How to Attract and Retain Elite Biotech Talent


November 29, 2023

Biotech firms are currently grappling with the significant task of attracting and retaining highly skilled professionals. With a focus on specialised expertise, these companies often find themselves vying for candidates who are already engaged with other top firms. Additionally, the industry faces a shortage of talent, making the hiring process even more challenging. This article will delve into the unique hiring obstacles biotech companies face and offer insights on maintaining a strong talent pool.

The Competitive Recruitment Landscape in Biotech

Echoing the words of Steve Jobs, who foresaw that major 21st-century breakthroughs would emerge from the fusion of biology and technology, biotech firms are increasingly seeking candidates adept in big data and AI. This requirement puts them in direct competition for talent with major tech corporations like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.

Addressing the Skill Gap

A notable challenge in the biotech sector is the scarcity of life scientists equipped with adequate mathematical and computing skills. This gap primarily stems from the disconnect between university curricula and the rapidly evolving demands of the industry, leaving a shortfall in practical, industry-aligned training for emerging professionals.

The Hiring Process: A Lengthy Ordeal

According to Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Chief Economist at Glassdoor, the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors experience some of the longest interview processes, averaging around 28.1 days. This protracted and arduous hiring procedure is not only overwhelming for candidates but also detrimental to the company’s recruitment efficiency and operational workflow. Moreover, this delay often results in losing highly sought-after talent to competitors who boast more streamlined recruitment practices.

Struggling with Diversity

Diversity remains a significant challenge within the biotech industry, particularly at the leadership and executive tiers. This issue is highlighted by the fact that in a survey of 182 biotech and pharma companies, a staggering 92% of CEOs were men. Unfortunately, many companies in this sector have not yet made significant strides in addressing unconscious bias or actively fostering an inclusive environment for underrepresented groups.

Strategies for Retaining Elite Biotech Talent

Cultivating a Unique Company Culture

A company’s culture is crucial in attracting and retaining top-tier talent. According to a Deloitte survey, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a strong company culture is key to business success. While competitive salaries and benefits are important, a company’s distinct cultural identity often holds more sway in a candidate’s decision to join or stay.

Encouraging Workplace Diversity

Biotech firms should employ strategies like optimised job postings and blind interviews to foster a diverse workforce. Addressing the underrepresentation of women in the sector can be approached through career returner programs, which welcome back valuable employees after career breaks. The drug industry, where CEOs’ lack of diversity costs women an estimated $532 million annually, demonstrates the urgent need for diversity initiatives starting from the top.

Flexible Work Arrangements

With the concentration of biotech talent in hubs like Boston, New York, and San Diego, relocation is common. However, many candidates are hesitant to move. Highlighting benefits such as lower living costs can be persuasive, but if relocation packages are not feasible, biotech companies should consider remote and flexible work options.

Offering Career Development Opportunities

The rapidly evolving biotech sector demands continuous learning. Companies that provide educational and professional growth opportunities can significantly boost employee retention. When employees see a clear path for career advancement, they are more likely to feel satisfied and committed.

Key Takeaways for Hiring and Retention

As the biotech sector enters a new era with the integration of AI and data analytics, the competition for specialised talent, particularly with the IT industry, intensifies. To navigate these challenges effectively, biotech companies need to embrace modern work models, prioritise employee development, and commit to building a diverse and inclusive environment.

We thrive at identifying great people in the life sciences and technology sectors at Avery Fairbank, ensuring your organisation remains a leader in these dynamic fields. Visit our website to learn more about how our executive search services can help you improve your team. We urge you to contact us for a customised consultation if you require recruitment solutions that are specifically targeted to the unique demands of the life sciences and technology industries.

Retaining and Attracting Elite Biotech Talent

Published on 29-11-2023