How to Attract and Retain STEM Professionals

September 7th, 2016

Illustration of STEM education in apply science concept

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professionals are in incredibly high demand. Government agencies and research organizations have a variety of definitions for what constitutes a STEM professional, but it generally includes the following career paths for employers in the United States:

  • Science: life sciences such as biology and geoscience, hard sciences like chemistry and physics, and social sciences such as psychology, sociology, and economics
  • Technology: computer and information technology, cyberinfrastructure, nanotechnology, robotics, geographic information systems, software engineering and development
  • Engineering: civil, electrical, aerospace, industrial, and mechanical engineering
  • Mathematics: applied mathematics, statistics, actuarial science

There are several other subfields within STEM that intersect with similar career paths as well, such as biomechanical engineering. When most private sector employers think of STEM they tend to think of high-tech professionals like software developers, engineers, and data scientists since the needs (and average compensation) for the applied sciences and mathematics fields are not homogenous with that of high-tech and engineering.

Each field and subfield has various roles and expectations in the workplace. According to surveys of STEM graduates, higher starting salaries are extremely important to computer science and engineering technology professionals but mathematicians and life scientists value diverse workplaces with strong camaraderie, rather than going for the organization offering the highest paycheck.

Other integral findings for what STEM professionals are looking for in the workplace include the following:

  • Benefits that are meaningful. Benefit packages actually outrank starting salary in terms of what STEM professionals look at when they compare potential employers. Are you offering a competitive amount of flex time, sick days, maternity and paternity leave, transit benefits, medical benefits, and other perks that are important for attracting and retaining high-value employees?
  • Opportunities for personal growth and advancement. Regardless of where the professional falls on the STEM spectrum, all are seeking opportunities for personal growth like working on projects that are important to them, being challenged, and having a supportive work environment conducive to this kind of growth. If your projects can give also give him or her a chance to improve their communities, they highly value that opportunity more than enviable starting salaries.
  • Job security. Job hopping is the new normal in many fields today and most people want job security. However, STEM professionals highly covet job security over other factors in their work environment when selecting an employer. If you recruit primarily on a project basis or have high turnover rates, your organization will have a hard time attracting quality STEM candidates.
  • Inclusive and supportive company culture. STEM professionals greatly desire diversity and recognition for doing a great job over a casual atmosphere that offers craft beer on tap and ping pong tables. Make sure that your website and promotional materials demonstrate great company culture.
  • Assignments are clearly-defined. STEM professionals want to work in organizations where they don’t have to sift through middle management and oblique mission statements to figure out what they’re working on. If your company is known for getting down to brass to business, be sure to market your business in that way.

 

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