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How can smaller pharmaceutical firms secure game-changing talent?

How can smaller pharmaceutical firms secure game-changing talent?


How can smaller pharmaceutical firms secure game-changing talent?
Last Updated: 01-Oct-2015

As we’re all well aware, the pharmaceutical sector is going through something of a challenging time. Innovation is down and a combination of growing financial pressures and technological advancements are forcing firms into reviewing their long-term strategies. While this period of transition has disrupted the sector, it’s also opened up a range of opportunities for more agile firms to make their mark. However, in order to seize this, they need to be able to recruit talented professionals ahead of their larger and generally more powerful rivals. On the face of it these bigger organisations can offer considerably more to the average pharmaceutical professional, so how can firms secure talent ahead of the major players? An effective hire can make all the difference in this highly competitive arena. However, as you may have discovered, your next star recruit isn’t going to be particularly easy to find and probably isn’t sitting updating their LinkedIn profile waiting for your call. This means that a lot of the hard work comes down to the way you market the opportunity and your organisation to jobseekers. Smaller firms will have to promote the factors that appeal to talented, innovative and potentially game-changing employees and these can be hard to tie down. More than anything, the modern professional wants to work on stimulating and innovative projects that allow them to operate at the cutting edge of the pharmaceutical sector. However, on its own that is no longer enough. As you will have noted, flexible working is now the must-have benefit and firms that can offer the degree of flexibility to employees may set themselves ahead of their rivals. Working internationally can also be an attractive factor and while this won’t be an option for all companies, it can make the difference between a candidate choosing you over your rival. More generally, look to promote the factors that set your organisation apart in the eyes of a potential employee. For example, working at a smaller firm means that employees are likely to have more control over their day-to-day activity as well as having a much greater chance of having their voice heard.

However, as you’ll probably already be aware, tracking down that elusive game-changing hire is actually quite challenging and the major firms will have developed robust pools that can lure in much of the available talent. The pharmaceutical industry is obviously highly specialised but for some positions you could consider looking to alternative industries to find individuals with the raw, but malleable, skills that your business needs. Most people would agree that it’s more important to hire for attitude and potential rather than technical understanding that can be relatively easily developed. This means that looking to the IT sector or the financial arena, for example, could be an effective option. History is littered with examples of people who’ve found success by crossing over into other industries. Walt Disney was famously told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas” after being sacked as journalist while Jessica Alba, who most people would know as an actress, has built a multi-billion dollar business empire selling non-toxic household products. To use a more business-specific example, Taikichiro Mori, the Japanese real estate investor, worked in the education sector before becoming one of the world’s richest men by building up an enormous property portfolio. While the talent in your sector may not be readily available, there could be a rough diamond waiting to be found in other industries, so it’s worth widening your search and looking to set up talent pools in alternative locations.

One factor you’ve perhaps not considered is to seek someone who either possesses an MBA or an equivalent qualification. Professionals who’ve undertaken extensive studies such as this will possess a wider understanding of the business world that the vast majority of individuals simply won’t have. There are also courses, such as the Masters in Management course run by the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT), which specifically aim to develop commercial skills on top of pre-existing STEM and technical knowledge. It can be exceptionally challenging to source employees with the crucial balance of commerciality and technical know-how required in the modern world but seeking professionals who possess these qualifications removes that challenge. It’s also likely that they’ll be chomping at the bit and waiting to make a mark at their new employer after completing their studies. However, it’s pointless hiring anyone regardless of their qualifications if they’re not a good ‘fit’ within the organisation. A professional can have all the talent and technical understanding in the world but if they don’t sit well with the company culture, it’s unlikely they’ll be a success, or stay with the firm for very long. Look at Angel Di Maria at Manchester United as the perfect example. Everyone knew the Argentinean winger was one of the most talented footballers in the world when he signed last summer, however his inability to settle in England meant he was moved on, for a loss, after just one year. While major firms may be able to afford the disruption caused by taking on a poorly judged hire, smaller organisations will find it much more challenging, meaning there’s more pressure to get recruitment right on the first time of asking.

What do you think smaller pharmaceutical firms can do to make game-changing hires? Abid Kanji is an Associate Director at NonStop Recruitment