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Is Flexible Hiring the Key to Your Life Sciences Recruitment Strategy?

Skill and talent shortages are hardly a new concept in the life sciences industry.

Factors such as emerging technology are influencing the high demand for new or specialised skillsets that generally outstrips supply.

Other factors – the use of artificial intelligence and process analytical technology, and processes that require skills relating to data science, big data, and machine learning – will continue to increase the demand for top life sciences talent.

For life sciences businesses that are relying on highly skilled talent to innovate and grow, it’s more critical than ever before to have a solid recruitment strategy in place, and flexibility could be the key element.

What is flexible hiring, how can you implement it, and why is it key to your life sciences recruitment strategy?

What is flexible hiring?

Whilst flexible working refers to the ability for employees to have working arrangements that vary the location, timing, or amount of their work, flexible hiring relates to the practice of defining this in your hiring/recruitment strategy and having flexibility in your approach to elements in the hiring process.

As CIPD states, flexibility helps more people access the labour market, manage caring responsibilities and work-life balance, and supports enhanced employee engagement and wellbeing.

This is hardly insignificant for businesses looking to attract and retain talent during shortages.

Having greater flexibility with requirements in your recruitment is also an element of flexible hiring, including:

  • Salary

  • Hours

  • Location

  • Essential skills 

But how can you begin implementing flexible hiring into your life sciences recruitment process?

Take a look at your requirements

When beginning the recruitment process by drafting up job adverts/specifications, it’s important to remain flexible in such a competitive hiring market.

Elements of job ads that are described as essential could instead be changed as ‘good, but not required’ or adjusted.

For example, educational background can often be highly specific in job specifications.

However, life sciences organisations could benefit from expanding their talent pool by adapting these expectations – rather than specifying a specific academic background, and therefore receiving applications from a rather similar talent pool and decreasing diversity – to focus more on experience and skillset.

By focusing on experience and skillset, the talent pool is likely to be more diverse because it hasn’t been funnelled down to one exact academic qualification or institution.

Being more flexible with your requirements can then contribute to diversity efforts and attract more candidates that may not have previously fit the strict specifications of the role.

Provide flexible working opportunities

From the beginning, your recruitment efforts should prioritise flexibility.

By offering flexible working at the point of hire, your organisation will avoid potentially putting off candidates from applying, particularly since flexible working is now an expectation for the majority of the workforce.

As with other elements of flexibility, this also contributes positively to diversity and inclusion, as flexible working arrangements attract those who are looking for greater work-life balance, a way to work around caring responsibilities, and those who simply seek greater autonomy.

This could provide a significant competitive advantage, given that many life sciences organisations are not providing flexible working opportunities.

Back in 2021, when remote working was still extremely prominent due to the pandemic, life sciences companies only anticipated a slight uptick in remote work in 2021, even though 72% of life sciences leaders surveyed said they believed flexible working arrangements were critical to talent attraction.

With this in mind, flexible working arrangements are a clear differentiator for life sciences organisations.

Adjust salaries to match or exceed market rates

It’s important to have an awareness of salary ranges in the life sciences industry across roles to help attraction and retention.

This can be done by surveying online job boards to see the average salaries for specific roles or experience levels to provide a benchmark salary.

Though other employee benefits are increasingly important, salary is still an integral factor in a candidate’s decision-making for a role.

Additionally, salary benchmarking means that the employees currently working within your company are in line with industry averages (or above, if possible).

Being more flexible with your approach to salaries simply means having the awareness to keep remuneration in line with industry averages, or in areas with skills shortages, above industry average to remain competitive.

Diversify your recruitment channels

Flexibility also applies to your choice of recruitment channel, as this can inevitably impact the type of candidates you’re getting.

To get a range of applicants for a role, it is likely that you’ll need to use a variety of channels, including:

  • Social media/networking platforms (e.g., LinkedIn)

  • Industry-specific forums

  • Online job boards (e.g., Indeed)

  • Your website

  • Referrals

Utilising a range of recruitment channels means that you are diversifying your talent pool due to the greater potential of reaching underrepresented groups, and you are far likelier to find a range of candidates that have the required skillset or experience by variety alone.

How can you build this into your recruitment process?

There are multiple elements to consider before fully integrating flexibility into your recruitment process.

You need to consider:

  • How to clearly outline your flexible approach in job adverts (this should be clearly outlined, from the policies relating to flexible working opportunities to salary)

  • Which elements you have greater flexibility with (e.g., is it easier for your life sciences organisation to be more flexible with salary ranges for competitive purposes than it is to be flexible with remote or hybrid working?)

  • How to convey these changes to candidates from initial contact to the interview and onboarding process (e.g., if a candidate expresses a desire for a hybrid working model, how will this conversation be addressed?)

The changes outlined above are unlikely to occur all at once, which is why it’s important to consider your priorities carefully.

It might be more advisable to implement flexible working arrangements such as a hybrid working model, rather than an entirely remote model.

Perhaps a slight increase in the salary offering for specific roles is easier to implement and be flexible with.

Each organisation will be different, which is why it’s essential to plan adequately to see which areas are most suitable.

Panda can help

Panda is trusted by leading life sciences companies worldwide to provide the very best contingent talent and deliver seamless candidate experiences.

For more information on how we work and what we can do for your organisation, get in touch today.