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Attracting and Retaining High-Quality Talent in a Competitive Job Market

Kelly Services has conducted extensive research to paint a psychographic portrait of scientists in the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).

The company used data from discussion forums and groups, industry association releases, blogs, resumés, and trade press articles.

It found high-quality talent is the driving force behind economic growth and a knowledge-based society. Nowhere is the rush for talent more acutely felt than in the global science community. Private and public organisations want the best talent working in their labs to drive science and technology innovation and enhance their reputation as a preferred research destination.

As competition is fierce for good scientists, to attract and retain quality talent requires an understanding of what makes scientists tick. What kind of environment do they thrive in? What opportunities do they look for? What do they want from management?

The bottom line is that as competition grows and emerging markets become more attractive as research destinations, organisations need to fine tune what they offer scientists.

The typical traits of a scientist are:

  • They have been overachievers at school, particularly in science and math. They have worked incredibly hard to achieve their academic goals.
  • They are driven by their inquisitiveness and desire for knowledge, which means they have a passion for and are motivated by their work
  • Productive scientists have a strong drive to achieve their goals and have high levels of concentration and persistence. Nothing is accepted at face value; every angle and all of the available data and interpretations of a problem will be digested before conclusions are drawn.
  • In general, scientists tend to have perseverance, patience, tenacity, thoroughness, and a singleness of purpose not common in other career fields.

However not all scientists follow the same career path, so it is important to recognise the difference for example between attracting lab scientists and clinical scientists. While both have many of the same characteristics, there are some key functional differences to be aware of, mostly to do with their areas of specialty.

What a scientist most values equates to what we all look for, stability, good management and freedom to work. However, there are some further key elements fairly unique to the science community.

These relate to the intensive nature of their work and the commitment they have to making a difference. This includes fulfilment, which is shown to be the strongest driving force for a scientist. A chance to innovate, a sympathetic work environment, global work opportunities, and the need to be consistently challenged follows.

The following are five key steps organisations can take to ensure they not only hire the best talent but have the right structure and culture in place to retain and nurture them too.

  1. Revise management structure
    Create management hierarchies that minimise administration for science workers.
  2. Assign mentors
    Consider a mentorship program to allow young recruits regular exposure to experienced specialists and practitioners.
  3. Invest in training
    Offer additional training to help develop soft skills not picked up in tertiary education, such as management and presentation skills.
  4. Nurture innovation
    Consider using new technologies to encourage more online collaboration between scientists.
  5. Offer further opportunities
    Look at additional learning opportunities such as conferences to encourage networking and personal development.

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