Guest Column | May 5, 2016

Understanding Today's Talent In Life Sciences

Understanding Today’s Talent In Life Sciences

By Sarah Pozek 

Millennials: The largest workforce in the U.S.

Employers and employees are becoming increasingly aware of the traits, tendencies, and expectations millennials have in the workplace. This generation represents anyone born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s. They have been described as tech-savvy, innovative, and entrepreneurial, while others may criticize them for being entitled, selfish, and quick to leave jobs. Regardless of your perspective, millennials have become a huge portion of the workforce supporting the life sciences industry. This can be attributed to their fondness for cutting-edge technology, growing markets, and wide range of job opportunities.

Continued job growth is expected in this industry through 2024, which means we will continue to experience an uptick in the hiring of millennials. That’s great news especially since Pew Research reports that the millennial generation officially overtook baby boomers in 2016 to become the biggest generation in the U.S

The first step in hiring and retaining a millennial employee in life sciences is understanding their priorities and characteristics.  The following is a list of traits that are common among life sciences millennial employees:


  • Millennials grew up surrounded by computers, tablets, etc. They are early adopters and do not fear the “newness” of a disruptive product. With the dynamic nature of life sciences technology, millennials fit in well with this industry’s focus on data and analytics software. 
  • Disruptive cloud-based technologies are the norm, and millennials are at the forefront, with some leading the way as developers, entrepreneurs, and the like. 

Versatile Skill Set 

  • Life sciences is a start-up heavy industry, so it’s even more imperative to find employees with a wide and varied skillset. This is a good fit for the multitasking millennials. These potential employees will feel comfortable presenting to a client one minute and ordering coffee for the office the next. 
  • Being so technologically connected, millennials will not hesitate to implement new strategies, adopt new software and technologies that streamline processes, and utilize new marketing and social media tactics to benefit their company. 


  • Millennial employees want to do well by doing good and need to see a purpose to their work. 
  • Giving back to the community, volunteering, and social activism are important to Millennials, and they are happy to participate in meaningful events to support a cause. 

In conversation with Josh Elvert, business development manager for ClinCapture, an electronic data capture software company, focusing on streamlining data capture processes in clinical trials, he describes millennials as having great networking and social media presence, the flexibility to “wear many hats” in a job, all while being able to focus on the big picture and the rewards of having a career with a purpose. According to Josh, “Millennials get excited about being able to see the science behind new clinical development, but at the same time, they like playing a part at distributing targeted medicines that ultimately help patients. They want to feel that their job is of value to society.”

Knowing the characteristics of millennials in life sciences is essential, but it is also important to know how to interview, hire, and retain the Millennial worker. Here’s what you need to know:


Keep the interview process short and simple. You’ll lose a Millennial’s attention and interest if it takes too long. Additionally, millennials’ time and availability are in high demand, so act quick.  

  • Know your available dates for a first or second interview when contacting candidates. Millennials are all about instantaneous communication and will not want to go back and forth planning an interview over multiple emails. 
  • Instead of flying a millennial to a face-to-face interview that may take weeks to plan, use technology like Skype since they’re familiar with those types of communication anyway.


Millennials have a different general outlook on work and what they want out of a job than past generations.  

  • Money isn’t an end-all: PTO, flexible work hours, and benefits can prove to be more important than salary to many millennials. 
  • Work-life balance is highly valued. 

Retaining Millennials 

With the widely accepted stereotype of millennials being job-hoppers with a short attention span, here are some ways to help keep them happy at your company: 

  • Atmosphere 
    • Millennials want an entrepreneurial work environment where they can feel like they work with a company, not for the company. 
    • Owning their own book of business is important to them. 
  • Technology 
    • Millennials keep up with latest tech trends especially with training or company systems. Richard Branson has said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” 
    • Millennials are always connected on smartphones, so contacting them through text is not only efficient, but preferred. 
    • Company websites and social media should always be modern, up to date, and filled with quick and relevant information to appeal to millennials. 
      • For example, using a clean, modern website layout with culture-centered and mission-oriented values of the company can attract millennials. 
      • Consistently styled headshots with a modern look on the company website and LinkedIn pages appeal to millennials.

As more millennials continue to make an impact in the life sciences workforce, it is important to be able to adapt to their characteristics and expectations. Learning how to utilize and encourage the strengths of this influential generation will not only make your company more attractive to them, but will also help you retain them for years to come.

Sarah Pozek is the director of DRI’s Life Sciences practice area. Her specialty areas include biopharmaceutical, biotechnology, eclinical software & services, clinical data management, clinical operations, clinical informatics, quality & regulatory, electronic data capture, precision medicine, medical device, and related functions. She can be reached at