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The Competition for Top Biotech Talent

Massachusetts has a rich history and is deeply invested in the life sciences industry. There are hundreds of biotech companies, researchers, and facilities within the greater Boston area, with the largest concentration of innovation along the Life Sciences Corridor. This area benefits greatly from leading healthcare systems, major academic universities, R&D and VC funding, making it the leading destination for innovative growth, talent and employment in the biotechnology industry.

However, the continued expansion of biotech companies in the Boston area is stirring up the race for hiring talent for those companies who are looking to fill multiple positions, ranging from senior management, engineers, scientists, quality control specialist and technicians, to manufacturing workers. One only has to look at the 45+ different biotech and pharmaceutical companies surrounding the MIT and Harvard campuses to understand how the local job market for top tech talent has morphed into a competitive arena.

Today, new hire strategies include onboarding packages, vacation or sign-on incentives in the hopes of enticing talent, but they often miss what many job seekers are after. Furthermore, perks rarely help organizations retain employees. According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “Employers believe [turnover] is a problem with compensation or work-life balance. But employees who are quitting tell a different story. Their main reasons for quitting are 1) not feeling valued and 2) not feeling a sense of belonging.”

At KMC, we recognize the pressure being placed on hiring and recruitment teams to source top talent, but we also understand how important it is for job seekers to find an organization that both values their expertise and respects their individual needs.

Over the course of the pandemic, we were able to retain talent by remaining nimble on the production line and internally, and we did this by redefining our work philosophy. Managers and employees now have the freedom to co-create a structure that values individual needs, striking a balance between remote work and in-person interaction and collaboration. Companies that are working to find this balance can start by making sure that expectations of both the individual workers and the company are clear. This structure may include details on how and when hybrid meetings take place, as well as expectations for cameras being turned on when remotely attending meetings.

Core business hours should also be pre-determined and agreed upon—for example, from 10am to 3pm. The entire team needs to be accessible during those hours, regardless of their physical location, but individuals will have the flexibility to schedule their time how it suits them best. Also, in a hybrid environment, companies need to lean in toward over-communicating, and there are a variety of tools to achieve this, such as email, Jabber, Teams, Slack, Zoom and program management platforms. There are many solutions available that will fit the needs of every unique team.

In addition to flexibility, employers need to provide a blend of professional growth and career development. We have small, diverse teams made up of new and seasoned professionals. These teams provide growth opportunities for everyone: exposure and hands-on learning for employees who are just beginning their careers; and mentoring opportunities for employees who are already well established and have been with the company for many years.

Developing talent and building a well-trained internal employee pipeline are critical to an organization’s succession planning and retention strategy. This includes leadership programs for employees that focus on action-learning initiatives, executive sponsors or mentors and the opportunity for external development with local colleges, universities and continuing education programs. Companies that invest in their employees through leadership programs see better individual employee performance, higher employee engagement and lower overall turnover.

Training can also benefit organizations by tackling internal processes, procedures and other potential challenges that are already being experienced. Organizations that provide training, implement leadership programs or offer career development give employees a chance to not only experience and interact with different business units, divisions and areas of expertise, but it also allows them—as a group—to provide solutions or support to an identified area when needed.

Flexibility, training and professional development are important to keep in mind when hiring. The moment an employee steps foot on campus, career development should be a part of the conversation. Carving out time each month or quarter for employees’ professional growth will help organizations develop and retain talent.

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