Are Earlier Stage Pharma Companies Winning The War for Talent?

When you’re trying to find the best talent that gets maximum results for your company, a good place to start is looking at the assets that exist in your company to attract the best candidates. A lot of research is looking into the factors that make candidates favor one company over the other and career opportunities, room for development and sense of purpose are sure among the winning factors. But how do companies look like in a different stage to candidates that compete for talent in the same industry. IIC Partners had a look at Pharma companies in particular, with a survey regarding their experiences with their hunt for the best of the best.

The survey provides a “snap-shot” of status quo and pain points with participating companies from North-America, Europe and Eastern Europe in order to get a better understanding in which direction these companies are heading. Here are some of the things IIC Partners found out:

Most of the participating companies had from 51 to 100 employees with only a few having less than 25 employees. The majority of the companies participating the survey were minimum 3 years in business. Almost all of the companies were expecting to hire in the near future between 6 to 10 people, some even as much as 30 people. Most companies were primarily looking for people in Research & Development, Sales & Marketing, Regulatory/Quality and Clinical, Finance, Data Analysis, Administration, Information Technology and Manufacturing/Operations areas.

The majority of the participants admitted that it was hard to find employees in Data Analysis, Research & Development, Regulatory/Quality & Clinical and Information Technology areas. About half of the companies had an in-house recruiting function and regarded that as important while others completely disagreed. The participants largely agreed on how important it is for them to use an executive search firm to assist them with their recruiting needs. The major reasons why they use executive search firm, the survey revealed, was that the external search consultants have a more open conversation with target executives as well as conversations with more senior executive networks. More important reasons were: they fill positions quicker and the bandwidth of provided candidates is generally broader.

The survey also covered questions about where and how companies are looking for talents. The majority of the participants were interested in candidates from Big Pharma, rating the performance of Big Pharma people as excellent and good. The question with the most diverse answers in the survey was asking about the biggest risk in bringing people from Big Pharma to Small Pharma. The companies answered very differently, e.g. misunderstanding of work culture, ability to adjust to larger scale, decision making (only very senior people in Big Pharma make decisions), understanding how to work in a small company and ability to “roll up their sleeves”, cannot manage the overall transition, not knowing how „hands-on“ they were once hired, etc.

The most important arguments for candidates to move from Big Pharma to early stage companies were: less bureaucratic/political, more diverse and comprehensive roles and broader involvement in the business. Less of importance seems compensation, professional growth and new areas of research and development.

The picture is changing a bit if candidates from early stage companies are shortlisted. The most valuable three things for them were: opportunity for promotion, professional growth and challenge, and compensation. Less important reasons were: to be part of solving complex disease states, a broader involvement in business and deliberately promote the key strengths of company strategy.

It’s quite interesting how it’s all a matter of perspective and it seems to me that there is no real winning recipe between Big Pharma and early stage Pharma companies. There is only a fit that needs to happen for a certain set of needs on both sides. What’s your take on that?

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