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How to continue progressing diversity in life sciences

By Chris Smith, Director of Life Sciences, Hays

For many within the life sciences profession, the pandemic has brought a flurry of activity. This has meant for some organisations that priorities had to shift away from ‘business as usual’ in order to handle the immediate impacts of the pandemic.

Six months on from the commencement of lockdown in March, we are able to get a better sense of just what these impacts on the profession have been. According to research conducted for the Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report, one of the biggest changes caused by the pandemic has been to the ED&I agendas of organisations.  

Why does ED&I matter?

The reality that many employers acknowledge is that a more equal, diverse and inclusive workplace offers many advantages for their organisation, from greater innovation to improved productivity. Further to this, our report also highlights the importance that professionals themselves place on ED&I.

We found that over three quarters (77%) of professionals working within life sciences said an organisation’s ED&I policies are important when looking for a new role. Furthermore, over two thirds (69%) said they would only apply to an organisation that has a public commitment to ED&I. It’s clear therefore that from an organisational perspective, ED&I needs to remain a priority - particularly when it comes to attracting new talent.

How does flexible working impact ED&I?

Flexible working policies are not a new concept to many organisations, but the widespread uptake of these working practices when lockdown started has had a noticeable impact. Currently, 63% of life sciences professionals are working in a flexible working arrangement, and two thirds (66%) say this flexibility is important to them.

However, employers must be aware of the potential downsides of this flexibility. Professionals stated that the top two drawbacks of flexible working arrangements were employees feeling isolated (52%) and the blurring of boundaries between work-life balance (50%). 

What should employers prioritise going forward?

Using the knowledge gained over the last few months, how can employers use flexible working to effectively drive their ED&I agenda? Here are some of our recommendations:

  • Make a commitment to ED&I: A diverse and inclusive workforce is no longer a unique selling point to prospective employees. Employers wanting to attract and retain the best individuals need to make comprehensive ED&I policies a core part of their talent acquisition and retention strategy.
  • Promote ED&I initiatives to jobseekers: ED&I policies including flexible working options need to be promoted at key points in the jobseeker journey, such as in job ads and on your organisation’s website, to avoid lowering your engagement with top talent.
  • Tailor your flexible working options: Flexible working isn’t one-size-fits-all. Employers need to be aware that it offers huge advantages for some, but drawbacks for others depending on their role, working style and personal circumstances. Try to be mindful of and accommodating to this by remaining open to flexible working for all employees, not just those who are parents or carers.

How can employees take responsibility?

For ED&I to really press ahead, employees also need to recognise the responsibility they have. Here are some things to think about:

  • Look for an employer’s commitment to ED&I: If you are job searching, make looking for ED&I policies a priority. Organisations that are committed to ED&I are invariably more enjoyable to work for and are more likely to thrive in our rapidly evolving world of work.
  • Think about your working preferences: What do you need to work at your best? Consider what your ideal working arrangement would be and discuss this with your employer. An organisation that truly fosters a diverse and inclusive environment will work with you to figure out a flexible working arrangement which best suits you.
  • Stay adaptable and practical: Try to remain adaptable and practical in light of your employer’s situation and the current circumstances. When discussing ED&I initiatives or flexible working, approach the conversation constructively and focus on how both you and your organisation will benefit.

By working together, both employers and employees within the life sciences profession can continue to progress their ED&I agendas and reap the benefits that this provides.

For further insights into how flexible working can help facilitate equality in the workplace, request your copy of the Hays Equality, Diversity & Inclusion 2020 Report.

About this author

Chris Smith is the Operations Director for Hays Life Sciences UK. Chris graduated from Sheffield University with a BSc Psychology in 2000 and has 20 years of recruitment experience. He has worked for Hays Life Sciences since 2006, starting as a Biometrics recruiter for Pharmaceutical and CRO clients across Europe, before launching Hays Life Sciences successfully in the Netherlands and managing delivery teams in Switzerland and Scandinavia.

In 2012, Chris joined the Hays Life Sciences UK business as Permanent Sales Director and has since taken the role of Operations Director for the UK brand. Chris has managed executive search, RPO / MSP, perm and temp recruitment with a consistent customer focus across a broad client base.

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The future is flexible

Hays Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Report 2020

In our latest Equality, Inclusion and Diversity Report, we explore whether flexible working can help create more diverse workforces and more inclusive workplaces.

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