Organisations in the life sciences sector faced quickly evolving recruitment needs throughout the pandemic. But how have these differed around the world, and how can organisations ensure they stand out to candidates in this market?

Unsurprisingly in the face of COVID-19, the talent needs of the life sciences sector have evolved rapidly since the pandemic began.

While some roles in the sector have been highly sought after, others have remained flat or even seen demand fall. The need for rapid vaccine development saw a surge in demand in some areas, while clampdowns on non-essential services caused declines in others.

But how have different countries been affected by these changes to demand? Here are some of the challenges that have been felt by the life sciences sector around the world.

The contrasting talent demands across the globe in 2020

Australia faced fewer local restrictions, but organisations still got caught in international hiring freezes

Alice Kedie, Manager, Life Sciences for Hays Australia, explains how it has impacted the talent market in the region. “We have been fortunate to largely have had much fewer restrictions than many other countries, so this has allowed things to continue to a degree as before; although because many affiliate operations in Australia are linked to headquarters in Europe and the US, the country has still been affected by things like hiring freezes.

“From a sales and marketing perspective, organisations that supply ventilators, personal protective equipment and over-the-counter antiviral products experienced exponential growth,” she adds. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, government and hospital capital funding was diverted away from equipment and drugs that were not COVID-19-response related and, therefore, saw a fall in sales.”

Analytical talent is in high demand in the UK and Belgium

In the UK, contingent entry-level talent was in high demand to support testing efforts earlier in the pandemic. More recently however, the market has settled into business as usual. There are a lot of trials in vaccines and we’re seeing needs for data science roles at the back end of the trials. The drive is for technical disciplines such as health economists and healthcare specialists, that can use real-world evidence to support the long-term roll-out of vaccines as they compete with the others on the market.

The requirement for analytical talent is a common thread for many regions, not just in Australia and the UK. Yannick Chentout, Team Leader – Life Sciences, Hays Belgium, says Belgium is another country experiencing a shortage of talent on this front: “For instance, testing centres are looking for laboratory technicians to analyse PCR tests, but a laboratory technician won’t remain on the labour market more than few days.”

Mexico and Poland saw the need for marketing and sales talent grow

Mariusz Popin, Senior Manager, Life Sciences, Hays Poland, says that a push to market products more effectively has driven talent demands. “One of the key tasks in Poland during the pandemic was the reorganisation of sales departments, as well as the need to develop new channels to reach doctors and patients,” he says. “We have noticed a greater demand for recruitment in the areas of digital marketing, regulatory affairs and clinical trials.”

Similar trends have also been observed in Mexico, with organisations requiring talent to facilitate clear, ambitious and aggressive sales and marketing strategies in order to increase their market share and productivity. Meanwhile in China, the country perhaps furthest into its journey through the pandemic, there has been demand for research and development, regulatory, and quality assurance talent.

Manufacturing activity fell in France

Elsewhere, France saw a fall in pharma manufacturing activity. Lockdowns meant some facilities shut down for a time, which in turn caused slow restart procedures to begin manufacturing safely again. Over-the-counter drug consumption also fell, with lockdowns reducing seasonal illness in the country. 

The country has, however, seen a rise in the need for specific healthcare talent. Geriatric doctors have been required to support at-risk older people in the country, while emergency doctors were in demand to support a surge in demand in hospitals. Psychologists are also sought after to help understand the longer-term effects of lockdowns.

Different countries now face diverse hiring challenges

Polish organisations are looking to hire from abroad

As well as facing different talent needs, organisations operating in the life sciences sector are also facing different local hiring challenges. In Poland, Popin says that organisations sometimes have to turn to talent outside the country when they are opening new operations in the country. “It happens when we support life sciences companies in opening regional or global support centres,” he explains. “It is necessary to recruit large teams with rare skills and from a niche specialisation (or therapeutic area) with regional or global experience. More and more often we engage foreign candidates who decide to relocate and continue their professional career in Poland.”

Australia is short on clinical research skills and entry-level development

Meanwhile in Australia, Kedie says there is a shortage of clinical research skills, as the country has become an increasingly desirable place to conduct clinical trials. “This is not only because quality of clinical trial data is very strong here, but arguably because hospitals are not overrun with COVID-19 patients,” she explains.

“There is also a lack of development at the entry-level and limited opportunities for training and development of STEM graduates to enter into technical roles within the industry,” she says. “More university intern partnerships would help this.”

New talent pools need to be explored in Mexico

There may also be an opportunity for businesses in some regions if they were to look in other talent pools. In Mexico, for example, it has proved challenging to recruit sales and marketing professionals for organisations that are unwilling to consider candidates with experience in other industries or sectors. While candidates with direct experience will have a shorter learning curve, the pool of talent is smaller, so looking elsewhere may be a better option.

The UK must overcome changes to immigration post-Brexit

Finally, in the UK, companies are facing challenges relating to Brexit – like other sectors, life sciences organisations have new systems to navigate when hiring talent from abroad. By understanding these systems, organisations should be able to go further afield for talent. Over the next 12 months, organisations are going to get used to a points-based immigration system in the UK, and work out how it can work for them. Understanding that will be a key part of talent strategy going forward.

Author:  CHRIS SMITH, Director of Life Sciences, Hays UK


Job Search 2

Looking for a new role? Search here for your ideal job or get in touch with one of our expert consultants.

Office locator

Hays office is located in Bucharest. Contact us to discuss your employment needs.