Start-ups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the life sciences sector share certain similarities with their big pharma corporate cousins. After all, they both have the same vision of striving for improved healthcare outcomes through science and innovation. But there is also much that sets them apart, especially in terms of workplace culture and the ways in which they attract and retain that talent.
The benefits of attracting talent from big pharma
There’s no doubt about it, professionals who have built up years’ of experience working in big pharma can bring with them a degree of corporate pedigree, especially in procedure, discipline and professionalism. However, in order to successfully attract them away from big corporate life, it’s important for you, to both understand these benefits, as well as appreciate what makes your organisation different as an employer of choice. Here’s how:
1. Your small business is at the cutting edge
To attract the best talent from big pharma, your employer branding strategy should clearly communicate the fact that you can offer a legitimate place at the table of cutting-edge scientific innovation. Today’s most ground-breaking advances are being incubated and hatched at the level of SMEs so, if this is true of your company, you should be shouting it from the treetops to attract talented individuals whose gifts may be languishing in big pharma. The best life sciences talent are often motivated by the desire to genuinely make a real difference, and your enterprise may be just the vehicle to allow them to do this.
2. Excitement versus predictability
When working for a big corporate, one day can often look much like the next, with the same hamster-wheel of activities being checked off the to-do list each day. Rarely do employees come to work thinking ‘next month, this could all be completely different’. Therein lies an important point of distinction, which may just be the carrot to lure a quality candidate from big pharma.
Change occurs quickly in SMEs and there’s typically less bureaucracy between team members and the board. It’s a different culture, where everybody pitches in and no two days are the same. It takes real talent to thrive in this atmosphere and real talent is what you will land, if you can excite a candidate with this vision.
3. “Become a big fish”
There’s nothing wrong with appealing to vanity when it comes to recruiting your star-studded team . Working for your SME will mean a far broader range of roles and responsibilities are available to prospective employees than are currently available to them in big pharma, where niche roles and focused job descriptions prevail.
Their voices will be heard more audibly, their successes more visible and they can exert a greater impact on the direction the business takes. The promise of trading up from small to big fish can be a powerful motivator for talent that needs to make its mark on the world of human health.
4. Greater self-determination
You may struggle to offer remuneration packages that equal those of big pharma – they typically offer higher salaries and a broader range of career development opportunities. Multinationals also often hold the promise of potential for travel and global experience. But, many candidates will forego these advantages for the greater self-determination available with SMEs – more opportunities to exercise initiative, more scope to develop skills on the job and more flexible working hours can be deeply incentivising.
5. Communicate your desirability
With all these selling points on your side, it’s important to communicate them effectively to your target audience. Start by ensuring your website reflects the attractions of working for you and makes clear your openness to approaches from prospective employees. Make sure your websites are optimised for keywords that tech-savvy candidates will use to find you; apply this across your social media. Develop and expand a personal network on LinkedIn; ask for referrals and search for potential candidates by past or current positions. Build an alumni and stay in touch with former colleagues for potential future employment relationships. Ask current employees to activate their networks to reach out to potential passive candidates for jobs. Be visible at industry events, a rich opportunity for networking.
A word of caution, though. Not everyone who works in big pharma is cut out for the huge cultural paradigm shift needed to make the transition to an SME. It pays to assess prospective candidates for temperamental suitability – an entrepreneurial spirit, self-starting nature and an outgoing personality are hopeful signs.
To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.