4 Key Factors for Recruiting & Retaining Top Life Sciences Talent


We all know compensation is critical to hiring and retaining top talent, especially when luring candidates to relocate for a new opportunity. But there are other trends rising to the top as crucial factors for consideration among today’s life sciences professionals.

In a recent BioSpace survey,* while Salary was selected as the top consideration when relocating for a job, Geography, Flexible Work and Healthcare closely followed. But why should you care? You’re only looking for local hires, right? If that’s true, you should reconsider. In that same study, 93% of survey respondents said they would be open to new roles in 2019 and 78% indicated they would consider relocation.

Hiring top talent in the life sciences industry is extremely competitive, with 70% of employers increasing the number of open roles in their organizations in 2019. If you want to compete, you’ll need to keep the door open to relocating candidates, which means understanding how to promote your company and your location. Our community of life science professionals identified the top three ways, outside of salary, you can do just that, and we’re going to break it down for you.


If you’re not like our California friends with a beautiful beach on one side of your state and a soaring mountain range on the other, recruiting top talent to your location may seem daunting. But it shouldn’t. Whether in a large metropolitan area or a lesser-known life science hub, promote the benefits of your city, state or hotbed region. Here are a few ideas:


Mother Nature. Whether warm climates for candidates who are trying to escape the cold, snow for candidates who enjoy winter activities like skiing, or four full, beautiful seasons for candidates who love variety, leverage mother nature to help lure new hires.


Funding. Venture capital, National Institute of Health (NIH) or others, if your state or city is investing in life sciences and funding projects, be sure to promote this to candidates. It shows a candidate’s potential new home is supportive of their work and indicative of stability.


Location, location, location!  Take a look at the activities within a 90- to 120-mile radius of your office and promote your own backyard. Maybe it’s as simple as a state fair, a weekly farmer’s market, or a short drive to a major landmark or tourist destination - every state in the U.S. has something great to offer.


Cost of living.  Many of the large life science hubs like San Francisco and Boston also come with a hefty cost of living. So if owning a home is more affordable or taxes are lower in your city, be sure to point this out to candidates, and work with your local officials to put some numbers behind this economic advantage.


Education system. Especially if you’re recruiting candidates in the mid-stages of their careers with young families, your local education system could be a deal maker or breaker. And if you don’t tell candidates what your education system offers, they will do the research on their own to find out, so be sure to address this in your recruiting process.


Flexible Work Schedule

What does this even mean? We asked the same question after seeing that 36% of respondents selected this answer in a recent BioSpace survey* over options like bonus, retirement plan and PTO.

We asked our community of life science professionals what having a ‘flexible work schedule’ means to them and received a wide variety of responses including the following:

  •   Non-traditional hours, meaning outside of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  •   Freedom to work remotely anytime, anywhere
  •   Flexibility to plan around weekly targets while managing personal commitments
  •   Ability to make your own schedule as long as performance metrics and deadlines are met
  •   Ability to set your own hours
  •   Summer hours – half day or entire day off on Fridays during the summer

The Society for  Human Resource Management (SHRM) has coined the phrase Flexible Work Arrangements, or FWAs, to define these unique employment offerings and suggests it might also include a casual dress day, casual dress every day, mealtime flex, and telecommuting, just to name a few.

Due to the nature of the work, many life science professionals may never truly have their ideal flexible working needs met. But considering a 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report noted that the number of U.S. employees telecommuting is up 115% since 2005, the trend for flexible working arrangements is not going away. You’ll want to be prepared to have the conversation with candidates who broach the subject and that means knowing what your organization will and will not compromise on when it comes to FWAs.

SHRM offers recommendations on how your organization can develop policies for FWAs. The tips include the following:

 - Understanding this cannot be a standard policy and must be assessed based on individual roles and responsibilities
 - Knowing the legal risks, especially around exemption classifications
assessing any insurance impacts, specifically state workers’ compensation laws
 - Defining what success looks like for your organization
 - Understanding implementation hurdles



Buying your own health insurance can be very expensive, therefore clearly identifying your healthcare benefits can be a significant factor in recruiting top talent. Also, given the political uncertainties of the Affordable Care Act, many employees are likely to appreciate when a company offers high-quality health insurance with reasonable rates.

Winston Benefits, a benefits administration, enrollment and communications company, notes, “As in many other competitive industries, pharmaceutical companies stand out by offering strong health benefits to their employees. Novo Nordisk, for example, covers 90 percent of health care coverage for full-time employees. At AbbVie, everyone who works at least 20 hours per week is eligible for one of six health insurance plans. Johnson & Johnson aspires to have the healthiest workforce in the world and aims to achieve the goal through its workplace wellness initiative, Energy for Performance in Life, a wide-reaching program that promotes balance in mind, body and spirit.”

These days, healthcare means much more than current insurance coverage. Set yourself apart from your competitors by promoting other wellness benefits such as on-site gyms or gym discounts and on-site cafés with healthy eating options. Preliminary BioSpace Salary Survey results** showed 20% of respondents received retiree health benefits, 33% noted an onsite gym or fitness benefits, a few mentioned employer-paid premiums, and one respondent shared their employer offers pet health insurance. Consider adding any or all of these to your healthcare offering to give your company a recruiting advantage.




*December 2018 BioSpace Life Science Community Survey. 

**2019 BioSpace Salary Survey (preliminary results). 

Back to news