Biotech Talent Recruitment Requires Innovation

Technology and the future of biotech and life sciences

The intersection of consumer technology and the biotech and life sciences industries will yield massive returns, if led by the right people.
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It’s all about the team. 

For life sciences and biotech companies, recruiting means understanding what you have to offer and what your company needs, both short and long term. Candidates will want to know that they’re valued and empowered, while companies will strive to create a positive, diverse culture that falls in line with their strategic plans. Failure to get it right will stifle growth while sending all the wrong signals to the marketplace. Now, let’s attract that talent! 

Innovation and Career Development in Biotech and Life Sciences

Rule number one for recruiting top caliber team members: let them know they’ll count! 

“One of the parameters that defines a top employer is its devotion to an innovation culture—and employees notice innovation,” writes Alaina Levine for Science Mag, while detailing the Cell Associates and Brighton Consulting 2020 Top Employers survey. “In the life sciences sector, there is a symbiosis between science and patient priorities, and the top employers (and many survey respondents) emphasize this as a marker of a great company.”1

The survey found industry employees worldwide frequently citing the ability to make meaningful individual contributions to important scientific work as a major factor in their job satisfaction.1

Perhaps this should be no surprise as personal development and consequential work are drivers of fulfilment in most lines of work but, in an industry like life sciences, where competition for talent can be fierce, the best candidates want to know that they will be making a difference.  

Company Culture and Recruitment: Get It Right the First Time 

The right talent begets the right company culture, which, in turn, begets the right talent. Done well, it’s a positive feedback loop. Get it wrong, and you’re looking at a vicious circle, especially for start-ups.

“It starts with the employees you recruit in the beginning,” warns Matthew Levy, Associate Director of Talent Development at Kite Pharma. “If you recruit employees that are ‘talent magnets’ or ‘talent scouts’, it is a bit like ‘birds of a feather flock together’. They attract more people, who attract more people, and so on.”2

Ultimately, the caliber of your team will serve as a signal of your caliber, and it’s not just potential employees that will be paying attention.  

“Choose your team wisely, because the credentials and experience of the team are viewed as indicators of future success by your future investors,” advises Moleculera Labs CEO Craig Shimasaki.3

Workplace Flexibility is a Two Way Street

Work-life flexibility is a hot topic in virtually every corner of the labour market, particularly as employers and employees attempt to imagine their lives after Covid restrictions eventually ease. 

Employees will value flexible work arrangements but companies, likewise, may wish to keep their options open. In an industry where changing regulations, market needs, and scientific breakthroughs are constantly reshuffling the deck, it’s best to think strategically, particularly for start-ups. Who should be hired? Contracted? What functions should be outsourced? What partnerships should be entered into? There are no easy answers, so careful analysis of company objectives, resources, and the competitive landscape is required.  

A sector profile compiled by the government of British Columbia in 2020 illustrates the evolving marketplace that life sciences companies are finding themselves in. 

“The traditional global business models have been shifting to more collaborative models that contract-out research and development (R&D) and manufacturing, increase partnerships with health research communities, and leverage the capacity of leading-edge biotechnology firms. These emerging business models of collaboration and sectoral crossover can represent an opportunity for British Columbia because the province has strong R&D capacity, skilled biotech, medtech and digital companies, and a capacity to sustain growth in the face of changing economic landscapes.”4

Diversity in Life Sciences

Equitable hiring is a concern in every sector, and life sciences is no exception. 

“There is a lack of diversity in this industry,” says Hervé Hoppenot, CEO of Delaware-based pharma company Incyte.“Racism and science do not go together. If you are to be successful in science, we cannot have racism.”1

For Jervaughn Hunter, an African American bioengineering graduate student, the problem stems in part from a lack of mentorship and visible success stories. 

“You don’t see yourself represented in a career, so you don’t pursue it. And because you don’t pursue it, you’re not represented. That creates a sort of self-fulfilling cycle,” he says.5

Companies that invest in DEI programs were praised for their efforts by survey respondents1, indicating that such measures not only expose the company to a wider talent base, but serve as a valuable component in the all-important effort to create and sustain a positive company culture. 

Life Sciences in British Columbia 

The recent announcement that AbCellera Biologics hopes to bring 1,000 new jobs to a new Vancouver ‘biotech campus’6is just the latest good news for the British Columbian life sciences industry, which saw 1,100 companies employing over 17,300 people in 2018.4

While social media and job board efforts are excellent components of recruiting campaigns, outside help is often beneficial, as many of the best candidates are not actively seeking new jobs. 

Ultimately, attracting talent is a matter of a robust recruiting effort and positive branding, for both individual companies and geographical industry clusters. As the sector continues to grow in significance, both in British Columbia and Canada as a whole, fostering an ecosystem of talent will be of the utmost importance. 

Cited Sources 
1 Alaina G. LevineOct. 30, 2020. “2020’s Top Employers: Rapid Response to COVID-19, Diversity, and Innovation.” Science, November 5, 2020. 
2 “A Strong Employer Brand and Location Are Keys to Recruiting Top Biotech Talent · BioBuzz.” BioBuzz, August 14, 2020.
3 Craig Shimasaki, By, and -. “Overcoming the Top Four Human Resource Challenges in Biotechnology Start-Ups.” GEN, October 31, 2018.
4 “Life Sciences in British Columbia: Sector Profile” Province of British Columbia, LifeSciences BC, Global Affairs Canada. June 2020.
5 Wosen, Jonathan. “Blacks Still Few, Far between in Biotech.” The Providence Journal. The Providence Journal, August 1, 2020.
6 Griffiths, Nathan. “Biotech Campus Planned for Mount Pleasant in Vancouver.” vancouversun. Vancouver Sun, March 14, 2021.