More professionals are engaged in life sciences research in the United States than ever before and life science recruitment is critical. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the job landscape by emphasizing the importance of the biological sciences industry. This group grew 79% between 2001-2021 compared with 8% growth for all U.S. occupations. A record number of people are graduating with life sciences expertise.
U.S. graduates in biological and biomedical sciences totaled more than 163,000 in 2020—a record number and double the number just 15 years ago. However, finding life sciences research talent is still extremely difficult and life sciences recruiting presents many challenges. Life, physical, and social science occupations had the second-lowest unemployment rate of all U.S. occupations in April 2022 at 0.6%.
U.S. life science researchers have considerably higher salaries than other occupations, and show less variability across markets relative to cost of living indices. Due to this, employers may not achieve a financial benefit by hiring researchers in lower-cost markets.
The CBRE Group has identified the best markets for accessing life sciences research talent.
- Significant research talent exists along the East Coast, stretching from Boston/Cambridge to Raleigh-Durham, as well as the West Coast, anchored by the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Pockets of talent also exist in Chicago, Denver/Boulder, Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Minneapolis/St. Paul, among other major metros.
- Talent pools are emerging rapidly in markets such as Salt Lake City, Nashville, Columbus, Albuquerque and Tucson.
Understanding Employee Wants
One key component in addressing life science recruitment challenges is to truly understand what your ideal candidates are looking for and prioritizing in their job search.
A good working relationship with management is key to employee success in any industry. Toxic bosses, unrealistic expectations and workload, and lack of gratitude can all lead to low employee retention. Great pay and benefits don’t make up for a culture of disrespect.
The relationship between managers and employees sets the overall tone of the workplace. A poor relationship can detract from the company’s success by lowering morale and decreasing productivity, while a good relationship creates a positive and efficient work environment. While the exact aspects of an employee-supervisor relationship varies by workplace, some areas commonly come into play.
- Clear and open communication between employees and management is critical in the workplace. Poor or nonexistent communication may lead to missed deadlines, confusion, low morale and a variety of other problems.
- Maintaining boundaries in management-employee relationships is an important part of creating and maintaining a positive and healthy working environment. While being friendly at work isn’t a bad thing, always remember to uphold an appropriate level of professionalism.
- Effective conflict resolution between employees and management is crucial to keep morale high and limit tension in the work environment. Management should have formal and informal processes available to employees to address conflicts if they arise.
- Foster growth so that employees have goals to aspire to, as set and encouraged by management. Workers without a career advancement path or a voice in the company often don’t feel motivated to move beyond basic job performance, which may lead to greater employee turnover. Management should guide talent to develop a loyal, stable, and sustainable workforce with advancement opportunities for the future.
Type of Work
Life sciences are all the areas of science which apply to living things. That includes plant life, animal life, and human life. Some popular types of life science include:
- Biology –cellular, micro, and molecular
Life science subjects also cover agriculture, anatomy and morphology, entomology, forestry, environmental studies, biochemistry, and biotechnology. With so much variety in life science fields of study and areas of expertise, it is understandable why there are so many types of life science jobs and so much diversity within each area of study.
A life science graduate could work in anything from laboratories as a biochemist, in drug development positions, epidemiology, or immunology working on vaccinations for viruses like COVID or the flu. Within the scope of zoology, a life scientist might take care of or study wild animals, work on developing antivenoms for zoos, or study marine life as a marine biologist.
In a career in genetics, a life scientist might work on hereditary diseases, develop methods of testing for signs of disease in babies before they are born, or help to slow the progression of disorders or research new solutions for old illnesses.
Perks and Flexible Working Hours
The nature of the pandemic forced people to re-evaluate their values, goals, and what they prioritize in their lives and in their careers, which have led many to search for jobs that better suit their needs. The flexibility of work schedules that can accommodate childcare, remote work, and the general unpredictability of pandemic and post-pandemic life challenges has become a top priority for job seekers, especially in the life sciences.
Life science companies must remain ahead of the curve in a continuously changing industry when it comes to job perks and flexibility. Remote positions are becoming more prevalent. The pandemic has caused a shift in the rise of small labor in a variety of industries. Many conventional jobs in the life sciences industry have gone online and will continue to be distant in the future. The need for remote positions for healthcare practitioners such as physicians, nurses, and other clinicians has increased as telehealth services have been more widely adopted.
Talent, Skills and Experience
Within the life sciences industry, soft skills are often a piece of the puzzle that is lacking and hindering employees’ ability to grow and employers’ ability to hire talent. Biopharma and life sciences businesses are also competing with technology companies for specialized sector personnel, such as computational biologists and bioinformaticians, in addition to seeking the same talent pool as other industrial sectors for general digital skills.
MassBioEd surveyed Massachusetts life science companies about their hiring and employment experiences and almost one third stated that a shortage of applicants with the necessary skills is an obstacle to hiring. It often takes more than three months to fill open positions and employers indicated that local competition is also an obstacle to hiring. Companies are stealing talent from one another, resulting in a loss of productivity and high re-training costs.
Creativity in Methods of Hiring and Training
One way to increase the talent pool is to look for candidates with the aptitude for the work but without the traditional degree. These could include short-term training programs, such as apprenticeships, with curriculum designed by the industry and targeted toward specific occupations. There also needs to be outreach to those who are unemployed or under-employed, immigrants, and veterans, who can expand the workforce. If an individual can learn the skills for a job without a degree, companies need to be open to shifting educational requirements and hiring nontraditional workers who can also help to diversify the industry.
Every new life-saving advancement in the life sciences industry is monumental for the patients who will be helped, but on the staffing and employee end of things, it also adds an enormous demand for new and increased training in an industry that already requires very specialized training competencies from its potential hires.
Being open to a person learning the skill of the job without the degree can effectively expand the worker supply if employers are prepared to take chances on applicants with less experience but a desire for innovation. In some instances, especially in specialized areas, you cannot afford to take the risk or devote the time to train individuals. In other cases, hiring for potential and enthusiasm makes a lot of sense.
Adequate onboarding and training time and resources can be the difference between attracting potential new talent that may excel in the open positions, versus having to turn applicants away. More and more job listings offer on-the-job training for people who are otherwise qualified, which can be an integral component to getting new employees in the door.
Improve Life Science Recruitment Challenges by Creating Career Awareness
Another tactic to address life science recruitment challenges is to start early by significantly deepening career awareness of life sciences careers at all levels of education. Students are largely unaware of the great career opportunities and well-paying positions in life sciences and how to prepare for these jobs. There needs to be comprehensive career awareness plans, including outreach to teachers and guidance counselors at the K-12 level; providing schools with career information and industry speakers, as well as recruiting college graduates from a wider range of majors, including math and computer science; and better preparing doctoral students to enter industry.
Research shows that a lack of soft skills is hindering professionals’ ability to effectively grow in this industry. It is essential to provide training in not only scientific methods, but also communication, collaboration, management, and problem solving. A lack of these soft skills in workers hinders the ability of companies to effectively promote and hire at management levels.
Let Us Help Shape Your Life Science Recruitment Strategy
When it comes to navigating life sciences recruitment challenges, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Creating and executing a solid and effective recruitment strategy involving recruitment marketing is more important than ever, and it’s time to step on the gas. Let’s get started.
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