Stephan B. Breitfeld

By Stephan B. Breitfeld
March 6, 2019

Recruiting qualified and dedicated employees is never an easy task. Retaining key talent is sometimes even harder. The war for talent is global and expands across industries. The best candidates are looking for rewarding, challenging and innovative work environments that give them perspective and value.

How do early stage Life Sciences companies perform in the war for talent compared to big companies? Do the diverse and flexible roles, innovative research topics and the opportunity to shape the company culture provide competitive advantages in the eyes of high-potential candidates?

Advantages of SME companies

Recent developments in the Life Sciences industry have shown that the source of innovation within the industry is increasingly small and medium sized companies, particularly early stage companies. Especially novel drugs are being produced by these new entrants in the market who are often quite specialized. Whoever is on the top of their game in business development can be winning it in the faster moving battle for innovation that’s more expensive than ever before. Without a doubt it’s innovative product growth that has been the key element in breaking into the top of the market.

But speed and strategy are important factors leading up to it as well. Medical advances are leading to more novel therapeutics while large pharmaceutical companies are traditionally focused on developing and testing conventional therapeutics. Their comfort zone is their common products and their sales and marketing expertise while small Life Sciences companies add flexibility, creativity and scientific expertise to the set. A quite compelling combination – also for attracting key talent.

The key points to sell working at a Life Sciences SME

The tendency for SME in Life Sciences to rather put emphasis on customer needs, than following corporate preconditions can be a valuable argument in favor of a rewarding work environment. Since they are not constrained by the bureaucracy that characterize large companies there is a higher and more promising level of creativity. Less structural pressure can help create the needed flexibility and can build a business rapidly, thus creating a more attractive outlook on career opportunity. Since qualified high-potentials in these areas are in high demand it can be more easy for SME companies to present an attractive proposition to potential recruits, e.g. transparent and promising career paths within the company.

What stands between a SME and the talent?

There is no doubt about it: the barrier to getting top talent to leave a comfortable position at a well established company is high. But as we already established the selling arguments, there are a couple of points to prepare for when doing the talent game right. No reason to ignore those.

Time: The higher position you want to recruit and the more advanced the team should be, the longer it will take. In Germany it just takes much longer than clients from e.g. the US generally believe. Don’t underestimate the timeline! Just look at the professional customs around the notice, end-year-bonuses, employer loyalty and plain work laws to realize that it not only might but will take months for a high-quality hire to happen (and there is no real way to speed it up either). Be ready to offer compensation packages that meet the expectations and somehow mirror the risk of potentially leaving a “safe” job.  

Location: It’s quite obvious that your location is crucial when it comes to attracting talent. But also, it’s quite important in Life Science in terms of licensing and regulations since these can differ depending on location. So have a good look on how your location influences your picture towards potential new hires. Especially when you’re establishing a new location (or branch in Germany) and may lack the brand recognition.

Skills: Small and medium sized companies in Life Sciences also need a different kind of talent. Due to the traits outlined above they need candidates who tend to be more able to take on tasks outside their defined job descriptions, such as managing an affiliate or another function. Especially in the phase of establishing a company there is a tendency towards more broadly skilled talent because it’s vital for business success and can save a lot of costs. Early stage and small companies need to be able to change course smoothly and be flexible based on opportunities and successes. Talent needs to reflect that.

We want to find out more about these issues and questions and kindly invite you to take part in our survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KLM878N

We’ll be happy to provide you with the insights in our resulting whitepaper.

 

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