The RSA Group’s Eleanor Davies leads an expert panel discussion at Bio Integrates 2021

Hands up if you’re working in life sciences and want to hire great people!

Yes, we thought so.

At the virtual Bio Integrates 2021 event on 20th May, I was joined by a great line up of speakers in our ‘Recruit, Reward, Retain’ panel discussion. Industry experts Henri Louw, HR Director at AbbVie, Neil Torbett, COO at Phoremost and Jeroen Verheyen, Co-founder and CEO at Semarion shared their views on life science recruitment post Brexit, post-pandemic and in the context of the extraordinary influx of capital the industry is currently seeing. In the conference track: ‘Projection – what does the future hold for life science investment and infrastructure?’, the panel covered the key challenges facing talent acquisition in 2021, how the millennial mindset has changed recruitment, true diversity, and new ways of working. The specialist panel represented start-up, scale-up and mature global businesses, offering an insightful range of opinions. Here, we share with you a few key insights from the discussion.


Changes in the recruitment market, where are we now?

The hiring market today is vastly different to what it was five, or even two years ago. Previously, employers differentiated themselves with innovative reward schemes and offers of candidate job security. Fast-forward to today and employee focus has shifted towards seeking an exciting career with extraordinary and visible growth potential. Vertical mobility within an organisation is now essential to attract the top talent that will propel your business forward. The challenge for organisations is delivering on these promises with effective L&D and a great employee brand to nurture and retain the best people.


The Millennial Mindset

This change of mindset is particularly acute amongst millennial and Gen-Z candidates. Not only do these generations want to grow, they want to do so quickly. As Neil emphasised, if people don’t feel motivated to go to their place of work, they will move on. Retention strategies are hugely important, and Henri from AbbVie offered a clear message as to how employers can achieve this; ‘The more you strengthen development, the greater the employee engagement, the stronger the culture and the higher the retention.’


What is true diversity?

Conversations and actions to create a more diverse workplace remain as pertinent today as they were five years ago, but how does this affect recruitment and retention? At The RSA Group we are ever more acutely aware that employees want to see people at the top of an organisation that reflect their own values, culture, ambition, drive, and work ethic. As Jeroen noted, you need to be strategic in the way you assemble your Board and Senior Leadership team from the beginning, given the implicit message that construct sends to the business and as it grows and the hiring market it will want to engage with. This allows people to truly envisage a career for themselves, and believe that they have access and a credible path to the top positions. Whilst representing different genders and ethnicities remains crucial, all panellists agreed that diversity considerations should be broad, representative and far sighted – encompassing cognitive approach and neurodiversity, socioeconomic background, and age, to name a few.


Post-pandemic ways of working

As we emerge from over a year of working from home, the panel concluded on what the new world of work might look like. The last year has proved that motivation and great output is possible without individuals coming into the office every day, and a reduction in travel and commuting obviously brings benefits for our wallets, our planet, our mental health, and our work-life balance. Nevertheless, all panellists agreed that in-person connections and spontaneous idea sharing is still central to success and employee wellbeing. Replicating innovation and human connection is incredibly difficult in a fully virtual world, and new joiners and those earlier in their careers in particular miss out on those important informal mentoring moments. Henri spoke of the ‘office-anchored model’ AbbVie are advocating moving forward, and all panellists agreed that the key for companies going forward will be flexibility with when, where and how people work, to enable both individual and company growth and success.


What is indisputable is that we now have a different perspective on the leadership requirements of any business, no matter its scale or shape. We have seen examples in both corporate and public life of what good leadership looks like and what damage poor leadership can do. We recognise what is necessary for recruitment and retention, what has been missing for some unlucky employees, and what an impact great leaders have in times of challenge, change and growth.


The RSA Group understands what leadership in life sciences and healthcare can and should look like and is excited to support existing and future clients across the industry, in these fascinating times for science, drug development and medical advance. Give us a call if you would like to talk!


If you attended Bio Integrates 2021 and would like to catch up on the ‘Recruit, Reward, Retain’ panel, the session can be viewed via your online account portal for up to 30 days after the event. Sign in and stream online. Or you can access it via the link here.


Get in touch with me here if you’d like to have a conversation.

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