Reality Changers: How are Global Leaders Continuing to Hire and Retain the Talent to Develop Critical Treatments, Tests, Vaccines, and Cures?

Across markets and industries, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to take shape daily. We asked some of ZRG’s industry leaders, particularly those with a focus on Life Sciences, to share their observations. Below, several of our leading search executives provide insights into what they are seeing collectively around the globe.

Dave Fortier
Global Life Sciences Practice Leader
Washington, DC

"From a talent perspective, the rapid changes and accommodations necessary in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis create an opportunity for companies to reset their workplace and recruiting culture and norms. Companies are quickly adapting from entrenched views on face-to-face interviews and remote/commuting work arrangements as employees have rallied in the face of this health crisis and productivity has not suffered. This dynamic will grow in importance and companies that solve the workplace puzzle of which workers, where, and when to deploy and bring greater flexibility to potential employees will have a competitive advantage when hiring top talent in a market that remains consistently in short supply."

Robin Toft
CEO Toft Group, a ZRG Company,
San Francisco, CA

"The landscape for hiring in rapidly growing VC-backed and public biotech companies in the US remains exceptionally busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to realize that in the US life science market we were already experiencing a talent deficit due to exceptionally high investment by venture investors into life science companies during 2018 and 2019. As a response to the COVID crisis, investors’ interest immediately shifted to infectious diseases, including the most promising diagnostic test and vaccine development companies – a historically less popular area for VC investment. The market demand and cash influx have “amped up” the competition in the market for experienced individuals. Additionally, these companies are fighting harder than ever to keep their talent. Bottom line – hiring highly scientific talent (Medical, Clinical Research, Research & Development, CSO’s and CTO’s) is much harder in 2020."

Adam El Din
Head of Global Life Sciences & President Europe

"Throughout Europe and globally, companies that are directly involved in developing products to fight the COVID virus have been busier than ever, and these companies are hiring with vigor. In my discussions with industry leaders and Human Resources, most employees are very busy. When asked about hiring, the reaction is almost always positive. Hiring Managers, Human Resources and candidates have adapted to virtual interviews, offers, and onboarding. Notwithstanding the difficult situation, the Life Sciences sector should continue to attract a great deal of interest because of its strong market position and innovation. The coronavirus crisis may even increase this trend further. From our observations, the demand for top R&D scientists and Medical, Clinical Research, and Industrial Affairs/Technology Leaders with strong vaccine background has increased substantially."

Helga Long
Managing Partner
Chief Client Officer
Global Life Sciences Practice

"In addition to the all-important and expanded talent required in R&D and Commercial, other critical functional needs have emerged in the Life Sciences sector during the 2020 pandemic. An increase in collaborative research and data share, funding competition, and increased capitalization challenges, have spawned new roles that require human capital with top-tier experience and a high-potential/’hit the ground running’ mindset. To that end and especially since Q1 of this year, Life Sciences companies are re-organizing critical functional areas and expanding their talent base in cybersecurity, board directors, investor relations, and financial services." 

Alex Bennett
Managing Director & Chief Growth Officer
United Kingdom

"Clients have accelerated the adoption of a more flexible approach to senior level hiring during the pandemic. Embracing the transition to specialism of sector and function with a digital approach to hiring and onboarding of global leadership and talent with minimal off-limits constraints. This has resulted in an expedited process using data-driven due diligence to scientifically assess and select talent. Our Zi Platform, Z score, and online interview feedback tools have enabled our clients to hire great talent on previously problematic searches in less than 50 days for example. We are therefore positive that the forced transition to a different type of executive search experience for our clients is separating the “wheat from the chaff” a much needed market correction. In what has become a highly saturated market for clients choosing between a myriad of boutiques or the big five can be difficult. ZRG partners recently acknowledged as the fastest-growing firm on the planet is emerging as the go-to partner for many in the new era."

Benoit Becar
Managing Director
United Kingdom

"In 2020 and beyond, we expect many new opportunities in digital transformation, omnichannel marketing, and innovative sales and service organizations inside selling, key account management, sales force effectiveness. I predict the MedTech company's business models will evolve to become more resilient, and we foresee more investments and recruitments in roles in Market Access, Pricing/Reimbursement, Regulatory Affairs and Clinical Affairs."

Leonardo Ribeiro
Managing Director

"LATAM will suffer a larger economic impact from the pandemic than the global average. Before COVID-19, LATAM GDP’s growth forecast was +1.8%, and now we expect a -5.2% decrease. As for the respective global averages, we now have a -3.0% expected decrease, compared to a previous +3.4% growth forecast. The good news is that the pharma sector grew 14% in Q1 2020, boosted by Oncology, Diabetes, Cardiovascular, and SNC. Pharma was one of the top segments in our hiring demands in the region this first semester, with many open roles in regulatory affairs, market access, and government affairs, as well as for general managers. Hiring remains very active in the Life Sciences sector of the LATAM market."

Dominic Yim
Managing Director

"China was first affected by COVID-19 in late 2019. We have found that hiring managers and Human Resources are requiring a higher level of “compassion and understanding” – in my experience, they are now more open to candidates with longer career transitions, particularly after losing their jobs due to Covid-19. I expect that this level of consideration will extend worldwide, once other economies begin recovering from this crisis."

Beverly Morgan
Managing Director
Boston, MA

"Our clients have expressed that the CHRO/Chief People Officer and its entire function is needed more today than ever before as we have seen a surge in hiring across the industry."

John McLean
Managing Director
Chicago, IL

"With regard to the retention of key executives — we believe it will be important to monitor the value of unvested equity awards to better understand the current “retention hooks” that exist for key executives that are critical to supporting the company through a potential period of significant volatility. Not all companies will emerge from the economic downturn at the same time. Selective retention awards may need to be considered to retain your top talent."

Julia E. Williams
Managing Director
Atlanta, GA

"I have seen a tremendous shift from hiring authorities, HR, and candidates willing to complete the entire interview process virtually. As a side note, I’ve also seen tremendous growth within telemedicine, ensuring patient care moves forward."

Lauren Lee White
Managing Director
New York, NY

"I am seeing genuine humor and “humanizing” the search experience throughout the process."


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