COVID-19 has posed major disruptions in the healthcare and life sciences industry. One significant change is strict travel and border restrictions and the emergence of remote working. HLS companies are now turning to remote working arrangements to help sustain business operations and as a strategic way to expand their talent pool. 

Offering remote work arrangements can help organisations widen the talent pool

A greater acceptance of working from home in the healthcare and life sciences sector has initiated a sea of change in attitude to work and the potential to recruit talent from afar. While this adoption of remote work arrangements is slower as compared to other industries, it is certainly picking up speed. PageGroup’s consultants across the globe have reported the positive impact of this trend on the quality of hiring.

“Flexible working arrangements have widened the talent pool as employees who, pre-pandemic, had flexibility, would not expect the same work arrangements if they had moved to another company, and therefore, would not explore. Now, there is more openness, which brings more diversity to the talent pool,” relates Rhiannon Guilford, Associate Director at Michael Page Philippines.
 
“At the moment, I am working with businesses that I worked with before COVID-19, who previously expected people in the office for four to five days a week, and now they’re open to candidates spending one to two days a week in the office. This change means that I can stretch my candidate pool to a wider area because someone may now consider travelling two hours if they’re only doing it once a week. So, I think that this shift has definitely enabled clients to have not only better-quality candidates but also a higher quantity of candidates,” says Chloe Baverstock, Manager at Michael Page UK.

More openness to remote work arrangements also brings more diversity to the talent pool

“With remote working becoming increasingly acceptable in the HLS sector because of the pandemic, companies are more open to hiring candidates from abroad. A good example is the business development profile, for which it does not matter where the candidate lives,” says Marta Guiluz, Manager at Page Personnel Spain.

“Remote working is a good way for Chinese healthcare and life sciences companies to attract overseas high-quality, executive-level talent, which are quite in shortage in China,” says Annie Shen, Partner at Page Executive China.

“While the execution team works out of China, talent do not need to relocate to China and can arrange to work remotely online. With the flexibility and other attractive factors, overseas talent are more willing to join a Chinese domestic company.”

Related: Hyperlocal recruitment trends in the healthcare and life sciences sector during COVID-19

Flexi work attracts bright, young talents

flexible work policies in HLS can attract fresh talent

There is great value in developing fresh talent, too. Guiluz explains, “It is important to be flexible regarding the candidates’ specific experience and personal profile. Be open to junior profiles, develop and upskill them as such candidates tend to be more engaged and loyal to the company.”

“Also, consider PhD profiles that may not have enough industry experience but bring a wealth of knowledge to the role. Candidates highly value an employer’s openness to the home-office working style since technology permits many positions to be managed from home.”
 
In France, too, the trend of remote working is likely to continue. “Most of our clients expect their employees to come into the office one to two days per week. In some pharmaceutical companies, before COVID-19 broke out, 30% of the staff worked remotely; now, 99% are working from home. It is a big change but one that is poised to continue,” says Emmanuel Hervio, Senior Executive Manager at Michael Page France.

Remote positions more common at the regional level

Guilford observes that flexible working arrangements are more affected at the regional level than at country levels.

Baverstock adds, “Businesses are more open to having regional roles based in different locations other than their regional hubs, for instance, Singapore or Hong Kong; therefore, we see more opportunities created in emerging markets. Additionally, given travel restrictions, some regional roles are being replaced by existing country leaders – particularly for commercial and customer-facing positions.”

This [remote workforce] shift has definitely enabled clients to have not only better-quality candidates but also a higher quantity of candidates

It is essential to note that certain HLS roles are not suited to remote work, especially for positions at the frontline. “For Indonesia, Jakarta is still the main centre of business, and most HLS positions remained based in Jakarta. Most of the talent pool are all based in Jakarta or just outside of Jakarta,” explains Amelia Lestari, Associate Director at Michael Page Indonesia.

Related: Talent mobility: An emerging hiring trend in Healthcare and Life Sciences

Remote work arrangement is key to attracting talent in 2021 and beyond

Travel has been heavily restricted worldwide since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. While countries are pushing to open their travel corridors to facilitate the economy, the travel situation remains unpredictable and highly changeable.

“The pandemic has shown that being physically in the office is not the only way to be productive. COVID-19 has forced us to work from home, and we have learned that we can be productive from home as well,” says Guilford.

“With more international talent casting their eyes on Chinese companies, companies need to continue flexible work policies in the post-COVID-19 world. They also need to build strong employer branding and do well in talent echelon construction to attract more high-quality talent,” suggests Shenglan Liu, Associate Partner at Page Executive China.

This moves organisations to devise innovative solutions to work and living, and flexible work arrangement is a factor that looks to stay permanent in the healthcare and life sciences sector across the world.

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