Part 1: The transformed labour market and the fight for the candidates

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In recent years, the labour market has changed significantly for both employers and employees. This makes it necessary to change the way in which skilled employees are recruited and retained in several industries. Fresh eyes and a new strategy is needed.

Rasmus Meyhoff is partner in Compass, where he leads a team of 15 dedicated individuals specialised in the Life Sciences industry. For several years, he has followed the development of the labour market closely and will in the following share his reflections, experiences and recommendations to the companies that are currently fighting to find and recruit qualified, talented candidates. Simultaneously, the companies must be able to retain the key people who are already employed. That applies to companies both in and outside the pharmaceutical industry.

In this blogpost, we focus on the recruitment of new employees, and in part 2 the focus is on retaining the existing employees.

The fight for the qualified candidates

“In general, we see a lot of companies growing to such an extent that they are in great need of talented employees in order to achieve their ambitious goals. One of the challenges, however, lies in the fact that there are not enough qualified candidates to meet the recruitment needs amongst these companies. This is especially seen within the Life Sciences industry, but many other industries are also affected. This means that the companies are in fierce competition with each other, and therefore there is a greater tendency for employees to change jobs if they are dissatisfied with the conditions at their current job,” says Rasmus Meyhoff.    

This has a big impact on how to best recruit new talents, while at the same time being able to retain the existing key employees.

“The fight for the right candidates means that the salaries often get higher and higher in an attempt to lure the desired talents into taking a job at another company. But is this a sustainable development, and how does it affect the job satisfaction of the existing employees, when new colleagues are getting paid more for similar tasks? Can you do something else than solely offer more money?” Rasmus Meyhoff asks.  

The question of how companies best retain their essential employees without creating a pay spiral that gets out of control, is something Rasmus Meyhoff will seek to answer in part 2 of this blog.

The company must sell itself

The changes in the labour market also mean that the balance of power between candidates and employers in connection with recruitments has shifted in favour of the candidates. Previously, it was typically the candidates that had to convince a potential employer that they “deserved” a position with the company. This is no longer the case in those industries where candidates are in high demand. Here, it is just as much the company that must be successful in selling itself to the candidates as being a good workplace, focussing on the right values that speak into the candidate’s need for development and priorities.

“Companies can with advantage place extra focus on employer branding. What is it that they can offer the candidates that sets them apart from the competition in other ways than the payslip? How can they “tempt” a candidate to take the job? This means that there needs to be a change in how job interviews are conducted in relation to the choice of questions. Instead, the focus should be on identifying the motivation of the candidate, rather than the classic focus on how the candidate can contribute positively to the company. The reciprocity should be increased between company and candidate,” argues Rasmus Meyhoff, and elaborates:

 “How can the job be adapted optimally to the individual employee’s needs for development and responsibility? Is it possible to work from home some days? Competence development through ongoing courses and education? Can an employee have reduced time while they have smaller children or similar? What is offered in terms of social activities and events, making the company more than just a place of work? How do you create a value-based community that makes the employees want to commit further to the organisation? The companies need to realise that it is no longer solely about whether the candidate matches the company, but just as much about whether the company matches the candidate.” 

 And precisely this shift is one of the reasons why Rasmus Meyhoff recommends that companies not already doing so, may consider using an external recruitment partner, who is already actively working with this type of recruitment procedure. But more on that later.

Agility and a broader perspective in recruitment

According to Rasmus Meyhoff, there are several different factors that companies with recruitment challenges should consider – in addition to working with more reciprocity in the recruitment process and flexible working conditions.

 “There are several important factors that companies should take into account in the changing labour market. First and foremost, there is great potential in looking for talent outside of Denmark, especially when looking for highly specialised employees. By looking internationally, you get a significantly larger pool of qualified candidates. In addition, if the company can accept that people work in the same team, even though they are not in the same location, it will make it easier to recruit outside the borders of the country. This trend is increasing rapidly, with the growing digitalisation supporting the development,” Rasmus Meyhoff says.

Another thing, companies can consider modifying in their recruitment process, is to stop focusing solely on the professional competences and instead taking a closer look at the personal skills of the candidates – of course this should only be done in the cases where a very specific set of professional competencies are not required in order to succeed in the job.

 “One of my better examples is a large global pharmaceutical organisation that needed new managers in their commercial production. The managers had to lead some larger production teams with many employees. Instead of solely considering candidates, who met both the managerial competencies and the professional production experience, the candidate pool was opened up. This was done, as it was discovered that it would take significantly longer to find professional qualified candidates with the right management competencies, than the time it would take to teach competent managers from other industries the necessary professional competencies,” says Rasmus Meyhoff, and continues:

 “Instead, they found exciting candidates with backgrounds from the military and sports, who had relevant leadership skills that matched the overall requirements of the positions, such as getting employees to work in the same direction, set clear goals, and lead in a fast-changing environment. It is that kind of openness and vision that can help broaden the candidate pool and make a difference in the long run.”

 Another thing that companies must be aware of regarding recruitments is “time to hire”. A proper and thorough recruitment process takes time. In many companies, recruitment can drag out because the responsible recruiter has too many short-term tasks that needs to be solved, which can make it challenging to allocate the necessary time for the recruitment. This is a big mistake, according to Rasmus Meyhoff, because the attractive candidate can choose a position with another company in the meantime, because the recruitment process is too slow.

The advantage of the external recruitment partner

Particularly, time consumption and prioritisation of the recruitment process is another reason why an external recruitment partner may be the best solution.

“When a company decides to use an external recruitment partner, it means that significantly less time and resources are needed internally for the process. Now, that many companies are busier than ever, and there are more advertised jobs than suitable candidates, it is a calculation that needs to be made, as it often pays off,” Rasmus Meyhoff says, and concludes:

“Recruitment companies that specialise in the company’s industry – for example Life Sciences – know exactly what the candidate market looks like, what general tendencies exist, and from where the candidates can be attracted. Through a well-developed network and great industry understanding, recruitment companies can streamline the recruitment process significantly, which increases the possibility that the best suited candidates do not accept other positions in the meantime.”

Part 2: The transformed labour market and the good retention

Read part two in our series about the transformed labour market here

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