It is no secret that engineers are in short supply across the medical device industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of bioengineers and biomedical engineers alone is projected to grow 6% from 2020 to 2030. But filling these roles continues to be difficult for a number of reasons, including a lack of college graduates with engineering degrees, senior-level retirements, the accelerated pace of tech development, an evolving regulatory environment, and the consumerization of medical technology.
For all technology companies, developing innovative products is a leading differentiator. This makes the talent behind the solutions a company’s biggest competitive advantage. Recent changes in the workplace have drastically altered the playing field. What was once considered a “war for talent” is now an opportunity for employers to help workers reimagine their career paths. Medical technology companies increasingly have a unique appeal in that they are offering employees more advanced tech projects that accelerate career growth.
For many device companies, attracting these candidates requires taking a fresh look at the recruiting and retention process and lining up their needs with candidate, and employee, expectations. To win in the current marketplace, companies need to:
- Challenge the recruiting status quo
- Rethink the interview process
- Develop an effective onboarding strategy
- Optimize retention solutions
1. Challenge the Recruiting Status Quo
With a constrained talent market, the primary objective in recruiting should be to broaden the talent pools. However, many organizations still look at the job description and application process as an exclusionary process to reduce the number of candidates. Expanding the candidate outreach requires more work but is offset by the long-term benefits, and utilizing an effective applicant tracking system (ATS) can help ease the burden.
The following are a few examples of how to bring in more candidates.
- Examine job descriptions and determine if everything on them is necessary. A recent report by Harvard Business School and Accenture found that 88% of employers feel that qualified, high-skills candidates are vetted out of the process because they do not match the exact criteria established by the job description.
- Expand the geographic radius of the search. Too often, companies insist on hiring within a certain mileage of the office and resist recruiting from other parts of the country. It is also worth considering if certain positions can be flexible and if a distributed team with a variety of smaller, “satellite” offices is possible.
- Develop a talent pipeline that looks beyond your immediate needs, partnering with universities and even high schools to identify emerging talent that can be trained for specific skills. Internships and mentorships that help develop students before graduation can help alleviate some of the talent gap.
- Access “non-typical” talent pools that include veterans, parents returning to work, recent graduates with less experience or established professionals with a gap in their employment history.
- Look at different hiring models; it may be possible to bring in the talent you need on a contract or contract-to-hire basis to broaden accessible talent pools.
2. Rethink the Interview Process
Interviews are often a minefield of bias and bad decisions with interviewers overly confident about their ability to “spot talent” and unaware of how their own biases reduce the candidate pool. The issue persists despite being studied and written about, including in an article highlighting work done by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. In such a competitive talent landscape, no organization can risk eliminating potential candidates due to a poor interview process.
These steps can help improve the experience:
- Set aside time early in the interview process to explain the company’s employee value proposition (EVP) to the candidate. This can help focus discussions on the benefit of joining the organization beyond compensation and include intangibles such as internal culture, external reputation, advancement opportunities, fulfilling work and social responsibility.
- Create an organization-wide interview structure where the same questions are asked of every candidate and the answers are compared like for like. Unstructured interviews that rely on “gut reactions” are susceptible to subjective and often bad decisions.
- Develop a hiring committee that not only includes human resources but managers and team members. Encourage everyone to provide honest feedback on the candidate’s qualifications and if they think the individual will fit well with the team.
3. Develop an Effective Onboarding Strategy
The start of employment with an organization is critical: it is when the relationship is grounded and the mutual expectations of the employer-employee relationship are formed. This makes the onboarding process incredibly important, especially for remote and hybrid workers that may be spread across a variety of locations. While onboarding might be more challenging for distributed teams, getting the process right can be a game changer. Many organizations tend to focus their onboarding efforts on skill development, target setting and logistics, which are important but not everything.
Be sure to include:
- Grounding: This is setting a mutual understanding of the norms of the organization. Include revisiting the EVP, reviewing HR rules and policies, examining cultural expectations and explaining the vision and mission of both the organization and the team.
- Training: This road map will direct how employees will acquire the necessary job-related skills. It includes a review of what the job entails, the systems used, team member roles, contact information and anything else that clarifies commonly asked questions and concerns. It can also incorporate a discussion of future training opportunities for career advancement in the organization.
- Expectations: This provides clarity to employees about company expectations and how they can be successful in their roles as employees and colleagues. Additionally, it is an opportunity for employees to express their expectations of the company and its leadership.
4. Optimize Retention Solutions
A simple but true rule is that retaining people requires following through on the commitments made when they were first hired and during each subsequent new role. When joining a company and at each point of growth, psychological contracts are formed, which are the mutual expectations of the employee-employer relationship but not necessarily documented. When employees decide to leave a company, they often cite their relationship with their direct manager as the reason.
For organizations to thrive in their retention efforts, here are some approaches to take:
- Follow through as an organization on your EVP. A Gartner study found that organizations that effectively deliver on their EVP can decrease annual employee turnover by 69%. Integrate this into retention strategies through training programs, career development, performance evaluations, and networking opportunities.
- Develop clear, fair and open systems for performance management and recognition. This helps employees understand what goals they need to meet, how they will be evaluated and what programs are in place to help improve their performance and grow their careers. This is especially important for remote employees, when it is difficult for employers to give immediate feedback and out of sight can sometimes mean out of mind.
- Invest in training and development programs that also target managers, who play a large role in shaping the employee experience. By becoming more employee-centric, managers can help organizations improve retention by as much as 77% according to LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends report.
- Create a culture that supports personal fulfilment outside of the job. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are great avenues to welcome more of your employees to the table.
The pandemic illustrated that the medical device field is not only innovative and fast-paced but central to saving and improving patient lives. Too often companies fail to sell candidates on the industry as a whole and specifically what the company can offer the candidate, pushing job seekers to look at other technology fields. Focusing on employee success will close this tech skills gap and help organizations build a customized workforce that meets both the company and employee needs now and in the future.