Change is the only constant. Expect the unexpected. After two years of massive disruption and rapid digitalization, you know our era's truisms by heart.

STEM employers understand this better than anyone: Change is an old friend. It's with us today, and it’ll be back around again tomorrow. Immune as we are now to the destabilizing forces of disruption, where should we in the industry set our sights next? When it comes to hiring and retention in 2022, STEM employers will once again have their work cut out for them. The shortage of qualified candidates that existed before the pandemic still rages on, worsened, even, by 2021's record-high employee quit rates.

The strategies leaders will need to employ in order to attract talent in this climate will involve rethinking old approaches to hiring and retention and a willingness to embrace new technologies in the process. Here we’ll examine the major forces reshaping the STEM hiring landscape in 2022, along with actionable steps you can take to succeed this year.

1. reskilling and upskilling emerge as major strategies to combat the talent shortage 

The pandemic worsened the already widening skills gap across the U.S. Now, with workers leaving their jobs in record numbers, it’s only gotten worse. This has created a new urgency around upskilling or reskilling to address skills gaps that employers can’t address through hiring. In this model, STEM employers could, for instance, train and develop existing members of their teams for in-demand skill sets like .NET and JavaScript development, information security and data science without having to risk wasting months on a potentially fruitless search. Here’s what you can do:

  • Create learning and development programs that leverage the right strategic partners and build incentives. Randstad’s Talent Development Program, for example, develops talent by upskilling or reskilling candidates from our vast STEM talent database to meet your biggest areas of need. You can get more insight into the need for upskilling/reskilling here and our Talent Development Program here.
  • Focus on diversity and inclusion. Widening your candidate search to incorporate individuals from underrepresented groups will improve the overall makeup of your workforce, while delivering the skilled talent you need.
  • Work on closing the gender gap. Women currently make up only 27 percent of the STEM workforce. Concentrate your efforts on including more women to address skills gaps and improve equality throughout your workforce.
  • Don’t overlook using international talent either. There is still a range of visa options offering access to people with hard-to-find tech skills. Lack experience in this? Use Randstad, an experienced partner.

Don’t wait for a candidate that “checks all the boxes.” Understand which skills are required and if they’re transferable to the job opening regardless of the candidate’s experience level. Learn more about your junior employees’ skills, interests and aptitudes.

2. to attract and retain good talent, untie yourself from geography — and embrace remote work

A healthy percentage of people working in STEM fields — across age groups — is demanding flexible working arrangements. Bringing most of your tech workforce back onsite full-time will limit your candidate pool.

Recent Randstad surveys found that even though four out of five workers want to return to their workplace at least part of the time, two thirds of STEM respondents prefer a fully remote job over a fully onsite one. More than four out of five STEM workers are interested in a flexible working schedule.

Accept that a segment of candidates is unwilling to go back to an office full-time — and they’ve got more job options than ever. Accelerate your organization’s transition to a hybrid cloud environment in order to make permanent remote work more feasible and secure for your company. Ensure your existing tech stack is up to date (i.e, switching to Windows 11 and embracing A.I. and machine-learning collaboration tools) and make the help desk process clear and easy to follow to ensure all employees are comfortable with the new tools and applications.

  • Employers can now hire more diverse and geographically distant talent, including women who exited the workforce because of competing priorities and highly sought-after tech specialists who prefer remote work.
  • Organizations located in smaller cities can now compete for the best talent, as many highly skilled workers have left the larger, costlier cities for quality-of-life locations and now don’t have to commute.
  • Organizations relying on outdated salary surveys or wed to established salary bands shouldn’t be surprised when candidates reject their offers. Workers are waiting for the “right” job — the onus is on you to create that “right” job.
  • Employers that can’t afford the new salary levels must look for ways to increase total compensation and benefits such as performance bonuses, time off, childcare stipends, mental health and wellness assistance, etc.

3. job seekers are in the driver’s seat, which means good candidates get multiple offers — and go fast

Even in the best of times, top talent didn’t stay on the market for long. But now, with job seekers in the driver’s seat like never before, the point has never been more clear: If you take months to hire, you’ll lose out on some good people. Certain roles require more time to assess and vet candidates, but in this job market, you’ve got to find ways to shorten your time-to-hire. The following graphic depicts the “typical” hiring process:

After day 10, the amount of top talent has already diminished. What are the chances that someone with a high-demand skill is still going to be job hunting after 30 days? Not great.

Randstad has proven that it’s possible to dramatically compress time-to-hire. Check out the diagram below.

Accelerating your hiring timeline is critical during periods of increased competition, but by thinking outside the box, employers can also increase their chances of landing skilled STEM talent. Take for instance, the emerging phenomenon of “boomerang” employees.” Defined as the rehiring of previously-departed workers, boomerang employees provide employers with candidates they know already fit the bill (they hired them once, after all) which means they can be hired faster — and with fewer costs — than going the traditional route.

Additionally, while today’s job seekers are more focused on flexibility and work-life balance, compensation remains king. With so much competition for talent, keeping your pay rates in line, or in some cases, ahead of your competitors, can help you secure talent with the best offer before they leave the market.

4. in an era of sky-high quit rates, employee engagement is as important as ever

Last year, one in four employees quit their jobs — and that was on top of five straight years of already-rising national turnover rates. There’s no question that employers are facing a worsening retention crisis on top of an already alarming talent shortage. So what’s driving this surprising mass exodus? A recent Gallup analysis shed light on how people now think about their work lives. Nearly half the U.S. working population, across all professions and industries, is actively or passively looking for new job opportunities. Gallup’s findings are a wake-up call:

Employees with the highest quit rates are not engaged or are actively disengaged — a description that includes most employees (Gallup found an employee engagement rate of between 20 to 34 percent in the U.S./Canada).

The lost productivity from these not engaged/disengaged employees is 18 percent of their yearly salary. Replacing them costs the organization between $25,000 and $100,000. If their replacement soon becomes disengaged, the cycle just repeats itself.

The local managers must build people management skills to foster an employee experience that gets the best from people and entices them to stay. Employees who think their pay/incentives are fair and are motivated by individual achievement are more likely to be satisfied with their pay and more engaged. Only around one out of five employees now fits this profile.

There is no going back to the pre-pandemic world of work. The organizations that accept the new realities about the workforce and workplace will embrace the flexibility required to succeed. They will be the ones positioned to find, hire and retain the skilled talent they need even in the face of continuing change.