Are your life sciences hiring strategies geared for tomorrow’s talent?

5 min read | Simon Thornton | Article | Workforce Management Talent management

life sciences hiring strategies

Life sciences employers have a number of hurdles to face when securing in-demand talent: from skills shortages and economic concerns to disruptive tech and changing candidate expectations. If you’re looking to get a lead in the life sciences hiring market, our UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2024 guide breaks down the latest salary data, industry insights and recruitment recommendations.

Skills shortages and living costs push pay

Life sciences hiring plans are being frustrated by a lack of new entrants and reserved job movement, driving competition for skilled professionals. Our survey data reveals that nine in ten life sciences employers (90%) experienced skills shortages in the last year. While slightly less acute than the year before (97%), attracting and retaining qualified talent remains a significant challenge.

Bosses clearly recognise the pulling power of a competitive pay package; the majority of employers (88%) have increased their employees’ salaries, with pay increasing by an average of 1.7% across the industry (well below the UK national average of 3.5%). However, it’s not just a pay bump for the sake of holding onto – and attracting – high skill sets; the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has been its own driving force, to which over half of employers (52%) attribute to the sector’s pay rises.

90% of life sciences employers experienced skills shortages in the last year.

AI is solving some problems, but also driving new talent needs

Emerging digital tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have a growing influence on the life sciences industry, enabling new discoveries and breakthroughs. From reducing time spent on quality control to supporting regulatory compliance, AI alone has the power to elevate every stage of the value chain.

"The biometrics field experienced an average pay rise of 3.3% – almost twice the industry average (1.7%)"

However, life sciences companies looking to leverage emerging AI tools and remain competitive must first cross a skills gap. Our survey data revealed that most employers (85%) expect to implement AI tools in the future, but over a third (36%) say they do not have access to the right skills to fully leverage the tech.

As the sector becomes increasingly data and tech led, there’s an urgent need for professionals with niche skills and a greater digital knowledge. Bioinformatics and data science professionals are especially sought after, with competing TechBio and AI-led drug companies driving demand. Reflecting this, the biometrics field experienced an average pay rise of 3.3% – almost twice the industry average (1.7%). Being such as narrow talent-pool though, attracting in-demand specialists may require more than a competitive wage.

85% of employers expect to implement AI tools in the future.

Life sciences candidates are looking beyond salaries

Attracting and retaining life sciences professionals in the months ahead will require a multi-faceted approach to recruitment, with professionals looking beyond the usual levers when seeking their next job opportunity. Here are three key differentiators your organisation needs to consider when standing out from the competition and defining your employee value proposition (EVP):

  1. Provide opportunities for career growth: While prospective candidates are open to higher salaries – especially amid rising costs – our survey data shows that many are also considering their career prospects, with the main motivator for job movement being a lack of future opportunities in a current role (31%). In a rapidly innovating sector, what upskilling prospects, emerging technologies, or innovative practices can you offer candidates looking to keep their skills sharp and careers in motion?
  2. Highlight your wider impact and EVP: Your company culture and commitment to key environmental agendas can’t be ignored: 84% of employees say an organisation’s purpose is important when considering a new role, and 78% value a commitment to sustainability. The life sciences sector has a huge societal impact – what’s your organisation’s story?
  3. Ensure a streamlined hiring experience: More than three-quarters (77%) of candidates in life sciences have been deterred from continuing a job application due to a poor first impression, with the main blocker being an overly long process (67%). Hiring managers must stick to clearly communicated timelines and avoid excessive rounds of interviews, or otherwise run the risk of losing talent to competitors.

57% of employees have decided to leave a job because it didn’t match their expectations.

How can I secure both niche skills and volume hires?

Whether you’re looking to quickly bulk up your regulatory department or gain access to niche skillsets in AI and machine learning, a total workforce solutions partner could be the answer.

Our specialist life sciences team have a proven record of providing in-demand talent to leading biotech and pharmaceutical organisations. But you can expect more than just hires: our global reach, leading market intelligence, and cutting-edge technology provide a solution for every workforce challenge.

Learn how we can power your life sciences growth and get in contact today.


About this author

Simon Thornton, Client Services Director – Hays Life Sciences

With two decades of industry experience within Recruitment, Simon leads a team at Hays responsible for delivering award-winning solutions for the supply of temporary and contingent labour solutions for clients within the Life Sciences sector.

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