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What are the Talent Acquisition Challenges Facing the UK Life Sciences Sector?

​We know an industry is only as good as the people who work within it – and nowhere is this truer than the Life Sciences sector. The sector is booming – and investment is still high – yet the challenges facing recruiters could hold it back. Kelly’s whitepaper Talent in Science, stressed this issue and found that stiff competition – from both inside and outside of the industry; and the need for greater workplace agility are key challenges facing Life Sciences companies today. Plus with Brexit upon us, the sector will need to rethink their recruitment strategies for success.

Competition for Skills 

While the pool of available workers may be high, not enough have the necessary skills and experience to fulfil certain roles, and this is particularly relevant to the Life Sciences sector where we are seeing a talent shortage.

The response from the industry is a fairly unique one: recruit across sectors. One of the main challenges that Kelly’s research revealed is the growing need to compete across sectors to acquire the best staff. The skills required in the Life Sciences industry are morphing with other sectors – notably technology – and employers need to find new staff who may currently be working in different sectors but have the skills desired. Relationship building will be vital as well as an understanding of what makes for an attractive job offer and how to lure these new-to-the-industry employees away.

Demand for Agility Grows 

Where previously employers have been focused on home-grown talents, they may need to start to attract workers across borders and understand how to do this effectively.

A growing move towards agility was highlighted in the Accenture study Injecting Agility into Medical Technology. The Life Sciences sector already has a high level of agility thanks to its reliance on contingent labour – however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the sector is set up with the organisational structure needed to support strategic growth. What we do know is that within the Life Sciences industry employees are more willing to relocate than the average. In 2016 five per cent of the working-age population either relocated or commuted across borders for work. Within Life Sciences this figure was significantly higher – 56 per cent had either moved countries or within a country for work.

Understanding what makes people willing to move can help companies secure the best talent available. For 35 per cent it was about securing the first job, while 25 per cent relocation for a promotion within a new organisation. For those who have never relocated, an overwhelming 61 per cent say they would do so for a better work opportunity in another country, while seven and five per cent respectively cite negative changes in the political or economic climate in their own country. 

The Brexit effect 

We still don’t yet know the impact of Brexit – due to take place this month – will have on the Life Sciences industry but we do know that the UK government is committed to building the industry rather than restricting it. Life Sciences companies will be keeping a close eye on proceedings and considering where they source talent from. The Kelly survey has already identified a high level of mobility within the EU Life Sciences workforce, which is being driven by career aspiration but is also impacted by political and economic uncertainty. Closer to home, 14 per cent of industry professionals in the UK who have never relocated says they could be prompted to move overseas for work if economic conditions changed negatively. The UK has always been an attractive destination for a mobile workforce – alongside Germany, it hosts almost half of all movers in 2016 – an increase of seven per cent year-on-year. Whether Brexit means this trend continues is another thing. But in the race for talent companies must remain competitive regardless of geographical location.

Leave your talent acquisition to the experts – contact Kelly’s Services to find out how we can secure the best workforce for your company regardless of the challenges the industry is facing.