The biotech job market finds itself facing a labor shortage. By some indications, the problem is a generational one. It affects the industry from the top down, at established companies and start-ups alike. And it’s nothing new—it’s somewhat of a recurring problem over the past four to five years at least. Some important data points to note:
Entry-level talent is in high demand along with senior positions. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook employment projections, six in-demand job titles require only undergraduate degrees. These include:
Biotech firms will need to use different strategies to attract and retain a younger workforce. Whereas Baby Boomers (ages 54-72) tended to stay at jobs for years at a time, known for loyal and steady work, Generation X (ages 38-53) and Millennials (ages 22-37) have a reputation of more frequent job changes. This places the onus on biotech companies to make a compelling case to reign a more restless set of young talent.
Already we are seeing different ways that companies are making a compelling case for younger talent. One overarching theme across industries involves a reexamination of company culture.
Millennials do not like to wait. Another Gallup survey found that 93 percent of young professionals left their company the last time they changed roles. The adage that the quickest way to advancement is leaving your current job is very real to this professional set. For that reason, it’s important for companies, right from the get-go, engage new hires with new challenges and opportunities for growth. When added responsibilities are taken on, they should be able to expect commensurate perks and compensation.
Compensation, while important for any generation, is somewhat of a red herring with Millennials. At the root of job dissatisfaction is lack of engagement, according to Harvard Business School development consultant Peter J. Martel. He often tells his clients that job dissatisfaction stems from bad managers who fail to engage young talent. “All of the research I’ve seen over the years about employee engagement really points, first and foremost, to the relationship with one’s immediate supervisor,” he says in the Harvard Professional Development blog.
Managers lacking in people skills happens when competent technical personnel are put in leadership roles without the proper training. They might know everything about lab work, but when it comes to team building, they are poorly prepared. This is one of the ways companies shoot themselves when taking a hands-off role in professional development.
Finally, if firms want to retain young talent, they need to examine their mission statement and put it into real, live action. Millennials expect more than a string of buzzwords slapped together on the company home page. This is something you read time and again about this generation. They want to feel a sense of giving, or serving a greater good. “Millennials are seeking work with meaning beyond just making money, and they’re willing to make trade-offs to achieve their own definition of success,” said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express Global Commercial Payments, in a released statement.