14 Ways For Smaller Companies To Land The Best STEM Talent

Expert Panel® Forbes Coaches Council

Hiring and retention have always been persistent challenges for companies of all sizes, across all industries. During “The Great Resignation,” many businesses are finding it more difficult to find and keep employees who possess the skills they need. Small companies that rely on specialized STEM talent to operate, in particular, have traditionally had a smaller pool of talent to choose from to begin with; today, it’s smaller than ever.

Below, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share ways for smaller companies to land the best STEM talent, even when they’re competing with much larger companies.

Featured members share ways for smaller companies to land the best STEM talent.
Forbes Coaches Council members share ways for smaller companies to land the best STEM talent.

1. Experiment With Career Paths And Culture

Some larger companies move at a slower pace, including when building career advancement paths and opportunities to wear different hats. Smaller companies can be more nimble in experimenting with career paths and culture. They can also offer opportunities to work directly with leaders on different projects. Compete on speed and agility. – Manisha Dhawan, MPath Coaching

2. Demonstrate High Performance

Employees must understand that it is their responsibility to be the reason that the most talented and competent people come to work in your organization. Your team must understand that high performance attracts high performers. Small companies have a far better shot at communicating and demonstrating this. It is incumbent on leaders to ensure that the organization accomplishes what matters most. – Philip Liebman, ALPS Leadership

3. Partner With Educators And Recognize Potential

Getting (and keeping) the best STEM talent begins with actively partnering with educators. We need to be filling that skill pipeline. When educators and entrepreneurs align, we are doing work today that is creating a better tomorrow for everyone. It’s also helpful to think in terms of recognizing potential versus past performance. Creating opportunities creates a higher level of loyalty. – Kathi Laughman, The Mackenzie Circle LLC

4. Create A Culture Of Care

Compete on culture—not pingpong tables and beer, but how employees will be treated by their manager in an environment that empowers them to be their best. Large companies tend to burn out STEM employees. So buck that trend and create a culture of care with values and behaviors expected of managers that help prevent burnout and encourage growth and psychological safety. – Alex Draper, DX Learning Solutions

5. Offer A Highly Personalized Approach

Smaller firms have the benefit of offering a highly personalized approach—an advantage larger firms often have trouble matching. This might include higher-touch recruiting and onboarding (with added elements, such as a welcome gift or first-day lunch) and creating a customized vision for growth as the firm gets to know the employee and their unique strengths and interests better. – Christy Charise, Strategic Advisor

6. Offer More Freedom To Collaborate, Mentorship And Growth

STEM talent is, generally speaking, interested in working on hard problems that can make a meaningful difference in the success of a product or company. A small company offering a role that includes more freedom to collaborate, mentorship to grow and fewer layers to navigate is attractive to many job seekers, especially scientists and engineers. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

7. Look For Agile Skills For Cross-Functional Roles

Smaller companies need to focus on specialized skills within the subdomains of STEM. Identifying subdomains under STEM that are aligned to the small companies’ identified skill requirements will give them an edge. For small companies, the key is to identify talent with agile and nimble skill sets who can take on cross-functional roles within the smaller setup. – Jedidiah Alex Koh, Coaching Changes Lives

8. Get Creative With Rewards And Compensation

Benefits, flexibility and listening—these are the keys to landing the best STEM talent. You might not be able to compete on a straight salary, but get creative with your rewards and compensation. Can you give more time off than other companies? How about flex time, remote work and access to you as the head of the organization? Give them access and status and show that they matter. It goes a long way—farther than money. – Tyron Giuliani, Selling Made Social

9. Ensure Employee And Customer Satisfaction

Care for and ensure employee and customer satisfaction and purpose. Your current employees are your best ambassadors for hiring new STEM talent. Next are your customers’ positive experiences. When their positive experience is accompanied by a purpose that resonates with your STEM audience, you have the most powerful leverage to attract the right candidates. – Albana Vrioni, Vrioni Consulting

10. Partner With A Local Community Or Technical College

Connect and build a program or relationship with a local community or technical college. You can even do this with the STEM programs at four-year schools. If you have offered internships early, participated in their early education and made yourself known, these students will know you. If they like and trust you they may join you instead of opting for the bigger institutions’ offers. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

11. Showcase Agility And Ensure Inclusion

Smaller companies are actually better positioned to attract highly rated STEM talent because of the opportunities, lifestyle and career benefits they can offer that may be lacking in larger organizations. Showcase your agility and openness to diversity and ensure inclusion in all business areas. Adjust your HR and business practices in this manner to attract your desired talent pool. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory

12. Capitalize On What You Can Offer

For starters, stop competing with Google and other big companies and start capitalizing on what you can and do have to offer. I see hiring managers complain about why they can’t get top talent, and sometimes the reason is as simple as this: You can’t afford it. Instead, play to the strengths of what your company can and does offer. Smaller companies sometimes offer more visibility and ownership—use that as a carrot. – Joshua Miller, Joshua Miller Executive Coaching

13. Understand What Talent Wants And Needs

The answer lies in understanding what talent wants and needs. While large companies may have more resources to offer, talent often values other factors more highly. Here are a few things that small companies can do to attract and retain the best STEM talent: Focus on your company culture, offer competitive salaries and benefits, and invest in talent development. – Peter Boolkah, The Transition Guy

14. Seek Candidates Who Want To Make An Impact

Not all great candidates strive to work for a large organization. I have coached a lot of driven, curious and smart technical talent looking for an environment in which they can not only thrive but also have a significant impact on the business. They do not want to be one of many or be limited to a narrow role. They want to have a voice and the opportunity to shape an organization’s path. – Michele Cohen, Lead to Growth Coaching