Magazine Article | November 1, 2022

4 Strategies For Overcoming Talent Scarcity In Life Sciences

Source: Life Science Leader

By Tania De Decker

In an industry centered on developing products to improve the way people live, hiring the right talent is essential for driving those innovations. Yet, as life sciences companies see an influx of funding, rapid growth across pharma, medtech, and diagnostics, and the benefits of a recession-proof industry, there is another major trend employers should be mindful of: talent scarcity.

The significant progress and potential for life sciences companies could be jeopardized, given how challenging it is to find qualified talent to drive their key initiatives. After all, research from Randstad reveals that it takes an average of 105 days to fill a non-executive position in the life sciences sector, accounting for a loss of $500 per day. But it’s not just about filling the traditional roles; employers must also account for new and specialized high-demand skills, like AI, machine learning, and data science, alongside the soft skills required for sales, marketing, and customer experience professionals.

In such a dynamic landscape, it’s no longer enough to be recession-proof; companies also need to make sure they have the teams and talent pipelines are future-proof. And with the vast number of open positions fueled by the Great Resignation, jobseekers have the luxury of being selective in the roles and companies they choose. Fortunately, there are several steps life sciences companies can take to mitigate the risks of talent scarcity, be an employer of choice, and build a highly skilled and engaged workforce.

To find the best talent, companies must compete not just within their own sector but also against employers across all industries. Although life sciences companies are often well regarded, they might not be as high profile as many of the big tech and consumer goods companies that they’re competing with. To account for this, life sciences companies must emphasize their employer brands and why candidates should want to apply.

This includes offering flexibility for how work gets done so candidates can achieve the work-life balance that’s important for them. While remote or hybrid arrangements have become table stakes in the post-pandemic workplace, they should include more than allowing work from home. Instead, candidates can be empowered with a greater say in when, where, and how they work.

Employers can also better emphasize the value of pursuing a career in the life sciences. Explaining how the company helps people and sharing goals for the future can give potential employees a sense of purpose. Knowing they can contribute to the development of solutions to detect, treat, or cure a disease — and improve society overall — is something they might not get from employers in other industries.

In fact, purpose and meaning in one’s work are more important than ever, according to Randstad’s 2022 Workmonitor global research. Its findings show that one-third of workers suggest they would accept lower compensation for a job that contributed toward society. This is even more prevalent among younger candidates, as 42% of respondents aged 18 to 24 hold these beliefs.

In addition to highlighting purpose at work, employers are also working to meet shifting talent expectations. The 2022 Randstad Sourceright Talent Trends research, which surveyed more than 900 C-suite and human capital leaders around the world across all industries, finds that more than three-quarters (77%) of all life sciences and pharma leaders surveyed are putting more focus on the talent experience than ever before.

What strategies are most effective for doing this? Beyond offering flexible work arrangements, employers are reevaluating and increasing compensation and benefits, focusing on employee well-being and emphasizing social responsibility initiatives.

Many of the changes companies implemented in response to the pandemic — such as remote work arrangements, expanded health and wellness coverage, and greater access to employee assistance programs and support — can and should continue to be part of the company’s offerings to create an exceptional talent experience. There’s also the opportunity to introduce creative solutions to meet the needs of today’s job seekers. These can include connecting talent with wellness coaches, providing backup daycare programs, or even offering food for employees and their families.

As competition for life sciences talent grows, a company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can help make the difference. Data from the Randstad Workmonitor show that nearly half (49%) of respondents aged 18 to 24 wouldn’t take a job with a company that isn’t actively improving DEI. Even among all age groups, 41% of respondents share this view.

According to the 2022 Talent Trends research, 60% of life sciences leaders recognize that workplace DEI initiatives are essential to attracting, engaging, and retaining talent. Moreover, 70% believe DEI are embedded in their talent strategies. Despite this, the research found room for improvement. Although 63% of industry employers think their DEI practices are important to candidates, this represents the lowest percentage among all sectors studied, and 16 points below the global average across all sectors. Less than half (41%) say their hiring practices supported their organization’s diversity goals in 2021.

Making the commitment to improve DEI not only helps to bring in and retain qualified talent, but it will also help to bring about greater societal impact. While there is much work to be done across all industries to improve pay equity and the hiring and development of a diverse slate of people, companies that work toward achieving this will have a significant advantage in acquiring and retaining diverse talent.

Employers also should consider how their current employees can be upskilled, reskilled, and prepared to take on new and advanced roles. Our Talent Trends research shows that most employers recognize this need. Two-thirds (67%) of life sciences and pharma leaders report that reskilling and upskilling employees for different roles helps them to address talent shortages. At the same time, 63% of respondents say they have already invested in internal mobility platforms, with 53% planning to invest more in this area.

Of course, talent acquisition isn’t limited to hiring new candidates or promoting current employees. Contingent labor — temporary workers, freelancers, and independent contractors — presents another way to fill gaps effectively. Fortunately, the industry is already ahead of the curve; 57% of life sciences and pharma leaders say they invest in talent marketing for temporary staff, and 73% are doing so for freelancers and independent contractors. Both numbers represent the highest of all reported-on sectors.

When figuring out the right approach to “‘build, buy, or borrow,” talent analytics and market intelligence will be crucial.

Today, recognizing what it takes to attract candidates, provide a rewarding, purposeful career, and highlight a commitment to DEI are all crucial. But it’s important to remember that overcoming talent shortages is more than just about new hires; it should encompass the entire talent landscape: identifying internal candidates who can be developed into new roles as well as determining how other types of talent can be leveraged to meet company priorities. Using the above strategies, companies can create the workforces they need to continue innovating and delivering the life-changing solutions that help the world.

TANIA DE DECKER is managing director of strategic global accounts at Randstad Enterprise.