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How to Ensure Employee Retention in Life Sciences

Posted on February 2023

medical professionals working together in a lab

The Pharmaceutical market has expanded considerably in the past two decades, with Pharma revenues totalling $1.42tn in 2021. This has been accompanied by a growing demand for experienced, highly qualified Life Sciences professionals: with more drugs than ever now available, companies require a strong workforce to bring their products to market. The industry has had to deal with an ever-small talent pool as a result, which has been exacerbated by one of the highest employee churn rates, with the Life Sciences and Medical Devices industry alone seeing a 20.6% turnover rate. This is reflected in the results of our Life Sciences survey which revealed that more than 40% of Life Sciences professionals are currently looking for a new role.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a substantial increase in resignations across all industries, as many employees started to re-evaluate their priorities and seek roles that offered flexible remote-work policies. Consequently, companies have found it harder to get the people they need. 47.8 million workers in the U.S. decided to quit their jobs in 2021 – the highest volume of resignations since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began recording this data in 2001. This is equivalent to 3.98 million workers quitting their jobs each month, up from an average of roughly 3m leaving their jobs each month in 2019.

Similar trends have been observed in Australia and the UK, where the rate of employed people between 16-64 choosing to switch jobs reached an all-time high of 3.2% between October-December 2021. The resignation rate continued to increase in 2022, with job-to-job resignations in the UK peaking at 442,000 in the second quarter of 2022. In Europe, one in three workers are considering quitting their jobs in the near term, with inadequate compensation and lack of career advancement being cited as the top factors.

Why are Life Sciences professionals leaving their roles?

The reasons that Life Sciences professionals have for wanting to leave their jobs vary across each industry sector. However, the promise of higher remuneration is invariably the main reason. This is according to findings from our Year in Review, which goes into greater depth about the factors that matter most to Life Sciences professionals when seeking to advance their careers.

There are a host of other important factors, however, such as the desire for an improved work-life balance and employees wanting to acquire more new skills that will aid in their professional development. Changes in management can also cause people to want to move jobs, and Life Sciences professionals are increasingly looking for openings that provide flexible working hours and the ability to work from home.

How to improve employee retention

The good news is that there is a wide range of employee retention strategies that you can adopt in your workplace. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective employee retention techniques that you can use to ensure that your employees are satisfied at work and remain highly motivated in their positions, as opposed to looking elsewhere for their big career break.

Offer competitive salaries and benefits

Dissatisfaction around salary has had a negative impact on talent retention in the Life Sciences sector. As we’ve seen across the board, wanting higher compensation is the top reason for employees wanting to move to jobs; 70% of the R&D professionals that we surveyed within the Pharmacological industry were motivated by the promise of higher compensation at other companies.

Paying your team a competitive rate is a simple but effective employee retention strategy that you can use to avoid your workforce shrinking. Our survey results show that the majority of respondents want a pay rise upwards of 10-15% of their current salary, which provides some indication of how much you may need to offer in order to remain competitive.

Focus on career development

Your employees will be far less likely to want to continue working for you long-term if there are few opportunities for advancement – or if their ability to develop their skills is limited. A study by Work Institute found that employees quit in 20% of cases due to career development issues.

This highlights the importance of setting clear paths for career progression to give your team the motivation and provide them with long-term goals.

Be flexible

Offering flexible working arrangements is a sure-fire way to keep your employees happy. Our Year in Review revealed that the option to work from home is very important to 60% of the industry as a whole. The majority of R&D respondents deemed flexibility as either important or very important, and workers in Pharmacovigilance ranked flexibility higher than salary when asked what is most important when considering a new job.

Whilst a lack of flexible working options will not be a deal-breaker for many employees, you will find it far easier to retain your top talent if you grant them greater freedom to work according to their preferences.

Build a supportive company culture

There’s nothing quite like a warm, friendly culture when it comes to getting excellent work out of your employees. It’s also one of the best ways to increase their loyalty to the company.

Seeking feedback from employees on a regular basis about how working processes might be improved helps ensure that workers feel that their concerns are being heard and addressed. Providing senior employees with the skills and training that they need to be good managers is also a worthwhile endeavour. Manufacturing professionals regard good leadership as almost as important as salary, according to our Year in Review survey.

Promote work-life balance

More than a third of respondents in our Life Sciences Year in Review report highlighted a poor work-life balance as one of the main reasons for wanting to seek employment in another role. Almost half of the Clinical Pharmacology professionals surveyed cited a need for an improved work-life balance as their main reason for seeking a new position.

With higher numbers of professionals re-evaluating their priorities in life in the wake of the COVID pandemic, it’s no wonder that Life Sciences professionals are seeking out positions that allow them to spend more time with their families and friends. Giving your employees more personal time is therefore one of the most effective strategies for employee retention.

Offer innovative, up-to-date technologies

Finally, ensure that you have the latest technology in your workplace. Investing in top-of-the-range software, for example, will make it easier for your employees to complete tasks and reduce the errors that are made, thereby increasing company productivity and boosting morale.

Employee retention is critical to success

Thriving companies are characterized by a happy, satisfied workforce and high employee retention rates. Partner with EPM Scientific, a leading executive search firm for the Life Sciences industry, to find out more about how you can implement employee retention strategies that get results. Request a call back and one of our specialist consultants will be in touch.

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