Evaluating the scarce talent challenge within life sciences: Further insight
In my previous two articles, I have been exploring the challenge that the pharmaceutical, medtech and life sciences sector faces in relation to the sourcing of scarce talent.
Talent Acquisition (TA) leaders have consistently told us that identifying and attracting talent is the biggest challenge that they face and our white paper, Transforming Talent Acquisition for the Future showed that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 63% of TA leaders rated the ability to find and attract quality talent the largest challenge.
Whilst many would acknowledge that the sector faces a challenge in hiring of scarce skills, there is little discussion as to what actually constitutes scarcity. If TA leaders are to devise strategies and seek investment to address these hiring challenges, then naturally they will need to define and quantify the extent of the challenge. When researching this topic we devised a methodology, outlined in my last article, Scarce Talent Evaluation: A new methodology to assess scarce talent in life sciences that TA leaders can utilise within their own organisations, using data that should be readily available. Our methodology looks at the variance in average time to hire, variance in average agency usage and overall volume of hire.
In the past 18 months, in partnership with our clients within the sector, we have hired >30,000 permanent staff across every region of the world, so we have seen first-hand these issues. Let me share with you some highlights from our internal analysis: -
Which countries have the biggest challenge when it comes to scarce talent in Life Sciences?
Hiring in more than 80 countries around the world we naturally see variances in average time to hire and agency utilisation. If you’re hiring in Malta then be warned, it’s the country in which we have seen the longest time to hire and the highest agency usage in the last 18 months. If you’re ramping up in Kazakhstan or Sri Lanka then you may well face a similar challenge, both are countries where hiring takes almost 50% longer than average and in which agency usage can be up to 5 times higher than average. But given those three countries account for just 50 of our 30,000 hires I think we can accept that the challenge posed could immaterial.
So, let’s instead look at the top 15 major markets by volume. As a reminder, this methodology plots each country’s agency usage and time to hire based on the variance to our global average. And the size of the bubbles represents the total number of hires.
Our analysis shows that of the top 15 countries by hiring volume, only two stand out as having above average agency usage:
- China (>5% above average)Our analysis shows that of the top 15 countries by hiring volume, only two stand out as having above average agency usage:
- UK (c. 3% above average).
Whist the UK has a below-average time to hire (c. 2 days less), China averages 2 days above the average. Taking into account both these metrics we conclude, of all the major hiring markets, China will represent the greatest challenge.
Elsewhere it’s worth noting:
- Both France and India have significantly greater time to hire than all other major hiring markets.
- It’s likely that both can be explained by local factors. In India; an incredibly competitive market for professional talent and significantly higher offer decline rates than in other markets. Even with measures in place to mitigate the risk of offer declines, average hiring times are elongated as a result of having to restart the hiring process or recommence with silver medallists.
- Hiring in France is often subject to governance requirements from corporate works councils which can place focus on internal hiring and require additional approvals for external hires. These factors have increased our average time to hire for clients in France.
Which functions are hardest to hire for within Life Sciences?
Unsurprisingly we see that the fastest time to hire and lowest agency usage are within functions such as:
- Operations (which includes manufacturing)
- Supply Chain and Enabling Functions (such as Finance and HR)
If we look to the upper right quadrant of the chart, we see the functions for which hiring is more challenging. It won’t be a surprise for TA practitioners to see Medical Affairs and Compliance within this quadrant as both are functions which are often spoken of anecdotally as challenging to hire. More of a surprise is that Sales and Marketing (often referred to as Commercial) hiring is above average for both agency usage and time to hire. Given the criticality of time to hire for sales positions and given the number of hires in this function (c. 8,000 of our 30,000 total), we conducted further analysis.
Looking at Sales and Marketing hires by country, we start to see a different picture:
- All of our major markets are demonstrating an above-average agency usage (China and the UK in particular).
- We see a split when it comes to ‘time to hire’, with half of our major markets demonstrating an above-average time to hire.
- When it comes to scarce talent within Sales and Marketing, China, Czech Republic, Philippines, Germany and Belgium are all countries in which further investment will pay dividends.
What are the most problematic roles to hire for?
So, let’s take a look at our most challenging roles - the functions that appear in the upper right quadrant of our chart. For this analysis we have focussed on those functions and countries for which we have made >50 hires in the last 18 months, deliberately excluding those for which hiring challenges may be heightened by a lack of volume.
Our analysis shows that:
- A broad range of functions and countries make up the top 10 most challenging roles to hire for within the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences sector.
- Medical Affairs hiring in China is likely to require the greatest level of agency usage. In our analysis > 20% higher than the global average and the time to hire is likely to be c. 3 days longer than average.
- When it comes to time to hire, Commercial hiring in Denmark is amongst the longest globally at c.18 days longer than the global average.
- Other outliers include Commercial hiring in Austria at c.6 days longer to hire and with c.7% higher than average agency usage.
- IT, Technology and Engineering hiring in Israel shows a time to hire that is c.6 days longer than average and agency usage 6% higher.
What should we take from this analysis?
As TA leaders we have limited resources and limited budgets. Our primary role is to help our organisations hire the best talent in the market, with the most experience and as quickly as possible. If the biggest challenge cited by TA leaders is the ability to find and attract quality talent then it’s clear we need to focus our investment on those areas where we face the biggest challenge.
In my last few articles, I have been advocating for a focus on three distinct areas to help address talent challenges: -
- a candidate centric approach to hiring (which includes the use of tailored candidate value propositions instead of generic employee value propositions)
- an investment in market insight
- deployment of specialist candidate sourcing skills and technologies
My advice to all TA leaders is to conduct the analysis I have described in this article within your organisations in order to identify your own scarce talent hot spots. Once you have an understanding of your own hot spots you can put in place investment strategies focussed on candidate centricity, market insight and candidate sourcing capabilities.
As always, I would welcome your thoughts on this article. Please reach out to me via LinkedIn to join the debate.
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