Tackling Attrition in Life Sciences

In life sciences, where top talent is always in demand, company leaders are doubly challenged to attract and retain the best performers. How do you keep people from leaving? By keeping them from wanting to even look elsewhere.

  • Get creative with engagement. The prevalence of remote or hybrid workforces has made it more challenging for employers to effectively engage with employees. Even with some percentage of workers returning to offices, we expect virtual engagement to remain a new normal. While there’s no easy fix, we generally advise clients to adopt an employee pulse process. This essentially entails regularly-scheduled, short surveys (3 questions maximum) that solicit employees’ current thoughts and feelings about their role, their team and the organization. Generally, pulse surveys are initiated following a larger engagement survey, allowing the organization to measure improvements or on-going effectiveness of their culture efforts.
  • Build (or reinvigorate) your culture. Employees will stay with a company for the culture and the people. These are the great unknowns when contemplating a job change. The prospective new role, responsibilities and salary may be attractive, but how will it “feel” to work there? This is even harder to predict when interviews are conducted virtually and therefore lack a sense of the people and place. Young life science companies should think about how to take their culture outside of their walls by looking for opportunities to bring their workforce together.
  • Consider generational differences. Who are the most likely workers to make a move? Gen Z and Millennials, or those younger than 40, account for the majority of job hoppers in recent years. [1] Furthermore, only 29% of Gen Z respondents indicated that competitive salary and benefits were key to their engagement, compared to nearly half (49%) of those over 55.[2] Instead, this group tends to prioritize an organization’s mission, social responsibilities and opportunities for rapid and rewarding career growth. Understanding these differences is key to your retention strategy.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Silence is not golden. Find opportunities to solicit and incorporate input from your staff, and include a variety of voices in your decision making. This is perhaps even more important with remote workers who may be feeling disconnected. That said, even the best listening practices fall flat if you don’t act. When soliciting feedback ensure that you are in a position to either act on that feedback or provide a transparent and genuine response as to why a suggestion is not in the best interest of the business.
  • Don’t assume it’s too early for HR. Emerging life science companies understandably invest heavily in R&D and go lean when it comes to G&A functions. Yet senior-level HR advisory at the ground level can set you up for success by taking care of the people who are taking care of the science. Building a dedicated and resilient team sits squarely in HR’s purview and can spare you the cost of implementing “fixes” down the road. It’s best not to wait until the need for HR becomes urgent.

This is where Danforth Advisors can help. Our strategic and operational HR consultants understand the fiercely competitive life science space and what it takes to guard against attrition. Click here to learn more about how we can help.

[1] What employees expect in 2021, Engaging talent in the shadow of COVID, IBM.

[2] What employees expect in 2021, Engaging talent in the shadow of COVID, IBM.