- 2 years ago
18 March 2022
Once considered the biggest drawcard in attracting talent to a company, salary is no longer number one as culture moves up to be considered equally or even more important when people are looking for their next role, a top life sciences executive recruiter says.
Speaking with MedNews, Heidrick & Struggles partner Tanja Ivkovic said as people rethink their post-Covid career, salary was no longer the only factor at play – people wanted a cultural fit, and they ask a lot of questions to make sure they get it right.
“Cultural fit is becoming an increasingly important aspect of work, and it is the employee making the choice,” she explains. “It used to be the employer who did the interviewing but now the employee is also interviewing.
“Top candidates get a lot of calls at the moment and they need a lot of influence to move. It’s not enough to call someone now and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to pay you more, come work for me!’. Salary is still important but culture alignment is now a must-have factor.”
Ivkovic said pharma tends to be more traditional than other industries but companies have discovered taking a deeper interest in the needs and wants of their employees and offering flexibility key in talent acquisition and retention.
“When you think about retaining and attracting top talent in this post-pandemic environment, the companies that are doing best are those that give people the flexibility to choose while trusting that they will do their best,” she said.
“The shift is towards a much more empathetic approach from employers globally. They recognise that for an employee to choose to stay with a company, they need to feel like they are being provided with a purpose and that the organisation understands them and knows how they work at their best. In the past, this maybe wasn’t considered.”
Aiming for the top in your career
For those looking to accelerate their careers, Ivkovic advises they look for breadth rather than depth in their career experiences.
“When we talk about what it takes to really develop talent, to strengthen capabilities and develop leaders, it’s about stretching yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone,” she says. “An overseas assignment or a cross-functional project are the moments that will teach you and give you something new.
“A company will value talent when they can see a person’s future capability, so you need to show what your future capability is in order for your employer to see it as well.
“Be different, set yourself apart. If you’re a finance professional, put your hand up to take on a commercial project that’s going to stretch you. If you’re in medical affairs, ask to be put on a project that exposes you to something different.
“There is a war for talent out there and if you set yourself apart from the rest, you’ll stand out to other companies, and you’ll stand out to external recruiters. There are benefits in finding somebody that’s got that little something that the rest don’t have in their career path.”
Ivkovic said while functions such as human resources and finance have a greater ability to change sectors and get jobs in other industries, in functions like commercial and market access, people’s skillsets tend to be industry-specific so they tend to stay in the sector, with small and mid-sized biopharma companies an attractive option for those wanting a change of pace.
“There is a movement of talent towards mid-sized biopharma and the start-up biotech space,” she says. “We expect that some will choose to return to big pharma down the road because of the culture fit – smaller companies are a lot more dynamic. Some find they enjoy that kind of working environment, and some don’t.”
As for pharma, Ivkovic says the sector remains traditional in its hiring but is starting to look at talent from other sectors in new areas.
“When it comes to new functions like digital and data, companies are looking to take learnings and best practice from other sectors that are more advanced in terms of their transformation,” she says. “Other than that, pharma tends to be more traditional and more often than not we see them hire from within the sector.”
This is the second story of our three-part executive series featuring H&S life sciences partner, Tanja Ivkovic. In part three, Tanja tells how there is a new style of leader in vogue – find out what attributes are needed to make it to the top.