2022 Trends in Life Sciences Recruiting – where do we go from here?

Autor: Stephan B. Breitfeld

2022 Trends in Life Sciences Recruiting – where do we go from here?

No kidding, the last two years were surely the ultimate test of the Life Science industry’s resilience. And everybody in it. And that doesn’t only refer to the challenges that a global pandemic poses with lockdowns and economic decline (not to forget: looming inflation) resulting in a fundamental shift to remote operations but also to the almost uninterrupted growth in the industry and the employment base needed to manage the growth. While most other industries faced massive losses and uncertain times, Life Science companies have continued to thrive and hire people, a significant percentage even hiring A LOT of people.

Going forward this means that even through the pandemic Life Science companies had to grow their teams and subsequently grow their talent pools, drawing from an increasing number of candidates from pandemic-driven disruption in businesses. This meant a phase where companies could fill positions needed due to the growth that already started in 2019. And get a competitive advantage in attracting those candidates while other industries couldn’t.

Demand for highly skilled talent 

This advantage, of course, only applies, if your company has been busy attracting talent during these difficult times. Because once the market picks up the competition the one/two steps ahead will be needed. After all: the Life Science industry employs a more highly skilled, STEM-intensive workforce compared to almost all other industries. This is a far more demanding task for recruiters and HR in a highly knowledge-based, science-driven industry working toward innovative solutions to global challenges in health, energy, sustainable industrial products, and feeding the world. No pressure…

And even the jobs that don’t require a highly skilled profile still have a large percentage of middle skill requirements which still is well above the share for all industries. As a leading advanced manufacturing industry, Life Science companies rely heavily on the skilled technician workforce (engineering as well as scientific), production workers, transportation staff, installation, maintenance, repair and so on. And what doesn’t make things easier: these workers are operating in increasingly digital and automated manufacturing environments that require skills and education of an entirely different nature than, let’s say, a couple of years ago.

Demand for the right mindset

As a result of the more diverse and disruptive industry the competition for STEM talent and their technical skills gets tougher, especially competing with other sectors that are essentially out to attract the “same” talent. This is particularly true for “secondary” industry talent, where the field of expertise is not necessarily the Life Sciences but more focused on engineering, IT, or data science disciplines.

Then in recruiting the biggest challenge becomes finding agile learners who possess a depth of expertise in the respective “secondary” field while also having experience in the clinical, scientific, and healthcare industries. Sounds like the rainbow unicorn, right? Yeah well, it is until you get a place, where you breed your own rainbow unicorns – in a way. The key is to consider a broader range of candidates with a certain intersection of expertise that have the potential for the right learning curve. I also like to refer to this with the “right mindset”.

The most recent “2021 Life Sciences Workforce Trends Report” by the Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes (CSBI) shows some interesting data, for example the „Share of Life Sciences Companies Rating “Very Difficult” to Hire in Selected Occupations“, which is led by “Regulatory Affairs/Compliance”, followed by “Research Scientists (Non-clinical) or R&D positions more broadly” and “Computational Biology/Statistics” (page 18). This shows the difficulty that lies in finding these candidates with the “right mindset”. This is also underlined by the fact that the biggest Share of Companies Surveyed Ranking Various Credentials as “Very Important” said: Demonstrated Competencies/Skills – before any degrees, academic certificated or badges (page 21).

Fill the gap of missing talent

The fact that millions of skilled technical jobs are expected to go unfilled by 2022 is nothing new really. We all heard (too many times) about the “war for talent”, recently the “great resignation” and what not. I like to look at the advantages Life Sciences already has and can continue to nurture and explore. That is its emphasis on internal (!) and external talent, the viable career opportunities, compelling visions and innovation levels, the message around the careers that, after all, play a critical role in the fate of the economy and, well, the world. The broadening of the search – as mentioned above – can only work when these types of candidates find what they are looking for. Talent from new locations may have new expectations as well! 

More exploration is surely needed in the area of developing high-quality data and information about the skilled technical workforce – a field with still some unleveraged potential. Proactive contingency plans need to be in place. And not to forget: continue to build partnerships to develop this critical talent, shorten recruitment processes and act more agile. If you want to discuss how to do that, get in touch anytime!


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