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Talent Management remains key priority in Life Sciences industry, research finds

Talent Management remains key priority in Life Sciences industry, research finds

Latest global RSA survey identifies industry failing to adequately manage talent

While 90% of Life Sciences executives identify talent management as a key priority, almost three quarters (72%) of their organisations are failing to deliver this in practice, operating without an active strategy in place. This is the headline finding of a global survey of over 200 Life Sciences senior executives and HR Directors carried out for Executive Search and Interim Management firm RSA.

A trend has emerged over the past three years whereby talent management is less well planned and more ad hoc. Much of this is due to the continuing impact of market change and sluggish economic conditions. 76% of organisations have undergone an organisational review or restructure in the last 18 months, up 10% since 2011 and 93% have reviewed headcount (a fifth more than in 2011). As in 2011, over half (53%) of respondents agreed the main trigger was generating increased efficiencies and six out of 10 said that their organisations had created new roles over the last year due to the changing business environment.

However on a positive note, understanding between business and HR is improving. While only 59% of executives believe that HR has a clear understanding of the skills the organisation will need in five years’ time, this has nearly doubled from just 24% in 2010. Almost eight in 10 (78%) felt that HR would have a key role to play in redefining long-term resourcing needs, 9% more than in 2011.

Nick Stephens, Executive Chairman of RSA comments, “In today’s highly competitive Life Sciences industry, a critical success factor for executives is to fully understand the talent they have within their business and how they organise and supplement it for the future. Our research shows that in the Life Sciences industry, the active management of high potential individuals and leadership development remain high priorities. However the continuing pressures of the recession and major market change are forcing businesses and their HR departments to focus on short-term fixes, rather than long-term strategy.”

The reality gap continues

The disconnect between concept and reality is also shown by the HR priorities that executives set. 74% saw leadership development as a key aim, but only 56% felt that HR would be focused on this, with areas such as change management (38%) and restructuring (32%) taking up much of the HR department’s time over the coming year. While long term planning has improved there is still significant room for improvement. Thus five out of 10 admitted that they still didn’t assess employees against the businesses’ medium and long term goals – an improvement on the seven out of 10 figure in 2011, but an area that still needs much attention.

Companies looking externally for talent

In four out of 10 Life Sciences businesses, 42% of senior managers are appointed via internal promotion – more than double the 20% of 2011. Whereas 58% of companies still rely on external recruitment even though it is taking longer to find and place the right candidate. In 2011 11.5% of executives confirmed that senior management vacancies took six months or longer to fill this is now up to 15% in 2012.  Recruitment costs remain stable compared to 2011 a similar number (42%) said the cost of recruitment is between 26-35% of the position’s annual salary.

Developing leaders remains the HR priority

Life Sciences executives recognise that improving talent management processes is vital if they want to remain competitive and we do see positive changes since 2011. Future planning is improving slowly – 66% of executives had a clear leadership succession plan in place, up from 47% in 2011.

A place for Executive Search

Respondents found leadership development the most challenging part of talent management, with 17% listing it as their top concern. Companies are also becoming more demanding – 70% say they require a greater range of skills now than a year ago. Managers are looking outside the organisation for help and over three quarters (77%) used external talent management firms/consultants in 2012, with the top reason being a lack of in-house skills (55% of respondents).


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