Changing the Rules of Engagement in the Life Sciences

Kim Ciconte explores a shifting world of talent engagement in the Life Sciences.

August 12, 2019

By Kim Ciconte, Vice President, Global Solutions, Life Sciences, KellyOCG

Specialist talent is at the heart of the Life Sciences – driving innovation and discovery around the world. However, in many of the key Life Sciences markets, this highly specialized talent is scarce. Organizations are working within skills-short geographies and it’s tough to find the people they need to succeed. This talent shortage comes alongside a growing shift in the way people want to go to work. Candidates are increasingly seeking flexibility, remote working, and project-based work that is transforming the traditional career journey through the Life Sciences. Sought-after candidates with niche skill sets understand their value and no longer have to knock on doors to find their next opportunity. They are fielding calls from recruiters every day.

So, how do organizations navigate this competitive Life Sciences landscape alongside a changing candidate profile?

One of the most meaningful changes has to be in the way we engage talent. A traditional approach, hemmed in by geographical location or worker type, simply isn’t sustainable. Life Sciences organizations frustrated by talent that is unwilling or unable to work on their terms have to think more innovatively. To become a most-wanted employer, they must transform their engagement strategy and be brave enough to think bigger.  

Global Talent Thinking

I was working with a global Life Sciences client who were becoming increasingly frustrated by their limited access to a pool of specialist technical talent. These were people they needed onsite across their major sites in EMEA. Finding the right people was a painful, time-consuming, and often fruitless process which was impacting their life-changing work. This problem was emerging across other locations globally, and the client came to us and said, “How can we fix this?” We were able to consult with them on their sourcing model and encourage a broader way of thinking about their talent needs. In one instance, we even identified a population of this in-demand specialist talent in Eastern Europe, who offered the skills they needed at a reasonable cost and had access to the client’s satellite site as well. This client has a remote network, they have locations all around the globe, and by engaging with talent across borders they could quickly overcome this growing challenge. In a shrinking world, tapping into the global talent community is often a practical solution for Life Sciences organizations.

Providing Talent with Opportunities to Work Their Way  

Removing rigidity around how and where people work is a way to improve engagement with sought-after candidates. A big part of this is challenging legacy thinking – yes, a role may have been perm and on-site for 20 years but what actually needs to be done and does the specialist need to be on-site to do it? It may not be possible to complete lab work remotely, but does it make sense to open the role up to a contractor? Flexibility is at the center of engaging a workforce who are more focused on how they go to work than ever before. Talent providers are also a key part of this equation – we have to set up talent solutions that allows us to capture talent in every possible way.

The Road to Guided Work

The guided work model is a way to increase focus on the work that needs to get done. When Life Sciences hiring managers can access a single portal for all of their talent needs, they are able to access candidates quickly, compliantly, and more efficiently than when they have to figure out the best route to take or supplier to use. AI and/or human consultation can be used to analyze the skills needed and determine the most effective way to engage the right talent. This could be through a permanent hire, independent consultant, temporary worker or even via service provider. This concierge model will also identify the most expedient route to talent, whether that’s through an MSP, RPO or other solution. A targeted and simplified approach to hiring increases engagement by focusing the search for talent in the right areas.

There is no single answer in how to better engage talent in the Life Sciences, but flexibility is at the heart of a successful candidate engagement strategy. Organizations must work to understand the people they need and learn how to connect with them in ways that resonate. They also have to break down traditional approaches to talent and hiring, looking beyond borders and legacy thinking to discover the hard-to-find skills that drive their success.


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