In our How the STEM World Evolves study, we uncover the changing attitudes and expectations of over 2,300 STEM specialists as they navigate this rapidly changing work environment, revealing how their priorities and concerns have evolved over the past year.
Attitudes are changing
The changing global economic climate, paired with advancements in AI technology and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, has led many professionals to reassess the way they think about and approach work.
I can’t say I blame them.
After all, the past few years have been laden with uncertainty, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the word ‘unprecedented’ has become a much too common descriptor for aspects of our everyday life. So, it’s no wonder STEM professionals are feeling apprehensive about their future.
Moving forward, it is critical for organisations to gain a better understanding of how STEM professionals’ priorities and concerns have shifted so they can attract and retain talent in an increasingly competitive market.
This is why we worked on the ‘How the STEM World Evolves’ study. Conducted in the first half of 2023, our research explores the changing attitudes and expectations of over 2,300 permanent and contract workers in STEM fields across the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands and Japan, as they navigate a fast-evolving work environment.
The report highlights major shifts in employee attitudes, revealing a growing sense of insecurity among workers as they grapple with uncertainty and navigate new working models, while confronting the challenges of technological disruptions and the impact of an ageing workforce.
Our key findings show:
1. Over a third of STEM professionals are worried about losing their jobs to AI and automation
The rise of AI and automation has caused concern among STEM professionals, with 34% worried about job loss due to these technologies.
Be that as it may, businesses must avoid the fear and resistance trap surrounding all this new tech, as these attitudes may hinder progress, widen the skills gap and weaken their position in the evolving STEM market.
Instead, companies need to find the right balance between technology and human intervention to maximise the benefits of AI in the workforce. This means being proactive in upskilling and retraining employees and providing continued development alongside tech innovation.
2. STEM professionals value career security over a pay rise
Today, career security has become increasingly important to STEM professionals. So much so, that when asked to choose between job security and a higher salary or wages, 53% of How the STEM World Evolves respondents chose security, while only 16% disagreed.
This reveals a significant shift in the mindset of STEM workers, who have traditionally prioritised pay and benefits. However, with the evolving economic landscape and the rapid pace of technological innovation, the future feels less secure – so keeping a job has become more important, even in the contractor market.
3. STEM professionals want more from their roles than employers are offering
In addition to higher salaries and job security, STEM professionals are also demanding more in terms of benefits, such as flexible work arrangements and upskilling opportunities. These provide more autonomy with regards to when and where they work, and how they progress in their careers.
In fact, 63% of How the STEM World Evolves respondents ranked ‘continuing to work flexibly’ as a factor that will affect their career decisions. And while our research has uncovered that flexibility isn’t a big factor in STEM professionals leaving their jobs, the data reveals that it’s a key factor in deciding where they work. So, if employers want to attract sought-after talent moving forward, they must meet employee expectations and also exceed them – especially when it comes to the benefits package.
4. Purpose is the key driver in STEM professionals’ careers
Today, employees increasingly want their personal values to match those of their employer. More than half (53%) of the STEM professionals who responded to our survey say they would rather work with organisations that align with their personal values than earn a higher salary or rate.
This is interesting, considering that salary (89%) and career security (87%) ranked highest in importance among respondents, while personal purpose (81%) came in at third place. But after interrogating the data some more, it turns out that salary and rates only ranked highest when STEM professionals were faced with the reality of the current economic climate and global recession – meaning that intrinsic, purpose-led value has become one of the most important factors for STEM professionals when seeking out job opportunities.
5. Concerns over wellbeing are rising among STEM professionals
According to our study, 28% of respondents are more worried about their wellbeing when compared with last year, and 21% expect to be even more worried about their wellbeing in the next 12 months. This comes at a time when these professionals’ workloads and responsibilities are increasing, driven largely by global megatrends that are placing STEM talent in high demand.
Despite being highly sought-after, many of them feel unhappy, neglected and unsupported by their employers – which increases their risk of missing work or experiencing burnout and has the potential to impact a business’s long-term effectiveness.
6. Employers are focused on the wrong demographic to get the most from the ageing workforce
As life expectancy increases and birth rates decline, global markets face the challenge of an ageing professional workforce. Many of these are the baby boomer generation, who are retiring every day. This poses a huge challenge for employers and the global labour market, as these specialists take their valuable skills and experience with them when they go.
Our How the STEM World Evolves respondents see this as a major cause for concern, voting it as one of the top five challenges likely to impact their careers. Employers must retain these specialist skills by prioritising the knowledge transfer to younger generations and ensuring active engagement of millennials in the workforce.
Is the STEM world evolving? Yes. Are attitudes changing? Absolutely. Should we be panicking? Probably not. As the world evolves, so do people’s expectations – which means employers, and recruiters, need to stay informed and prepared for what’s to come.
Our How the STEM World Evolves study delves into the attitudes and experiences of STEM professionals, examining their motivations and providing insights for businesses to offer support. For a more in-depth look, follow the links below.
Read all sections of 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.
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.
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?