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Life Sciences Companies Use Long Term HR Model to Retain Talent


Ambitious companies are investing more time and money into a longer term strategy approach to attracting and retaining top performing employees.

This more focused and committed approach to talent development is clearly visible in sectors such as pharma, biosciences and medical devices. Competition for top staff is very high between companies in these sectors, intensified by their proximity in cluster, most notably Dublin and in Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

One specialist recruitment firm in the Life Sciences field is Fastnet – The Talent Group, newly rebranded to reflect the partnership focus that its client companies now require in managing talent. Formed in 1999 by biochemist and ex-FMC General Manager Pat O’Driscoll, Fastnet is now led by his daughter, Niamh O’Driscoll.

Fastnet has always limited its focus to serving life science, agri-food and related business services companies. Their specialist fields is buzzing. Recruitment is a constant part of life for firms like BMS Biologics and Alexion in Dublin, West Pharma in Waterford, Regeneron in Limerick, MSD in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, and Cork companies like BioMarin, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

Fastnet recently opened a Dublin Office at Fitzwilliam House in Upper Pembroke st, taking on five new recruiters.

The company employs20 people in the Cork Office. Fastnet’s turnover is soaring in recent years, growing from €5.7m in 2014, up to €9.7m (+70%) in 2015, and heading for a projected €15m (+55%) in 2016.

The company’s founder and managing partner, Niamh O’Driscoll, said: “The life sciences sector has been very much on a growth trajectory for the past four or five years.  The IDA has been very active in attracting new investment, and we’re also seeing a lot of new start-ups and SMEs.  Our own business has grown exponentially over the past 36 months with year-on-year growth has been driven by repeat business from clients who value the support of a boutique strategic staffing partner.

“Attracting, engaging, developing and retaining the right talent is vital to success and we provide ‘front desk to board’ solutions to clients from executive search; permanent, contract and interim recruitment including project management and RPO and outplacement services”.

It has certainly helped Fastnet that founding director Pat O’Driscoll had vast experience in pharma.  Fastnet has always been seen as an insider in its chosen field. Now that the sector is delivering a rush of new spinout start-ups, many companies are seeing value in welcoming specialist recruitment into the camp.

“There is a huge demand for talented people with the right skills and experience”, said Niamh O’Driscoll.

“What we’re seeing is that companies want to ensure they are developing leaders internally as part of their strategic succession plans.

“In my time in this sector, I have seen it transition from an employer-employee relationship into more of a partnership between people.  People need to be engaged and challenged.  Ambitious people need to see a career track.

“when millennials don’t feel engaged, they tend to want to move on.  They’re not interested in just a ‘job’, they want purpose.  The companies, however, want to engage and retain these people. And that is where we can help.”  Some young people, disillusioned with a perception of a static workplace, have sought that purpose by switching to the not -or-profit sector. Others find engagement in the fact that life science companies are developing life-saving drugs and technologies.

Life science companies are also among the most active in engaging with their local communities.  Fastnet can help its clients enhance communications, but it cannot create a culture that doesn’t already exist.

“At the core, life science companies are helping people to create a meaningful existence.  We complement that the company has its own culture and to communicate it,” said Niamh O’Driscoll.

That message about a company’s identity is communicated through all its engagement with people, from internal staff activities and its external image, in areas like its website and its social media presence.

Fastnet says life science companies now want to ensure that this message starts with recruitment.  Quality candidates want to start with a five-star experience, they want to feel valued in the interview process; they don’t want to be kept waiting 30 minutes when they arrive on time for an interview, and they want their first on-site experience to live up to the pitch they’ve seen through their own online research. 

“Many companies find the recruitment process quite intense; it has become very competitive,” said Niamh O’Driscoll.  “In some cases, we find it can help to place on of our team on-site to help with the talent acquisition process, the assessment methods and managing the recruitment project.”

In many cases, companies are also seeing the value of continuing that in-house partnership through to on-going talent management and succession planning.

Niamh O’Driscoll’s views is that every company should have a talent strategy, pipeline talent and nurture talent within organisations, as competition for the best people intensifies. Given Fastnet’s 17 year narrow focus on life sciences, her views certainly carry the weight of experience.

“Our success to date has been based on an ‘inch wide, mile deep’ sectoral focus and a partnership approach,” she said. Fastnet’s capabilities expand far beyond a transactional provider of service to a much deeper engagement facilitating and complementing our client’s efforts to build superior, high-performing teams.

“We support clients in developing optimum talent acquisition strategies to match their growth, development, transformation or restructuring objectives.

“This has enabled us to deliver better and longer term results for our clients and optimize career outcomes for candidates.  We look forward to continuing to grow our office and services over the next 18 months”

Fastnet – The Talent Group is the Irish member firm for IRC Global Executive Search Partners.

IRC is one of the top three international networks of executive search firms. This collaboration has extended Fastnet’s global reach with partners in 80 cities across six continents.



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