Monday, March 13, 2023

How One Think Tank is Attracting New Talent

In USA Today, Carol "Rollie" Flynn and Tara Spencer of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) explain how a number of staffers have left since the COVID pandemic and what they are doing to retain employees and attract new talent.  Here are some excerpts:

  • The first employee departed in late summer of 2020 and four more had left by mid-2022. The Foreign Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Philadelphia with a dozen full-time staffers, was losing some of our best employees. The departing employees liked working at FPRI and were committed to its mission, but they were being offered significantly higher salaries elsewhere, including from think tanks based in Washington, D.C.
  • In consultation with the staff, the Foreign Policy Research Institute took several bold moves to stem the departures and attract new talent. First, we formalized our work-from-home policy adopted during the pandemic. Employees who could perform their duties remotely were permitted to do so. There were a handful of jobs that required presence in the office, but most of the employees could work from home.
  • Last May, FPRI also added a four-day workweek option. Employees were given the option to work four days a week instead of five, as long as they worked the required 35 hours per week. We also adopted an unscheduled leave policy and stopped tracking vacation, sick days or personal time off. Employees could take leave whenever they wished as long as they let management know in advance and ensured that their duties were either completed or covered by other employees during their absence.
  • The majority of our team members work remotely outside of the Philadelphia area, including internationally. Employees communicate virtually by telephone, web meetings and through cloud-based platforms for brainstorming and project management. To help boost camaraderie and a positive culture, we also began holding two-day in-office retreats for all employees twice each year.


Dissatisfied with the containment strategy of John Foster Dulles and the Eisenhower Administration's foreign policy, Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupe founded FPRI in 1955 with the support of the University of Pennsylvania and the Smith Richardson Foundation.  In 1957, the think tank began publishing Orbis, a quarterly journal.