The events of the past 18 months have thrown up all sorts of unforeseen situations, and every single industry is operating in a landscape they could not previously have envisaged.

Sometimes that’s been a good thing, sometimes a little less so, sometimes a bit of both. What is very clear across all industries is a general reassessment from the workforce on how we work, why we work and who we work for. It’s a bit of a generalisation, but for many of us, our attitude to work has shifted in some respect since March 2020.

What’s more, the overall UK job market is experiencing a boom – in part a reaction to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions – and in many industries, the workforce simply isn’t available to fill those roles. Consequently, wages are increasing as employers aim to either retain or attract talent.
Put all these circumstances together and the candidate is very much in the driving seat right now.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Life Sciences.

Life Sciences – more than just a growth industry

As we all know, the global pandemic has seen the Life Sciences industry react to outstanding effect. Its “boom” started many months ago. Research, manufacturing and testing – these are all areas that have grown exponentially since early 2020, and all tend to require specialist qualifications or experience. There is no sign that this is likely to abate.

Add to that the Brexit-related exodus of talent from the UK and we’re left with an abundance of opportunities, but a shortage of suitable of candidates for those roles. This has led to something hitherto almost unheard of in the Life Sciences industry, a culture of the counter offer.

I know this is something that many, many industries have contented with in the past, and we’re now hearing of Life Sciences employers offering departing staff pay rises which are lifestyle changing: that makes it very difficult to turn down. And following almost two years of global uncertainty, it’s understandable that the prospect of remaining in one’s familiar job, with a better financial package seems preferable to taking the new job we’ve been offered. Staying put provides a certain level of comfort at a time when we’re all a little more cautious than usual.

However, the counter-offer is an unsustainable way of retaining talent. Let’s not forget that it’s been documented that 80% of those who accept one will leave their original employer after 18 months – so it’s really not all about the money! And eventually, the candidate shortage will be resolved – potentially through cross-sector recruitment – but that takes time and it puts industry resource specialists in a tricky position in the meantime.

It’s a pattern that is likely to repeat itself, as we’ve seen time and again in the offshore oil and gas industry. So what can we, the people who know better than anyone how to create a Life Sciences workforce, do to mitigate this situation?

Understand the Candidate, Retain and Attract the Workforce

In most things, the earlier the planning starts, the better the end result. It’s no different when it comes to attracting talent in a candidate-short market. Bear in mind that an effective onboarding process can take at least six months, whilst building a relationship with potential candidates can take a similar amount of time, if not longer.

Engaging with a specialist resourcing company as early as possible gives time to build that pipeline of candidates and really get to know what makes them tick at work. This means that the offer they receive from a new employer is about more than pounds and pence; it’s designed to satisfy all the other elements that they believe make a role worth taking.

Equally, getting under the skin of our client companies to ensure we understand what can make working for them particularly attractive allows us to sell the whole working package – not just the financial aspect. The result? We can match the company’s ethos, principles and additional benefits to the candidates’ priorities and ambition, thus building a sustainable, satisfied workforce. And that workforce is the best possible PR when it comes to attracting future talent.

None of this can happen overnight – this is all about building relationships and reputations, which takes time. But smart engagement now, means a sustainable, highly effective Life Sciences sector – something I think we all agree is fundamental to our collective future.