Digital technology has slowly but surely permeated every aspect of human society across the globe for half a century now. But 2020 flipped a switch, forcing economies and companies to embrace and depend upon digitalisation, and demonstrating the true adaptability of most organizations. 

This is especially true of the healthcare and life sciences sector, whose unique climate and sharp growth have required a swath of fresh talent – talent they’ve had to find fast due to the global health emergency. Digital recruitment, therefore, has been more of a necessity than a conscious shift in the sector – but it’s a change that’s here to stay. 

Whether in the Americas, Europe, or Asia, the life science and healthcare companies we work with here at PageGroup have noted the contrast between the scarcity of talent in the sector and the extreme need for it. Exceptions do exist, of course; in some cases candidates are vying for jobs – even jobs for which they may not qualify – so scant are positions. In most cases, however, candidates have a noteworthy advantage on the negotiation front. 

With social distancing protocol still prevalent in most workplaces, video conferencing and various other digital tools are coming as a means of helping companies and recruiters find these sought-after, and often elusive, talents. The qualities and qualifications recruiters are looking for now are changing alongside the digital tools they’re using; soft skills, such as adaptability, resilience and proactivity, are becoming more determinant than experience. 

Fighting for talent

In the northeast of the US, the healthcare and life sciences sector over the last few years has grown aggressively. The space has been extremely robust for the duration of the pandemic, specifically in the early-stage biotech and med-device businesses linked to combatting COVID. The HLS sector has remained very job heavy and candidate light. Within a couple of square miles in Cambridge MA, there are over 1,000 early-stage biotech businesses, so there is still a hard war for talent. - Sean Rogerson, Managing Director at Michael Page in Boston.

The US isn’t the only country struggling to find top talent. In Switzerland as well, getting hold of qualified candidates is like finding a needle in a haystack. Whereas in years past candidates were eager to jump on-board with big brands now, because of mergers and acquisitions, they’re tending to seek out smaller companies and start-ups – if they’re looking at all. Big brands do still hold sway to a certain extent, but candidates are more sceptical than they used to be. 

“It's a healthy industry, and people are still interested in entering it,” says Stephanie Lintner, Manager at Michael Page in Zurich. “But they're much pickier about it, and we don't have enough people wanting to change. Plus, the industry has the biggest issue that they're not thinking outside the box.”

In Japan, too, the market is extremely talent-short, especially for those who have technical scientific expertise and English fluency. “The talent pool is very, very small,” explained Ed Marsden, Managing consultant at Michael Page in Tokyo. “A lot of the candidates are not necessarily actively looking for positions.”

As the Healthcare and Life Sciences (HLS) industry relies heavily on scientists and talent with cutting-edge technology experience, the industry still faces talent shortage in Mainland China. Apart from that, experienced executives and entrepreneurs who are skilled in building up organisations and commercial aspects of the HLS industry are in high demand. "When hiring senior executive talent, companies in the HLS industry look for those with both a solid scientific background and business acumen. Therefore, candidates with skills in leadership, communication and people managment are highly sought after," says Annie Shen, Senior Partner at Page Executive China. 
 
On the other hand, in Mexico, it’s the inverse situation. According to a Reuters article from June 2020, a million jobs were lost there in the direct aftermath of the pandemic. Because of such immediate and sweeping cuts throughout the country, companies are swamped with highly qualified candidates, and have to take time to sort through all of them.

“Due to the organisation within the companies, there had been a lot of layoffs,” said Itzel Vargas, Executive Manager at Michael Page in Mexico City. “So, the structures are now really lean, but that means we have a huge offer of candidates in the market – good, qualified candidates, now open to seeking new jobs, and our clients are looking for expertise and soft skills.”
 

Digital Talent Attraction

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