The talent shortage in life sciences is nothing new: the trend has been growing for years. Exacerbated by pressures on pharma firms due to the pandemic, the great resignation, and rapidly changing technologies, this skill and talent shortage is threatening innovation. What are some strategies for success? 

Problems in Life Sciences Staffing

The life sciences talent shortage is a global challenge, and each region faces unique challenges that require specialized solutions. However, here are the common themes that companies face around the world:

  • University vs. Industry. While the past decade has seen a 52% increase in European students in STEM, it takes several years for university programs to adapt to industry changes, and several years after that before students graduate with the new skill set. However, the pace of change in pharma and life sciences is incredibly rapid, and shows no signs of slowing down. Companies need employees with a firm understanding of life sciences and biopharmaceutical manufacturing, and who can also use AI, big data, and machine learning, with mathematical and computing skills. In fact, there is no current shortage in Europe of people who are skilled at traditional bioscience manufacturing: the pharma skills shortage is in engineering, data analytics, and process development. To solve this problem, an industry group in Switzerland has founded the Biofactory Competence Center (BCC). The BCC offers theoretical and practical training to “bridge the gap” between university education and real-world demands, and also to help re-train traditional manufacturing workers with the skills that firms need today.  
  • C-suite vs. Front Line. While this is more of a challenge in the US than in Europe, salary inflation is a problem everywhere. Company leaders at the upper echelons continue to draw larger and larger salaries, while lower level employees in the labs aren’t seeing their compensation increase proportionally. Even in Europe, life sciences companies need to rethink compensation, especially incentive and bonus structures, in order to remain competitive for talent. 
  • Startups vs. Giants. For the most ambitious, innovative young people, startups offer the most appealing opportunities. Startups are seen as more innovative, and faster-moving, so talented people can have more of an impact earlier in their careers. For young people, startups also may offer a more appealing culture, stock options, and more future growth potential than a big pharma giant. On the other hand, established firms have more stability that may appeal to older workers, and larger teams that allow for deeper specialization in a single area of study. In either case, companies seeking to hire the best life sciences talent need to consider their own company culture, and the candidate’s future aspirations, to find the right fit.  

Finding Life Sciences Talent with the Right Skills

To overcome these challenges and remain competitive, and innovative, in an ever-changing landscape, biotech and pharma companies should consider these important recruitment and retention strategies:

  1. Make data-based decisions. Great HR departments and recruitment companies use advanced tools and analytics to gain important insights about their candidates and their practices. Modern software allows companies to identify and understand:
    1. Whether their unconscious biases are influencing staffing decisions. In a tight labor market, there is no room for discrimination. While companies may not intend to allow stereotypes to influence staffing, they can often be built unconsciously into processes and decisions. 
    2. Identify recruitment process problems. Good software will help to indicate where candidates are dropping out of the recruitment process, and why. 
    3. Clarify unrealistic expectations. Some job listings are simply “wish lists,” and the number of people who actually qualify for the job as written is incredibly small. Many HR departments need a tool to help understand whether the skills they are looking for actually exist. 
  2. Improve your value. Companies who want to compete for the best life sciences talent need to do a better job of creating value for the employee. This often means creating a positive and inclusive culture, offering autonomy and flexibility, and working with employees to chart future advancement and opportunities. Offering ongoing education and training provides career benefits for employees, while helping companies cultivate the skills they need within their own ranks. 
  3. Think long-term. Long term relationships are a great way to remain competitive. Just because a candidate isn’t a great fit right now doesn’t mean they won’t be a great fit next year. Providing a great candidate experience and building a relationship is key to long-term success. Likewise, establish relationships with educational institutions, professional networking groups, and industry organizations to improve your profile and find talented people faster.
  4. Use a great recruitment partner. The truth is, most in-house recruiters, talent acquisition specialists, and HR staff have too many day-to-day demands on their time to execute this type of long-term strategy. Using a recruiting partner with a great network and industry expertise helps make all your recruitment efforts more successful. 

To remain innovative and successful, life sciences need the next generation of great talent, and they are increasingly hard to find. Grapefrute is an industry partner that understands the unique challenges and opportunities in the industry, and has the skills you need to find the right people. Contact us today