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Might we see an Employer-Driven Life Sciences Job Market in 2023?

The life sciences sector has been candidate driven for as long as the industry can remember. Wherever there is a vacancy to fill, there is a tendency to rely on headhunting talented individuals from competitors, as there simply isn’t an active talent pool of specialist biotech applicants looking for positions. This situation isn’t unique to the UK, with Poland and Australia among the countries that feel that their scaleup opportunities cannot be fully exploited in light of an inadequate supply of suitable graduates for the technical roles available.

For the UK, this issue is compounded by the challenges in hiring overseas talent that have been imposed upon us by Brexit. This has created an additional layer of uncertainty when it comes to developing a long term talent strategy.

For those businesses relying on venture capital investment to progress scientific advancements, delivering on promises is essential. Failure to deliver the outcomes and returns promised to investors can create dissatisfaction and potentially result in a breach of contract and the withdrawal of funding. Clearly, such an adverse scenario will stifle innovation and growth very quickly indeed.

Early stage European biotech companies are operating in a keenly competitive market and regardless as to whether they are seeking to fill scientific roles or onboard new executives, their recruitment strategies will need to address the needs of short term product development and research projects without neglecting their long term aspirations.

In order to inculcate a rather more employer-driven jobs market, there are some steps that merit consideration.

1. Diversity.

By demonstrating a continuous commitment to the diversity of your team, you will create a culture of inclusivity which will not only engender brand loyalty but attract others to your organisation. Studies have proven that 67% of candidates regard diversity as a significant factor [1]. Job-seekers are more attracted to firms where they can see themselves fitting in amongst the existing staff. The more diverse your workforce, the greater your opportunity to appeal to a wider audience.

2. Focus on growth areas.

By offering ongoing professional development training, you will encourage existing staff to expand their skill set in line with your direction of travel. This will enable you to explore areas of growth and innovation such as genetics, digital diagnostics, immunology and personalised medicine without the need for costly recruitment campaigns, whilst contributing to your employer brand.

3. Business intelligence.

With the life sciences industry market size expected to reach nearly $470 billion this year [2], a solid business intelligence team will be vital in order to stay ahead of changes to regulations and to manage finances. This will also provide reassurance to investors who are then more likely to approve riskier strategies which offer a higher return.

4. Research and development.

No-one wants to see another COVID-19 situation, so it is anticipated that not only will vaccine research funding be readily available, but candidates will be keen to work in this field. We are seeing a plethora of data science and laboratory technician vacancies at present, supporting the back end of vaccine trials. Manoeuvring personnel into these areas can support emerging requirements.

5. Reputation.

In a competitive job market, reputation can make or break your recruitment strategy. Regardless as to your employee value proposition, talented individuals capable of filling specialised roles within the biotech industry have their pick of roles. Treating your existing workforce with the greatest of care and providing them with meaningful projects and opportunities will create a positive culture which will radiate far beyond your four walls. Focus on increasing your retention rates and making your organisation more attractive to job-seekers and those who can be tempted away from their existing roles.

6. Cast your net wider.

Pigeonholing people into roles is an ineffective talent management strategy in any industry but especially so in one as cutting-edge as biotech. Instead, promote life sciences as an exciting career choice for scientists, engineers and mathematicians from any background and advertise opportunities within the cyber space to attract suitably skilled computer scientists to roles in R&D, manufacturing, supply chain and data management. Whilst these individuals may lack experience in this specific field, their complementary experience and transferable skills can diversify a workplace and prove beneficial for business.

A points-based system for immigration is set to be launched this year [2] and familiarising yourself with this system may offer opportunities for targeting foreign workers with the skills sets in which you are short staffed.

7. Partner with education providers.

When operating in a niche environment, benefits can soon be realised by promoting opportunities to students who have yet to select their degree subjects. Encouraging the next generation into STEM subjects and offering scholarships and intern opportunities to universities can encourage new entrants into technical roles. This will deliver a long-term benefit to the industry as a whole and, in particular, to those organisations with which students are already familiar.

It is unlikely that sufficient change will occur this year to challenge the status quo and turn the industry into one that is employer rather than candidate-driven. However, by engaging in suitable preparatory work, retention statistics can improve sufficiently to meet the short-term needs of both established and startup firms. This work will involve upskilling the existing workforce and refining organisational culture to better resist attempts by competitors to poach your top talent.

Looking to the future, developing partnership arrangements with universities for graduate entry schemes will begin to create a steady influx of new starters. This will provide the next-gen technical skills and ideas necessary for achieving your ambitions, bolstering existing teams and establishing new ones. Investment will be required, but the benefits will far outweigh the costs and could, indeed, be the difference between a failure to progress versus the development of revolutionary new treatments.

Not sure where to start on attracting excellent candidates for your organisation? We have more than 15 years’ expertise in recruitment in the life sciences. Book a consultation with us today for expert advice on getting the talent you need.



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ScaleX Consulting offer trusted business consulting and recruitment services to life sciences and biotech companies, ready to take the next step in their journey, particularly with life science recruitment, sales and marketing.