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Attracting Talent to Life Science Organisations in Ireland


By Jennifer O' Brien

A McKinsey Global Institute study predicted correctly that employers in North America and Europe will demand eighteen million more third-level educated workers than will be available in 2020. Even throughout the COVID pandemic, we can see the demand for highly skilled talent remains. This will lead to one in ten necessary roles not being filled. Consequently, there is a need for employers of today to optimise their candidate attraction methods.

Employer Branding

From an employer branding perspective, organisations need a strong value proposition – a compelling answer to the question; why would a highly talented person choose to work here? Organisations need to set themselves apart from their competitors to attract top talent. A recent LinkedIn report proposes that organisations are becoming more proactive in their branding strategies and utilising online channels, eluding to the changing role of HR to encompass marketing activities. The reasoning behind increased employer branding efforts has been illustrated effectively by a recent Willis Towers Watson report. Ultimately, the report advocates the importance of building a positive employer brand, through the candidate’s journey, long before an individual engages with the organisation, during their employment and long after they have left, from an advocacy perspective. This candidate journey, or experience, plays a key role in the portrayal of an employer’s brand in the marketplace. How a prospective employee is made to feel throughout the attraction, recruitment and selection process, as well as while employed and having handed in their notice is paramount. Employees are an organisations best ambassador, and how they are treated is crucial to having positive brand ambassadors.

Delivering on this employer branding and offering, however, is key. Not following through on the promise of a certain EVP can lead to a lack of trust. Through various research conducted, it is becoming increasingly clear that authenticity and transparency are so important in the marketplace. Quoting a HR Director interviewed as part of my study;

You can only change the brand if it is backed up by the reality onsite

A recent study by Mercer highlights the shift from the Employer Value Proposition (EVP) to the Individual Value Proposition (IVP), therefore emphasising the need to further personalise the way talent is attracted.

Interestingly, a finding of my thesis in this area suggests that, in reality, while all respondents understand how important employer branding is in today’s marketplace, most respondents do not feel enough is being done to promote their brands as employers.

Recruitment & Selection

Before talent can be developed, motivated and retained, it must first be identified and selected. Recruitment is perceived by some as at the core of further Talent Development and overall Talent Management activities and others further suggest that this translates to the overall success of the organisation in the market. Stringent recruitment and selection practices assist in sustaining organisational performance and competitive advantage. Furthermore, the need for organisations to immediately develop a robust recruitment and selection strategy to counteract the effects of turnover and equally to increase the organisations chance of securing top talent has become increasingly apparent. As one of the Senior HR Professionals interviewed as part of the thesis stated:

If you can’t attract talent in the first place, then you don’t have any talent to manage

Although HR functions have, so far, progressed from being reactive and administrative to proactive and executive in recruitment and selection processes, a recent CIPD report highlights the ongoing recruitment challenges organisations are facing. These include increased skills shortages, increased difficulty in recruiting staff at all levels, the lack of available required skills and, most alarmingly, the little change in practices employed to decrease recruitment difficulties. For recruitment and selection to be successful, it must be strategic. The adaptation of these processes from the administrative to strategic will lead to an increased appeal to a larger number of applicants which will ultimately lead to increased organisational performance.


Onboarding is a key step to engaging and retaining talent and should extend itself to the first year of the employees’ lifecycle. A well-designed, fun and engaging onboarding process has a significantly greater effect on employee engagement and retention when compared to the old-school mentality of one-day orientation.

From an industry perspective, a study by Equifax reported that 40% of employees who left their jobs voluntarily in 2013 did so within six months of starting in the position. Alternatively, a report by the Society for Human Resource Management proposes that employees who attended a well-structured onboarding program were 69% more likely to remain at a company for up to three years. Similarly, a survey by The Impact Instruction Group outlines that 54% of organizations see increased new hire productivity and 50% higher retention rates for new hires when a standardized onboarding process is in place. It can be determined, from the above statistics, that there is a significant link between the initial onboarding period and attrition rates, with the organisation specific onboarding practice determining whether this has a positive or negative effect on attrition. This particularly resonates with two respondents interviewed as part of my thesis, who believe in the link between being prepared for the new hire to join and increased productivity, remarking:

The more supporting you are to an individual joining your business, the more effective and productive they are early on in the relationship

Although onboarding has been highlighted as a top priority for change by a recent CIPD report, few organisations prioritize onboarding programs, but still expect new employees to drive results within 90 days. Typically, onboarding programmes extend to the first week of employment and, subsequently, leave the new employee unprepared and with a lack of deep knowledge and understanding of the requirements of their role or company culture. This becomes even more of an issue during the current global pandemic when many organisations are onboarding new hires remotely. Companies with optimised and successful onboarding programmes are more likely to experience higher retention rates and, additionally, measurable profit growth.

The key finding of my thesis surrounding the area of onboarding suggests that there is more work to be done to optimise induction and onboarding practices in the Life Science Industry in Ireland.


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