Company Culture: 5 Ph.D. Scientists Share What Matters Most

C&ENjobs February 27, 2018

Having a hard time attracting quality employees? You’re not alone. According to the latest research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 68% of HR professionals across industries report challenging recruiting conditions, with the majority of organizations citing lack of work experience, skills, and competition from other employers as primary reasons for not being able to secure top talent.

In the science industry, this challenge is compounded by the fact that employers need to demand specialized skill sets, sophisticated knowledge, and practical experience, – making for a rare and highly sought-after talent pool. Also consider that the current unemployment rate among Ph.D. scientist is 2.1%, which adds to the talent scarcity in the open market. A real recruiting conundrum, indeed!

In order to attract talented science professionals, companies are realizing they need to be able to differentiate themselves in the market place, and be seen as an employer that reflects the values and interests of their current and future employees. Just as these companies are marketing their products and services, they are now actively marketing their ‘employer brand’ using similar techniques to communicate their values and company culture.

When it comes to establishing an effective employer brand, it all starts with company culture. In speaking about company culture, founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, said “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.”

Following in the profound words of wisdom from Sir Richard Branson, we sought out to identify what scientists desire in a company’s culture. We asked five Ph.D.’s to answer the same question. Here is what they said…

When you consider working for an employer, what do you value most in a company’s culture?


Company culture is critically important to attract and retain good talent in the sciences. Who doesn’t need, or at least want, to be proud of the company they work for? In my mind, the best companies have a culture where it’s easy to see how they, either directly or through their customers, advance science and make the world cleaner, healthier or better in some meaningful way. Companies that can do this, and that invest in training and empowering employees, have a workforce with a purpose. People with a purpose stick around, perform and even promote the company!”
Marketing Manager at a Fortune 500 Biotechnology Company


“I think scientists want a worthy challenge, to make an impact through their work and to feel the satisfaction of accomplishment. Along the way, we value the ability to help define objectives, design the path forward and work in an environment that supports our efforts to succeed in these pursuits. Workplace culture is rooted in what a company actually values, which we all know is backed by money and time. If those values are well-aligned with what motivates scientists, it will be an attractive place to work and retention will be high”
Director of a Biotechnology Startup Company


“The most valuable thing in a company’s culture is personal alignment around a common goal, demonstrated as shared enthusiasm from employees in every functional group. When employees understand the impact that their business is making on the world, and their role in bringing that vision to fruition, it creates a positive feedback loop of motivation, inspiration, and productivity.”
– Senior Director of Marketing at a Mid-Size Biotechnology Company


“I value employers that encourage and allow me to pursue my own ideas and innovations that are outside of the company dictates. In other words, employers that are not extremely rigid and have flexibility about what I can and cannot do, but obviously within a responsible extent.”
– Technical Director at a Pharmaceutical Company


“As an early/mid-career scientist, something I like is shared social contact across the organization. Where employees can chat, and share ideas gives rise to serendipity – new developments and direction. Also, senior managers can get to know names of people in their building and take an active interest in employees by asking how they’re doing or about projects they have an awareness of. Having open communication really helps me to feel valued and break away from a ‘them and us’ culture, which is rarely a happy thing. There are smart people at all levels of an organization.”
– Applications Specialist at a Scientific Instrumentation Manufacturer

You’ve just read six different opinions to the same question regarding company culture. However, in each of these responses there are some common themes worth noting. Each respondent, in some form and fashion, valued company cultures that empower employees, give them autonomy to innovate, and enable them to do great things, both for themselves, and the world.

While this small sample size of responses on company culture may not be statistically significant, we do think it provides a window into the minds of your future scientific hires and what they care about. This is vital information to know for the hiring process, and is exactly why employer branding is a powerful recruitment tool.

What do you value most in a company culture? We would love to hear your opinions on this topic in the comments.