Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce in life sciences is a key recommendation for future growth, according to the Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy report.
The European life sciences sector has been in the spotlight for dynamic growth and innovation, and with such a diverse workforce contributing to the achievements of the industry, ensuring that equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) are key considerations to the attraction and retention of future talent is essential.
A lot of discussions around ED&I in the life sciences industry have touched upon how skills gaps can be addressed through greater emphasis on diverse and inclusive practices, alongside the other benefits of focusing on ED&I.
But what is the current diversity outlook in life sciences, and how can ED&I be the key to growth for your life sciences organisation?
In a study conducted by Informa Connect Life Sciences, life sciences professionals from the pharma, biotech, medical device and regulatory industries around the world were asked about diversity in their organisations.
The findings were:
As the Biotechnology Innovation Organisation (BIO) described, diversity and inclusion in life sciences are still in their infancy as companies explore the benefits.
To summarise, the industry has made small improvements but there is still a lot of room for significant progress as more organisations look to make a greater commitment – 87% of global organisations are committed to implementing a diverse workforce (although some admitted there’s a long way to go to achieve this).
Diversity is also a key consideration for candidates, with 67% of job searchers considering diversity to be an important factor when considering a new employment opportunity.
The life sciences industry has undoubtedly struggled with skills gaps and talent shortages, particularly in areas such as informatics, computational, mathematical and statistical skills.
The industry needs experienced talent – particularly those with transferable skills who can be trained or upskilled whilst in the role – and ED&I could be the answer.
But how can talent best be attracted in such a competitive global market that is so candidate-driven?
Diversity is a high priority for candidates, and larger European life sciences companies are consistently being ranked highly by employees for their focus on diversity.
In a survey of more than 100,000 employees for the Financial Times’ third annual Diversity Leaders ranking, the following businesses ranked highly for employees’ perception of companies’ inclusiveness or efforts to promote various aspects of diversity:
AstraZeneca, UK (7.90)
Chiesi, Italy (7.84)
Pfizer, UK (7.82)
Roche, Switzerland (7.78)
More diverse companies, according to McKinsey, are better able to win top talent – something that has been increasingly difficult across the industry and is a key competitive advantage.
It ties in with employer branding efforts and EVP
Lots of life sciences organisations will be readjusting their Employer Value Proposition (EVP) and branding as part of their hiring and retention strategies, and ED&I can help with this.
We’ve previously discussed the types of benefits that candidates are seeking, but one key area of focus that ties in with ED&I efforts is company reputation.
Candidates want to work with companies making a positive impact as a result of the ‘greater good’ effect, and are generally more attracted to companies that their values align with.
Diversity is important for both active and passive job seekers, with two-thirds saying a diverse workforce is essential when evaluating job offers.
Beyond traditional compensation and benefits, what else are you offering potential employees that your competitors aren’t?
As mentioned earlier, the ED&I efforts in the life sciences industry are still only slowly progressing, so making it a priority sooner rather than later could prove very beneficial for branding and EVP purposes.
Expectations around ED&I are greater than before due to the acceleration of shifting workforce trends – flexible working, work-life balance, and more holistic approaches – which puts the onus on employers to make the changes that candidates are seeking.
Novartis UK, for example, has been praised for their equal parental leave policy in which both men and women receive 26 weeks of paid parental leave as part of its Global Parental Leave Policy.
Research shows that diversity and inclusion in the workplace cause more employee engagement and better performance – employees are searching for work that is fulfilling, flexible, and that gives them a great work-life balance.
Being part of a diverse and inclusive environment can help employees to feel as though they’re valued, and in turn, increase their engagement and loyalty in the long term.
Firstly, it’s important to analyse your existing data to see the type of people who are applying for roles, progressing through the recruitment process, and being offered roles (and accepting them) to better understand the diversity and inclusion elements of the recruitment process.
Then it’s important to look at existing employees to see the types of people who are being promoted, currently in leadership roles, and leaving the business.
Primarily, the aim is to look for patterns – are there specific demographics that are likelier to be in leadership positions? Are there a high number of women applying for roles yet not being offered them?
These findings will inform the areas you need to improve in for your ED&I strategy.
Next, you have to form your goals and objectives (short, medium, and long-term), and share them with your employees to increase accountability, show your commitment, and give employees the opportunity to give feedback.
The final stage is to monitor and improve the strategy.
Whether by conducting surveys or by having employee focus groups, your organisation should monitor and assess the impact of the ED&I strategy and repeat the steps where necessary to adjust accordingly.
If objectives aren’t achieved within the ideal deadlines, it’s simply a case of returning to the drawing board and readjusting.
If you have any questions about ED&I strategies and how they can help to improve your organisation’s growth or are looking to find out more about our talent services, get in touch with the Panda team today.