Hiring for Life Sciences Leadership

A good problem to have is still a problem. The crisis in the life sciences around hiring top talent, especially top executive talent, is just such a problem. The industry has seen massive investment over the last several years, which has led to expansion, which in turn stresses a limited talent pool. Our Life Sciences practice leaders share some of their best advice on how to hire in this climate.

Hire up-and-comers, including those from adjacent industries

Robin Toft, Global Life Sciences Practice Group Leader at ZRG, remarks that we don’t need to lower the bar for talent: “We need to change the bar to embrace all best athletes and future rock stars – those people who are working hard to create a name for themselves in the industry with huge ability to contribute, at the right career stage, and at the top of their game.”

There may not be a seasoned CFO available for your vacancy, but there may be an impressive Vice President of Finance ready to make the move to the C-suite. Expanding the parameters of a search to include candidates who have the functional skills you need but have not yet held the title will net more qualified candidates. Looking across industry verticals for those same skills can also increase the chances to put great candidates into roles who might otherwise have been overlooked.

David Fortier, Global Practice Leader of ZRG’s Life Sciences practice, points out that “every time there’s an IPO, the CEOs—and particularly the experienced CFOs—are locked up for a good period of time: sometimes two to three years.” Regarding the effect on talent supply, he reminds us that this clearly “reduces the number of available CEOs and CFOs with IPO experience, and has a ripple effect at all leadership levels.”

Create a competitive culture, including an effective DEI strategy to create a more desirable company, which will, in turn, attract world-class talent

Building a truly diverse, highly competitive company often means changing core beliefs and the culture as a whole. In our experience, to be most effective, the CEO should strongly communicate to his/her leadership team that diversity of thought in action provides a competitive advantage and brings enhanced innovation, financial performance, voice of customer, and ability to attract and retain talent. AND, that diverse workforces are more attractive, more productive and increase employee satisfaction. Bottom line – s/he needs to believe that it is simply the right thing to do! This “why we believe” message should be embedded in an organization’s mission, vision, and values, and owned by the C-suite team from the top down. With a strong continuous effort, your company will be attractive and sought out by top tier candidates. Without a coherent plan, any company will struggle to recruit and retain diverse talent.

Focus on retention

The best candidate for an opening may be internal and possibly even a diversity candidate. By focusing efforts on developing candidates, you will improve retention, and you can ensure that institutional knowledge doesn’t leave your company. Two of the best ways to retain the talent you already have are through nurturing and developing that talent and having a strong succession plan in place which assures people that you believe in and are investing in their professional development.

A good way to join these two techniques is to have a clear map for employee progression. If your most talented rising stars know what they need to do to reach the next level, and if you make the resources available to them to get there, they will stay with you. Retaining talented employees across all levels allows you to build a strong pipeline for top positions.

Leverage executive search firms

Seek out and partner with a search firm that has a strong track record of recruiting diverse talent within your industry. They will have the deepest and broadest networks of candidates for any opening. A firm with a proven history of placing highly desirable, best athlete and diverse candidates is the best partner you can find to ensure you’re getting the best available talent in a candidate-driven marketplace.

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