping hybrid work in mind as an option can extend your candidate pool and highlight your organisational commitment to work-life balance, helping to feed into your candidate attraction strategy even for local candidates.

Hybrid working can also, in some instances, open up the broader international market.

Post-Brexit, there are a range of complexities for senior international scientists to navigate in order to work in the UK. Remote working, with occasional visits to the laboratory poses a viable alternative for unlocking access to international expertise in niche areas. 

Reason 3: Establishing a competitive salary and benefits package

Obtaining and utilising market insights to both establish skills availability alongside benefits and salaries is key to ensuring your recruitment project stands out for the right reasons.

If your strategy isn’t data-driven, it can easily lead to dated salary thresholds, or even misaligned benefits that fail to incentivise applications and hinder access to expert talent.

Talent attraction strategy

In the Search By SRG team, we take a two-fold approach to salary transparency. We recognise that some senior candidates may not have applied for another role in some time and may not be aware of average salaries. We communicate this salary market data to clients to help ensure salary bandings and benefits packages are competitive and to candidates to support their understanding of grading systems and help them recognise highly competitive salary offerings.

Integrating this data within your recruitment processes and understanding where the market is now in terms of salary and benefits can equip HR with the knowledge they need to improve retention and upgrade organisational thresholds in an impactful way.

Our team delivered a project for a Global Head position where the client had a salary and benefits scheme in mind. Our team’s initial feedback was that the salary appeared low, and the benefits lacked key elements that individuals at this level would expect (e.g., car allowance). We highlighted how an absence of these benefits would make the opportunity less attractive to top candidates. We provided the clients with market data and adjusted the salary banding and benefit offerings. This ensured the right individual was appointed at the right level, as the position was attractive as an opportunity but seamlessly in line with the market in terms of salary and benefits.

Reason 4: Advertising a unique employer brand

Standing out from the crowd in today’s competitive talent market is critical, particularly when it comes to executive and senior positions, where candidates are likely to be sold on an organisation’s mission and values.

Research from LinkedIn shows that a strong employer brand strategy, where the benefits of working for an organisation are showcased, is twice as likely as a company brand presence alone to drive job consideration and can reduce the cost of hire by as much as 50%. 

Talent attraction strategy

Employer branding is largely rooted in building an Employee Value Proposition (EVP), where your organisation uses a platform, such as your website or social media presence, to showcase the benefits of working for your organisation, as well as examples of your company culture and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Advertising this information showcases your recruitment strategy’s effectiveness in creating a positive work environment, helping to encourage candidates to resonate with your organisation and apply for your roles. However, ensuring that your approach is holistically unique can be time-consuming without data-driven insights and analytics – which is where Search by SRG comes in to support. We can help provide an objective, data-driven approach to ensuring that your strategy is not only unique but completely aligned with the motivations of your target candidate pool.

Need help with your executive or technical recruitment strategy?

At Search by SRG, we provide expert executive and technical recruitment support for leading organisations across STEM. By harnessing data-driven insights, and aligning these with your recruitment strategy, we can help update and evolve your approach to accessing and hiring expert talent. (https://www.srgtalent.com/clients/our-services/search-by-srg)

Click here to get in touch

About the author: Keith Mulgrew leads the Science, Technical and Engineering group in Search by SRG, partnering with clients across multiple STEM industries for the recruitment of senior-level hires. With 10 years of recruitment experience, Keith and the team support clients according to their specific needs and pain points, identifying and attracting talent, while mapping, collating and feeding back market data to clients to support current and future recruitment strategies. Prior to recruitment, Keith spent 10 years working in the Scientific industry working at a Higher Management level with overall responsibility for Technical, Operational and Quality Management. Click here to connect with Keith on Linkedin.

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