The evolving global economic climate has brought about significant shifts in the priorities and concerns of STEM professionals. Couple this with the explosion in AI technology and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and we can start to understand why huge numbers of the workforce are nervous about their future.
Our "How the STEM World Evolves" study takes a deep dive into the attitudes and expectations of employees as they try and make sense of our rapidly changing working environment, wrestling with new working models that are designed to incorporate flexible working and emerging global megatrends.
The study, conducted in the first half of 2023, draws on the thoughts of more than 2,300 permanent and contract workers in STEM disciplines across the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands and Japan. Following on from our 2021 study “How the STEM World Works”, it shows how attitudes have shifted over the past year, revealing a stark picture of insecurity among employees as they wrestle to stay relevant amid a flood of technological changes and against the backdrop of an ageing workforce.
The surge in AI
A key factor in this is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, which has sparked concern among STEM professionals. More than a third of respondents to the study expressed worries about losing their jobs to AI and automation. While businesses must acknowledge the risks associated with AI and automation, it is crucial to avoid succumbing to fear and resistance.
Rejecting the technology or having an overreliance on it can hinder progress, create an even larger skills gap and leave businesses struggling to keep up. Finding the right balance and ensuring human intervention when necessary is key to maximising the benefits of AI in the workforce. To capitalise on the potential of AI, they need to take a proactive approach by upskilling and retraining their workforces, looking beyond traditional skill sets to develop and engage employees.
Is pay really the top priority for candidates?
The knock-on effects resonate across the global STEM community, with respondents to the study revealing that job security has become more important than earning higher salaries. Previously, STEM professionals focused primarily on pay and benefits, enjoying the luxury of choice and the ability to negotiate for higher compensation. However, the landscape has changed.
STEM professionals are now more focused on keeping their jobs or contracts over financial reward, with the study revealing that more than half of respondents prioritise job security, while an eighth disagree. This change is further reflected in the increasing emphasis on personal purpose in work, as well as additional benefits packages such as healthcare, holiday allowances and flexible working arrangements.
Changing attitudes to health and wellbeing
Furthermore, the study highlights that professionals in the STEM field are experiencing increased concerns about their wellbeing. A third of participants reported that they were more worried about their wellbeing compared to the previous year, and a fifth anticipated even higher levels of concern in the coming year. This shift in attitudes towards wellbeing can impact their ability to work effectively and may lead to increased stress, potential sick leave or even unemployment.
But while employers often trumpet the value and significance of supporting the wellbeing of their employees, the study reveals that STEM professionals are dissatisfied with their companies' current efforts, and are often left feeling neglected and unsupported. To attract and retain top talent, businesses must be open to admitting their failures and listen to their employees' concerns, better understanding their needs as they strive to create a happy, healthy and engaged workforce.
Preparing for an ageing workforce
Another significant factor affecting the workforce is the demographic shift caused by an ageing population. With increased life expectancy and decreasing birth rates, global markets are experiencing an ageing professional workforce. The retirement of the baby boomer generation poses a challenge as they take their skills and experience with them. To retain these specialist skills, employers must focus on knowledge transfer to younger generations and keep millennials engaged in the workforce.
Attracting top talent
In each section we dive deeply into the attitudes and experiences of STEM professionals, exploring the motivations behind their responses and what businesses can do to support them. With greater importance being placed on job security and personal purpose, married with concerns over wellbeing, an ageing population and the potential impact of AI and automation, creating a fulfilling and supportive work environment are more important than ever.
But while finding the right balance between harnessing the pace of change in technology, engaging and maintaining the trust of their workforces, is a difficult one to crack, it is critical to the success of any business.
Discover the other sections in our study
STEM professionals value career security over a pay rise
In today’s economic climate, labour market shifts and megatrends are revolutionising the working world and influencing professionals' needs.
STEM professionals want more from their roles than employers are offering
Apart from attractive salary rates and benefits, candidates continue to want flexibility. But how that looks has changed.
Purpose is the key driver in STEM professionals’ careers
Purpose at work has become more important, and intrinsic personal purpose far outweighs organisational extrinsic purpose.
Over a third of STEM professionals are worried about losing their jobs to AI and automation
How can businesses help STEM professionals create a role-relevant partnership with AI, rather than be automated out of a job?
Concerns over wellbeing rising among STEM professionals
An increasing sense of pressure has caused a rise in specialists worrying about wellbeing in the past 12 months. What are the solutions?
Employers are focusing on the wrong demographic to get the most from the ageing workforce
A generational phenomenon, underpinned by increased life expectancy and decreasing birth rates, is sweeping across global markets.
Dive deeper into How the STEM World Evolves
Uncover how the STEM world is changing in our new study How the STEM World Evolves! Discover:
- How important security is to STEM professionals
- What STEM professionals want from their role
- How purpose is influencing careers
- How attitudes to wellbeing are evolving
- What impact the ageing population will have on employees
- Whether attitudes to AI and Automation are changing
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