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Attracting and retaining talent

6 Tips: How to Effectively Attract and Hire STEM Talent

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Most companies today need science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM) employees on their team for the simple reason technology touches almost everything a company does – employee recruiting and onboarding, online marketing and sales, using and monitoring social media, product designing, producing analytics for decision-making and on and on the list goes. As the Chief Technology Officer for Achievers, I have first-hand knowledge of the broad role that technology plays in business success today. I also have a personal interest in the state of the STEM talent market. I have three daughters, and one is pursuing a STEM career, giving me a real-world view of what attracts millennials to a company, and the process they go through when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer or stay with a company after initial employment.

Developing an effective strategy for filling a STEM pipeline and the currently available STEM positions has been important for almost two decades, but it became critical to company sustainability in the highly competitive, global job market we experience today. STEM jobs include a wide range of skills, and the jobs most in demand across industries are in computing, engineering, and manufacturing. For example, the National Association of Manufacturing and Deloitte projected there will be 3.5 million STEM jobs to fill, but up to 2 million could remain unfilled due to a STEM labor shortage.

Combining my work experience and personal passion for STEM, I developed six tips for companies that are experiencing difficulty with attracting and hiring STEM talent.

1. Recruit in New Places and Not Just at Elite Schools

Is there really a shortage of STEM talent? The answer may depend on who you talk to. Many companies target elite post-secondary schools that offer STEM degrees, like Stanford and MIT, ignoring other places where highly qualified STEM graduates are found. They include the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Howard University has struggled for years to attract STEM recruiters. Yet, HBCUs are credited with producing 27 percent of African-American STEM graduates with a bachelor’s degree. Always look into new places – it’s these new places that just might be housing the gold mine of STEM talent you’re looking for.

2. Don’t Forget Community Colleges

The Community College Research Center produces statistics on community college enrollments, among other factors. In the fall of 2016, 36 percent of all enrolled undergraduate students attended private and public two-year colleges. Many STEM jobs do not require a four-year degree, making community colleges major providers of STEM talent now and into the future. They are successfully tapping into student populations and working collaboratively with high schools and employers.

In recognition of their ability to expand the supply of STEM talent, community colleges and students are receiving funding from a variety of sources. For example, Tennessee offers high school graduates free tuition to attend a community college or trade school. The intended result is that more students will choose STEM disciplines because these schools offer so many STEM programs.

Companies must also keep in mind that some of the most talented STEM professionals may not have attended college at all; at Achievers, our Director of Information Technology, Scott Adair, joined the team having completed a one-year Microsoft Certification program following high school. After some additional work experience, Scott joined Achievers (called “I Love Rewards” at the time) as a Sr. System Administrator and within six months was promoted to Manager of IT. Due to his continued achievements at the company, within a few years he was promoted to Director of IT and has remained a valued asset to us for the last eight years.

Across the U.S., community colleges are starting STEM initiatives with state and federal grants, and private funding. They also partner with high schools, private businesses, and nonprofits to design STEM education programs that encourage more students to choose STEM disciplines. For example, the American Association of Community Colleges contributes to the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) activities. The ATE Program focuses on improving educational programs for STEM technicians, and community colleges are a major source of education.

These are just a couple of examples of the growing role of community colleges in supplying the nation with STEM talent. Sometimes the closest source of STEM labor is at a place near you.

3. Partner with Industry Groups, Associations, Colleges, and Universities

Rather than just recruiting STEM graduates, proactively partner with industry groups, STEM focused associations, and/or colleges and universities to develop a flow of STEM talent that is perfectly suited to meet your needs. Collaborative partnerships enable you to contribute to the design of customized degree and training programs that produce people with the specific skills you need. The programs can include real-world problem solving too, giving you access to innovative ideas.

Some companies offer STEM internships in order to engage future employees in the company before they are even hired. You can also contact STEM associations to find STEM talent, like the Association for Women in Science, the National Association of Black Engineers or the Association of Information Technology Professionals, to name just a few.

4. Become an Employer of Choice for Millennials

The 56 million millennials aged 21-36 years old now are the largest labor group, accounting for 35 percent of the workforce. Attracting qualified STEM talent means you must become an employer of choice for millennials. There have been numerous studies conducted to identify what millennials consider important. They include things like flex schedules, the ability to work remotely, career advancement opportunities, and a diverse and inclusive workplace. When it comes to recognition, 44 percent of millennials prefer to be rewarded or recognized for their work at least monthly. The right recognition and rewards program can be a major factor in spreading appreciation across the organization and showing millennials that you value what they do on a daily basis.

Millennials also want an unbeatable workplace culture. On average, millennials would be willing to give up $7,600 in salary every year to work at a job that provided a better work environment for them. Furthermore, 40% of millennials who plan to remain in their jobs beyond 2020 say their employers have a strong sense of purpose beyond financial success. Millennials are looking for companies that look at the bigger picture, and are most engaged when they have a mission they truly believe in and a culture of recognition.

Research has found that 71 percent of millennials are not engaged at work, and that leads to lower productivity and higher turnover rates. There is a direct relationship between the frequency of recognition and engagement. Gallup found that two-thirds of employees have not received recognition in the last seven days, and these employees are twice as likely to leave. Frequent recognition and rewards can attract high quality STEM talent and help you retain them once hired.

5. Emphasize Your Company’s Social Responsibility

Millennials have made it clear: They are interested in working for companies with a social conscious instead of those that concentrate only on maximizing profits. STEM candidates often look for jobs with companies that have a social element in their mission and values statements. In fact, one study found that 75 percent of millennials would accept a pay cut, if that is what it took to work for a socially responsible company. That number is 55 percent for all labor groups. Global STEM talent wants to utilize their skills to bring measurable solutions to people and communities. Businesses must be socially conscious or risk damaging their reputation and brand, which in turn, hurts the ability to attract top talent.

6. Develop and Share Your Employee Value Proposition

The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) includes the contributions an employee can make and the tangible rewards you can offer them. These rewards can include wages, benefits and perks, financial and non-financial rewards, and recognition of contributions. One tip in this area is to design your EVP so that it is unique for the type of STEM position recruited. The EVP for a program developer is different than the EVP for the engineer designing products.

Find out what rewards your STEM talent truly finds valuable, and make sure to offer them in your EVP. One of the many advantages of implementing a recognition and rewards program, like the one Achievers offers, is that the rewards can be customized to meet each person’s needs – employees are able to personally choose which rewards they want to redeem in a large and diverse rewards catalog.

Embracing the Challenges

Attracting and hiring STEM talent is challenging, but the challenges can be embraced as opportunities to redesign the talent management process from the recruitment and hiring stages all the way through the employee engagement and retention efforts. Prove to job candidates that you have an engaged workplace that not only recognizes employees, but also listens to them on a frequent basis.

Achievers practices what it preaches, so to speak. Our workplace is collaborative, and our company is socially responsible. We offer flexible hours, great benefits, career opportunities, and of course, an inspiring and engaging recognition and rewards program. We are passionate about attracting, hiring and retaining qualified and diverse talent for a variety of STEM and non-STEM positions and encourage readers to apply for open jobs at Achievers.

Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

Profile image of author: Aris Zakinthinos

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