By Vincent Masat
Global Account Director

The life sciences sector is in a precarious state, sparked by global economic and regulatory pressures, and rising labour costs. The industry is also faced with a shortage of quality talent — individuals who have the necessary soft skills and technical expertise to drive growth and innovation. Further exacerbating the talent shortage is the general shortage of junior Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) talent, particularly in specific geographies.

In PwC’s annual survey that looks at TA trends in the life sciences industry, CEOs expressed a cautious approach to hiring. Only 54% expected to increase the headcounts in their organizations in 2019, down from 71% in 2018. A deficit in supply of skilled workers was a top concern of CEOs. Talent leaders in the life sciences industry can overcome this cautious mentality and these challenges by transforming talent acquisition into a function driven by strategy and proactivity. We recommend five strategies to adopt today:

1. Redefine Critical Skills

The life sciences industry relies too heavily on sourcing traditional hires with highly technical knowledge and direct role experience. This narrow view often stems from a long-established reactive approach to talent acquisition within an organization. When asked to think about the future, talent leaders who lack vision resort to traditional tactics and miss their opportunity to be seen as change agents. They may focus on technical capabilities required today for the role, rather than the underlying skills necessary to create a workforce that will embrace change in this ever-evolving industry.

Transformative talent leaders understand the need to broaden their understanding of critical skills. They use a less-technical and more-nuanced approach to proactively recruit an array of emerging and experienced candidates from creative and scientific backgrounds. They help their hiring managers understand the value of candidates who have a balance of technical, behavioral and leadership skills and understand the importance of strategic thinking. The result is stronger, more adaptable quality hires and the avoidance of direct talent poaching, which is so common in the industry.

2. Optimize Your Recruitment Process Through Technology

In today’s competitive talent market, speed is of the essence. Top candidates should not be left stuck in an endless and complex recruitment process. A modern and successful recruitment process takes advantage of technology through dedicated recruitment applications that can eliminate time-consuming administrative tasks. A range of tools can now supply all the necessary procedures in one place: identifying and attracting top talent, publishing job descriptions, processing applications, referrals, etc.

Organizations should also become more flexible and leverage mobile-friendly solutions. A Smart Recruiters survey states that close to 90 percent of job seekers now utilize a mobile device when looking for a new opportunity. Moving to a tool that allows app-based management of the recruitment process offers a tremendous advantage when it comes to speed -- simply because of its dominant accessibility. Candidates, recruiters and hiring managers alike use their phone 24/7. Using mobile applications can allow more real-time visibility to the recruitment process, provide alerts when candidates are ready to be reviewed or have confirmed an interview slot, improve and accelerate the process providing a better experience for everyone involved.

3. Engage Talent Early and Often

Hiring quality talent in a tight market requires proactively creating deep and diverse talent pools. To do this, engagement must be sincere, intentional and consistent. Employers need to move beyond simple job postings, promoting local events and organizational updates. Strategic engagement requires a marketing-minded, social, mobile and candidate-centric approach — this is accomplished by developing and implementing a well-defined Employer Value Proposition (EVP).

With the guidance of a strong and appealing EVP, organizations can provide engaging, relevant material to targeted audiences, demonstrating what joining the industry can offer — both personally and professionally — while raising awareness of the organization. The result is more high-quality candidates, as the individuals who engage with your messaging self-select in and pass the first hurdle of cultural fit.

4. Empower Line Managers to Become Talent Scouts

Hiring managers should have the necessary networks, skills and credibility to function as strategic sourcing specialists. More and more, it becomes critical to turn every employee into a recruiter and a brand ambassador. However, few organizations have adopted or even accepted this, leaving too many hiring managers who still see talent acquisition as strictly an HR responsibility. Embracing a collaborative approach to recruiting has many positive effects. Too often, hiring managers do not understand the true nature of the talent market, inhibiting communication with talent acquisition and often resulting in unrealistic candidate expectations. When moving to a more collaborative approach, everyone can understand the difficulty of recruiting in today’s highly competitive talent marketplace.

Hiring managers need to work with their recruitment teams as consultants, using the market intelligence and best practices the talent acquisition team offer to help uncover any misalignment between the skills needed for a role and the skills available in the market. Front-line recruiters should have the expertise to identify and engage the very best talent, as well as the capability to establish credibility and communicate and obtain buy-in at all levels. When hiring managers have the trust, knowledge and resources, as supplied by their recruiter, to work as an ally in the recruitment process, they will do so more freely and more successfully.

5. Align Talent Strategies to Commercial Planning

The human agenda must be embedded across the entire organization to truly effect change and attract the right talent. Building a sustainable talent strategy that includes the following components will ensure the recruitment function is a competitive advantage for the organization.

  • Improve Market Intelligence: Gaining insight into target markets helps organizations identify business-critical talent, as well as analyze the current skills gap.
  • Improve Visibility with Talent Analytics: Tracking and evaluating metrics provides insight into performance, in addition to enabling proactive recruitment.
  • Adopt Workforce Segmentation: Tailor components of talent acquisition and management (e.g., the hiring process, training, incentives and schedules, among others) to meet the needs of different segments. Successful segmentation reduces costs, improves development and strengthens employer brand.
  • Strategic Workforce Planning: The alignment of talent and business strategies helps organizations ensure the right talent is available, when it is most needed. Effective workforce planning requires an inclusive talent management solution, succession planning and retention initiatives.

The key to competing for top talent in the inspiring, and ever-changing world of life sciences is to assess both the effectiveness of current talent acquisition strategies and what kind of experience they provide to their candidates and employees. The life sciences industry lags other industries in talent management sophistication, but it excels at innovation. Just like in product development, the firms with the most innovative talent solutions will leapfrog their competition. Learn more in our whitepaper on the current life sciences talent landscape, which provides best practices for effective talent acquisition.


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