The pharmaceutical industry has undergone a commercial transformation in recent years, and will continue to evolve in the future. Last year I wrote a piece for the SEC blog on digital being the future of pharma marketing, and since then we’ve seen huge advancements in machine learning and AI across the entire commercial sector.
While advancements are being made to streamline processes and shorten pipelines for those already working within pharmaceutical commercialisation, the challenge still remains as to how companies can attract and retain talent in such a candidate short industry. Having worked in recruitment for 9 years and in the life sciences market for 5, I’ve seen first-hand that recruitment is a two way street; companies have to demonstrate their appeal as employers, just as a candidate has to demonstrate why they are the correct fit for a role.
Companies that are able to modernise and adapt their offerings to match or exceed industry standard will always have the lowest attrition rates, and are able to maintain a motivated and productive workforce. During my time working within the commercial division at SEC, I’ve noticed many of my clients adapting their offerings to appeal to candidates and engage their current teams. So how can companies ensure they’re doing all they can to retain and attract the best talent?
Ditch 'fitting in' when it comes to company culture - talk about enhancing culture instead.
Culture is the place I start when discussing new opportunities with candidates, but some can be turned off by the idea you're looking for a cookie-cutter personality type, and when hiring for personality fit it's a slippery slope to a workforce with no diversity. Instead try and evaluate what a candidate could bring to the work environment; unique points of view, interesting ideas, new backgrounds. It's also a good idea to think about the aspects of your culture and work environment you could look to change too.
In recent years a lot of my clients have focused on the wellbeing of their employees, and are beginning to modernise in ways other areas within pharma haven’t. A lot of the culture will depend on those within your organisation, but think about the things you can impact as a business owner; open office spaces where associate level are working side-by-side with director level employees encourages an open work atmosphere, and can have a positive impact on company communication and employee wellbeing. Offerings such as free breakfasts or fitness classes might seem trivial, but small things like that could seal the deal when extending an offer.
Invest in your people. Devise an ongoing development plan that adapts as your employees progress.
Training and development will always be appealing to an employee, and goes hand in hand with opportunities for promotion. Most clients I work with have a linear progression path, meaning I can give a clear idea of what the next few years with that company could look like for a candidate. Equally, hiring managers that have an open mind when it comes to requirements for entry level roles have an advantage in securing graduate talent. My clients that value coachability as much as experience and qualifications when it comes to junior roles, which allows them to train, develop and retain talent from an early stage in their career.
Flexibility is a hot topic, but you don't have to bend over backwards.
The flexibility buzzword what I hear most when I’m speaking with candidates, and when they tell me that’s what they’re looking for I know they want input over how, where or when they work - it can be daunting for an employer that might not have offered flexibility before, but it could be as simple as offering one day a week home working or allowing a semi-structured work week rather than a strict 9-5. Starting small will allow you to see what works for your business.
According to LinkedIn’s employer value propositions survey, last year 56% of pharma professionals working within commercial divisions said work-life balance was a key factor that they looked for. Developments in technology mean employees no longer have to be tethered to their desks, and employers are increasingly offering home-working flexibility or four day work weeks, particularly for senior level staff. Whether it’s for health and wellbeing, travel time or family commitments, offering home working or flexible hours from the outset shows a company to be sympathetic to an employee’s individual needs and requirements.
The offering of a ‘competitive salary’ doesn’t mean much when a candidate already expects the industry standard, it’s the things that come alongside it that can really capture their attention, and help to retain the workforce you already have. In such a candidate short industry, ensuring employee wellbeing is essential, and as an employer it’s never been more important to be creative and flexible with your company benefits.