Five global megatrends have been changing behaviours within organisations and communities. In response to these megatrends, organisations must think differently if they want to attract the talent they need to capitalise on these global changes. They will have to reduce the burden of bureaucracy, focus on harnessing unused potential, and make greater efforts to retain existing talent. If they do this, it will change the face of STEM industries and play a significant part in closing the chronic skills gap we see all over the world.
There are five megatrends that are driving the demand for STEM expertise. Digitalisation, decarbonisation and healthcare are sucking in talent, while new working models and demographic changes are creating challenges for employers and nations. Those that take meaningful steps to attract and retain key skills are likely to outstrip the competition and surge ahead in critical markets.
Bureaucratic barriers hinder access to talent
Despite growing skills shortages, countries need to promote innovation and digitisation to compete globally. Many businesses have already increased their investment in this area, but they also need reduced bureaucratic processes and increased tax incentives so that they can see a return on their investments in the short term.
Tax incentives and government support for research help businesses expand and attract foreign companies. In order to benefit from these incentives, companies must modify their approaches, listen to the demands of the workforce and embrace more flexible operating models. By targeting contractors, they can accelerate transformation and remain reactive to market opportunities.
But this is no simple task.
While contract workers are vital for expansion, they are still the subject of arduous regulations that prevent them being used to their full potential. In some countries, such as the UK, their tax status has come under close scrutiny and made self-employment overly complicated, forcing many to discard it as a career choice. To help contractors overcome this, companies must provide incentives. Tackling this can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be complex.
In order to benefit from tax incentives and government support for research, companies must modify their approaches, listen to the demands of the workforce and embrace more flexible operating models
One way is for organisations to adopt our Employed Contractor Model, which gives employees the best of both worlds – the flexibility of contract work and the job security and benefits of a permanent position. It frees companies and their employees from the burden of regulation. ECM contractors enjoy perks like annual leave and health insurance while avoiding risk and maintaining flexibility. Companies gain access to a flexible and skilled talent pool, while we take care of the administration, training and equipment.
There is so much unused potential right in front of you
Demographic changes that are seeing millions of baby boomers leave the workforce are aggravating the skills shortage. This shortage of skilled professionals means that companies must look beyond traditional methods to find sought-after specialists. They need to consider a larger, global talent pool, older workers, and candidates who have taken non-traditional career paths. They must also promote diversity to attract talent from a range of backgrounds. All of these approaches bring new ways of innovating and solving problems.
Companies are already benefitting from a much bigger talent pool. They are looking around the world for critical skills and creating a culture that makes an international workforce feel at home. Those experiencing regional talent shortages are taking advantage of global talent hotspots and regional specialisms to identify suitable candidates and promote greater competition for the roles they have to offer.
Older employees are an under-used resource. Some businesses are taking steps to retain employees of 55 and over who have a lot of expertise and experience but who may be tempted to retire early. We often hear that their knowledge is no longer up to date, but this can be dealt with through further education or training. We have clients that have had really good experiences of adding these veterans to mostly younger teams. They are often more in tune with the human side of management, which is increasingly important as the spotlight is turned on the role of companies in wellbeing and mental health.
Companies who experience regional talent shortages are taking advantage of global talent hotspots and regional specialisms to identify suitable candidates and promote greater competition for the roles they have to offer.
Many companies continue to look for CVs that show a traditional career path into the roles they are seeking to fill. This is a luxury they can ill-afford and many are missing out on strong candidates as a result. Leading organisations are thinking more creatively. Our experience clearly shows that entrants who come from other industries can not only fill important roles but also drive innovation. For example, recent layoffs among the tech giants after years of rapid growth may be a shock to tech candidates but they could present alternative career paths and shine a light on previously unconsidered options. Even with these job cuts, the global shortage of technology expertise remains. Companies in other sectors, for example the life sciences or industries struggling to decarbonise, are seizing the opportunity to raid the talent pool and take on candidates with know-how in tech to help develop AI and personalised healthcare.
STEM industries must also work hard to attract more women. They remain underrepresented across STEM sectors but are critical to filling the skills gap. By 2030 less than 25% of ICT specialists are expected to be female, which is only a small rise compared to the 19% seen globally today – and in many countries the proportion of women in tech is actually falling.
Women help to create diversity of thought, different approaches, and can encourage a more inclusive culture. By inspiring young women, whether that’s through engagement with schools or through internal, company events, we can create more female role models. Increased flexibility, improved arrangements for mothers, and support with childcare are all badly needed. Providing more childcare facilities is an issue for politicians to argue over, but companies can play their part through, for example, partnerships with childcare providers.
Culture, care and conditions are key to retention
It’s not just older workers who may be tempted to move on. The most efficient way for successful businesses to flourish is by focusing on retaining sought-after specialists, putting their needs at the centre of their operating model.
Hybrid approaches which allow professionals to enjoy the best of both worlds, working both at home and in the office, are top of candidates’ agendas. It raises the question of how often workers should be expected to be in the office and what that time is used for. The comradery of site workers is clear to see – should the office simply become a place to accelerate collaboration, creativity and innovation? Certainly, in a globalised world where many workers remain remote, consideration must be given to bringing employees together to strengthen company culture and promote cooperation.
The most efficient way for successful businesses to flourish is by focusing on retaining sought-after specialists, putting their needs at the centre of their operating model.
In addition, the changing nature of work creates its own stresses and a greater focus on the wellbeing of key personnel is becoming ever more important. That is already pushing the mental and physical health of employees higher up the list of priorities. Those working from home can suffer from feelings of isolation and companies need to ensure they are given realistic workloads and targeted services. In highly competitive markets, the pressure is on STEM professionals to perform, but this performance relies heavily on their wellbeing. For many workers, the flexibility of remote working can have real benefits, providing extra time for family and hobbies, relieving the stresses of commuting and creating an environment where they can focus but not everyone flourishes in this environment.
In uncertain times companies need to develop a sustainable recruitment strategy, identify what skills are needed and understand where they can be acquired. Those companies that do this well will be the winners in the war for talent and will be able to seize the opportunities presented by the new global megatrends.
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