Why it Can Pay to Let Your Life Sciences Employees Go

Why it Can Pay to Let Your Life Sciences Employees Go

In a highly competitive and specialized marketplace, it’s easy to see why Life Science organizations go to great lengths to hold on to their top talent. But is this always the right move? Kristina Djokic explains why sometimes letting talent go can pay.

By Kristina Djokic, Vice President, Global Solutions, KellyOCG

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate at present is at a historic low of 3.3%. In the Life Sciences sector, it drops even further – in healthcare right now it is 2.2%. This makes for a hyper-competitive talent market where it can be incredibly tough to find the people you need. When we look at geographies with clusters of Life Sciences companies, this scenario becomes even more competitive. So, it’s natural that retention and turnover rates are a high priority for talent professionals in the sector. However, as our culture shifts, and the era of a ‘job for life’ rapidly fades away, do we need to get better at supporting people as they embrace new opportunities?

The Benefits of Job Hopping

A LinkedIn study found that, on average, millennials will have swapped jobs four times by the time they hit 32. An increasing focus on new experiences and greater flexibility of lifestyle is seeing job hopping become the norm. This has led to workforces who have more rounded experiences, improved people skills, and a greater drive for creativity. Qualities that are essential in a world-changing industry like Life Sciences. We may want to keep great talent all to ourselves, but the truth is that breadth of experience makes for better employees. What’s more, so-called ‘boomerang employees’ who return to an organisation after a period spent elsewhere, not only come back with a wider skill set but with an innate understanding of your values, reducing the risk of a poor cultural fit and streamlining the onboarding process.

Balancing Intellectual Competition 

One vital concern for Life Sciences organizations in respect of lost talent is the loss of sensitive intellectual property. This a legitimate fear in an industry where success is intrinsically linked to invention. Life Sciences companies use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or other legal mechanisms to protect details of current projects and developing drugs or technologies. However, there is understandable fear and concern over seeing skilled talent walk out of your door and into the lab of your fiercest rival. The truth is, if an employee wants to leave, they will do; putting sufficient legal protection in place to protect your intellectual property is essential to letting them go well.

How to Let Employees Leave Well

The trick to letting great employees go is to treat them as human beings. Their first priority is to their career and there are any number of legitimate reasons for moving on. Listen to want they say and if they have an issue you can fix – great! If you can’t offer them what they need to develop, do everything you can to support a smooth and positive transition period. Creating a great exit experience is the key to seeing employees returning in the future, complete with new skills and experiences.

Talent Sharing Partnerships

Perhaps it’s time we thought differently about how we access talent in Life Sciences. There is a growing need, as an industry, to be incredibly adaptable and flexible. I can see a future where talent sharing between organizations will help to bridge the talent gap and provide access to the right specialist skills at the right time. The sharing of expertise may feel like a risk, but it could also open the door to hugely creative collaborations. There is no single answer to a complex talent shortage but there are new ways to approach the problem. By working with forward-looking talent partners and being prepared to innovate in how they think about access to talent, Life Sciences organizations can achieve more.

Of course, I am not suggesting that attrition rates heading through the roof is a good thing. Or that working to improve employee engagement and satisfaction shouldn’t be at the heart of your people strategy. Retention remains a key goal for Life Sciences organizations. But if talented members of your team want to say goodbye, that’s OK. These career explorers have to potential to become advocates for your brand and to develop their skills in order to return to you stronger in the future. However painful it may be, letting go has to be something that your organization does well.

To discuss this topic further with the author or to learn more about our life sciences and healthcare expertise, contact us today.