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Talent acquisition – A critical success factor

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Prashant Nagre, Chief Executive Officer, Fermenta Biotech, talks about the importance and need for talent acquisition within pharma companies

“Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people not on strategies
Larry Bossidy

Prashant Nagre

These lines sum up the vision for a sound talent acquisition programme. Talent acquisition has become a very strategic and critical function in most of the pharma companies. The process of identifying and attracting a talent within the pharma industry has turned out to be a key objective for the success of any business. Talent acquisition specialists are integral to business and long-term resource planning meeting.

A sound talent acquisition strategy has a direct and profound impact on an organisation’s business strategy. In today’s scenario, pharma companies are faced with multiple issues of varying magnitude such as a growing need for enabling innovation, an unending list of expanding priorities and to top it up an ‘achieve more with less’ economic climate.

New tools for talent acquistion

Today’s workplace is changing dramatically. To keep pace with the same we need newer tools for talent acquisition. The past decade has witnessed a need for a great deal of change in HR practices. If the organisation’s current process of talent acquisition does not modify or keep pace with these changes, companies will be at a high risk of not only losing qualified candidates but also land up in a situation where growth and performance will be highly compromised. It is undeniable that alignment to business goals should be kept on priority rather than just filling up vacancies. One does feel, especially in the pharma domain, that despite a growing pool of available talent, finding the key talent that matches the organisational requirements remains a challenge even for the most seasoned HR managers.

Social media: a hiring tool

It is evident that many of us are spending more time than ever on various social networking platforms, and many of the growing pharma companies, including ours, are learning to capitalise on this trend. This was initiated by consciously joining online conversations to reach potential hires via a plethora of options in the social network arena. Today’s recruiters are connected with top talent through social media and one gets to profile a prospective candidate rather accurately using this powerful tool. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and lately even Instagram have helped HR professionals understand the candidate in a better and cost effective manner.

Elements of talent acquistion

To understand talent acquisition one must take a holistic view of its key elements viz. strategic planning, segmentation of workforce, employment branding and candidate relationship management. One must individually understand that each element needs to be carefully studied and understood prior to implementing it in an overall talent acquisition protocol.

A strategic planning approach in an organisation involves creating an organisational talent requirement road map. This approach is also relevent in the pharma industry which is driven by innovation as the talent requirement will change depend on a long range plan. Product pipeline, manufacturing plan, supply chain requirements, marketing and sales force budgets, patient service etc., are a few amongst a number of detailed plans which the talent acquisition manager needs to carefully study and understand along with various department heads. The job requirement is just a small bit of the total overall strategy; what matters most is creation of a multilevel talent requirement charter. For e.g, a company who would be launching an OTC product portfolio in two years’ time would need a dedicated business development candidate from day one; however the sales head and dedicated logistic team may be required in the later phase at a time of execution. A talent acquisition specialist has to include these things in his plan.

Segmentation of workforce

Segmentation of work force is an equally important element. The standard performance bell curve though used extensively may not be a very useful tool for a talent acquisition specialist. Segmentation of workforce involves classifying them in one of the three major segments viz. top performers, high potentials and finally employees in critical positions. All these put together comprise the ‘vital few’ mentioned in the Pareto Principle.

Employer branding

We all are aware that employer branding is the process of promoting a company, or an organisation, as the employer of choice to a desired target group, one which a company needs and wants to recruit and retain. With more and more competition entering it is one of the most valuable elements for talent acquisition. Here is where the PR and HR function of an organisation must work in sync to depict a robust attractive face of the organisation.

In the pharma context, it is important to showcase the innovation awards (to cater to the R&D lot) or even a case study on a successful new product launch. The aim is to create the perfect benchmark firm for all to work in. It involves being talked amongst the targeted group. It creates a positive aura which is a major attraction factor for a number of potential candidates. Trust, mutual respect and employee friendly atmosphere etc., are some of the key factors which coupled with good performance and work ethics are definitely a turn on! Employment branding has the potential to increase the quality of employees and it has in it what one needs to inspire them to become more productive. Moreover it also can open numerous new opportunities to the company in the marketplace.

Candidate relationship management

As a model for managing a company’s impressions and interactions with potential and future hires, Candidate relationship management scores very high amongst the various elements in talent acquisition strategy. The ability to identify a technology which can organise, automate and synchronise the holistic approach towards attraction communication and management of talent is today’s HRs most valuable tool! With growing complexity in pharma and biotech fields it is becoming a need of the hour to rely on technology to manage candidate relationship more effectively.

Today’s talent management professional has a plethora of options when it comes to solutions for candidate relationship management. It makes it easy for visitors to one’s website to send job postings to friends, with links to all the job details and maybe even a resume form! One can set up special emails or newsletters to targeted groups, this works well when there is a specific group having focused skill set interest e.g. a group of downstream specialists in fermentation technologists or a brand managers managing pediatric endocrinology as a therapy. Many organisations have initiated online chat to give candidates an opportunity to communicate directly with recruiters, hiring managers or employees.

One needs to understand that in today’s competitive scenario with a perceived scarcity of right talent (especially in the pharma industry), it is necessary to ensure that targeted candidates listen to the organisational message. It is high time the industry adopted a novel approach that focuses less on just ‘filling positions’ quickly and more on meeting organisations goals and objectives.

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