Today is National STEM Day, a day that celebrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As we all know, the demand for STEM talent is high. Graduates from these subjects get swept up incredibly quickly, but more and more employers are realising the value in their skills, creating a huge skills gap. With big-name tech companies having the advantage of reputation when it comes to STEM talent attraction, startups are often left behind even though they have so much to offer.
The demand for technical talent like data scientists, engineers and more is not expected to slow down any time soon. This means startups in particular need to work hard if they wish to attract the STEM talent they need to grow their business and meet the demand for their products and services. Growth cannot be put on hold, and talent is required for business success.
So, on National STEM Day, we wanted to share our best tips for recruiting STEM talent to your startup.
Expand your talent pool
When looking for STEM Talent, businesses of all sizes look in the same places. They look to university graduates from the most reputable institutions. However, technology has moved on, and there are now so many ways to gain tech skills that don’t involve traditional education. To get ahead in the race for tech talent, you should consider expanding your idea of the “ideal candidate”. Think of those who have studied online or gained skills in the world of work. A university degree isn’t the only way to get ahead in tech, science or engineering today. By including non-traditional candidates, you’ll expand your talent pool and have a more diverse range of backgrounds, which will influence business decisions. Not every business will consider candidates without a degree, which could give you a competitive advantage without losing out on skills.
Also, the last few years have shown us that remote work is more than just a possibility. You can offer a significant degree of flexibility as a startup because you aren’t tied into corporate culture. This means remote employees should be easier to integrate into your team, which could really help expand your talent pool. By embracing remote workers for your STEM startup where possible, you’ll be able to expand your talent pool as you won’t be limited by geography. This means you can hire a wider range of talent from across the globe if you need to.
Offer opportunities to grow
One of the great things about startups is that they offer the opportunity to wear many hats and learn an abundance of skills. Unlike a corporate enterprise where company structures are rigid and employees tend to stick to one department, startups are agile and fast-paced. Therefore, you need employees who can flex and adapt to many different environments. This provides multiple opportunities for talent to gain new skills and broader experiences, which could help them in a career long-term.
STEM professionals are generally ambitious and keen to learn, so you should promote these opportunities for growth and progression to appeal to their career hungry side. If you can also provide learning and development opportunities, like the chance to gain extra qualifications on the job, you’ll add an additional incentive to join. It doesn’t have to be formal, it could just be the chance to learn a new coding language, but this could put you above the competition in the eyes of talent. Plus, your initial hires will likely grow with your business and eventually become your leaders if your team is small. Making this an essential element of your talent attraction and messaging will appeal to candidates keen to reach senior positions quickly. If your business is growing, your team can too, and so this is something you should really push.
Promote your purpose and passions
Working at a startup often appeals to candidates who want a sense of purpose and achievement within their work. Startups are usually created because there’s a gap in the market or a chance to make a real difference in the world, and being part of the initial team will allow employees to have a tangible impact on this change. Therefore, it’s a great idea to promote your brand’s purpose, passions and mission to ensure you appeal to like-minded talent. However, it doesn’t just have to be that your product or service is a force for good. Focus on social responsibly is also becoming key to millennial and Gen Z talent. Whether it’s your dedication to the environment and sustainability or your work to help charitable causes, these are things you should be promoting in your employer brand communications. Promoting what you stand for as an employer will allow you to connect emotionally with talent and should put your employer brand heads above the rest in the eyes of dedicated, like-minded talent. For example, if you can prove your brand is sustainable and has a positive impact on the planet, STEM talent passionate about environmental issues will be inclined to join.
Similarly, if you’re looking to fix real-world problems with your startup, you’ll attract people who share your enthusiasm and passion. This is why promoting your purpose is so essential for startups. In a world with increased competition for talent, smaller businesses need to stand for something and vocalise it if they wish to stand a chance in the race. Therefore, you must incorporate brand values, passions and purpose into your employer band communications.
Focus on the tech
STEM talent is scientific, technical, and intelligent. They’ve chosen a career involving technology and, therefore, must be excited by the evolving tech landscape. So, to appeal to tech talent, you should prioritise your tech stack. For example, if your business uses state-of-the-art software or provides a chance to learn a new coding language, shout about it. The candidates you’re looking for are likely to be excited about the opportunity to work with the latest developments and learn new skills, and so it’s worth shouting about. As a tech startup, you should have an advantage in using the latest technology and infrastructure. Therefore why would you not use this as a selling point for talent?
Develop and share your EVP
Your employee value proposition is crucial when it comes to attracting talent. Even as a startup, you should have one, despite being new to the world of talent acquisition. Your EVP underlines what it means to work for you and what candidates can expect from you as an employer: intangible elements such as benefits and more emotional factors like company culture. It’s what sets you apart from the competition and defines your workplace to potential candidates. An EVP runs throughout the organisation, informing all of your processes, culture, and employer brand messaging.
Using research, you can understand what is essential to STEM candidates. It could be flexibility at work or opportunities to progress in their career, for example. Then you can work your EVP around this so that you’re creating a workplace employees will love and be able to succeed in. Focus on what is unique about your business and create an accurate depiction. It’s no good trying to promote what you think candidates want if it’s not what you can offer. However, by being genuine and selling your workplace’s unique aspects, you’ll be able to appeal to the right kind of candidate for your business.
Create a culture they’ll love
One of the most prominent advantages startups have in the race for talent is their culture. Startups are renowned for prioritising culture. Not all are relaxed, some will be incredibly fast-paced as they grow, but unlike their corporate counterparts, their culture is always vibrant, exciting and fresh. As a startup, you have the opportunity to create a company culture from the very beginning and define what you will be like as an employer as you grow. It’s much harder for established businesses with large teams to change their culture once it’s formed. Therefore, startups have a huge advantage, particularly as the last two years have completely altered what we value in work. For example, startups had the upper hand when it came to remote working. Many of them had been doing this already, and if not, their teams were agile enough to adapt. So, when trying to attract STEM talent to your startup, consider your culture. Talk to candidates and employees about the sort of culture they would like and think about what your business will need to survive in your industry. Is it competitive, and therefore you should be intensely target driven? Can you be more relaxed and offer quirky perks like pawternity leave? No company culture is the same, so you have to work out what will work for you and your industry. However, in a startup, you can create a culture you know talent will love, and if promoted well, this culture will set you apart from the competition and position you as an employer of choice.