One of the most unexpected side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the so-called “Great Resignation.” Employees are leaving their jobs and seeking new opportunities, leading to worker shortages and new efforts among companies to vie for position as top employers. We spoke with Luke Otto, executive recruiting manager at Actalent, to learn more about what today’s medtech employees are looking for in their work environments.
What Employees Want
The general narrative during this era of resignations has been that people want to work remotely and they want more money. But it’s not that simple, says Otto. While some employees do indeed want to work 100% remotely, many are seeking hybrid options or, more importantly, the open ear of management. “Employees want their employer to meet them where they are,” says Otto. “They want to be heard. It’s more about having a manager or leader who will sit down with you and say, ‘What do you need to be successful in this role?’ or ‘How can I help you?’”
While money is important, simply offering an increased wage is not likely to be a silver bullet in retaining or attracting top talent. “You hear a lot about the need to increase wages, but I don’t think there is a single thing where employers can say, ‘If we do this, we will solve the great resignation,’” says Otto. “Flexibility is often important to employees today.” For example, if an employee needs to work from home for a day or come in late because their child is sick, they want to be in an environment where they can do that without fear of repercussion. “Similarly, they want to feel confident that if they go to their boss and say, ‘Hey, I haven’t had a raise in three years and here’s what I’ve been doing to help the organization,’ that they can have that conversation without fear of repercussions,’” says Otto.
Different Specialties Have Different Desires
Just as each employee has specific needs or wants, the needs and goals of employees in different departments may vary. What sets engineers apart from other employees is the technology, says Otto. “These employees want to work with companies that are innovative and on the cusp of doing something great,” he says. “It is not uncommon for engineers to switch jobs every two to three years, because they want to go after the coolest technologies. It’s not so much the pay or the benefits, but what is going to intrigue them in their day-to-day responsibilities.”
Employees who work in warehouse positions are often driven by wages, hours, overtime availability and opportunities for upward mobility within the company. “You need to be able to keep your employees engaged, to show them that there is a purpose to their work,” says Otto. “It is not like it was maybe 15 years ago when people were grateful for a paycheck. It’s, ‘I’m grateful for the paycheck, but what can I do to grow my knowledge and what can I learn in this job that will help me prepare for my next position?’”
How To Find New Talent (or a New Employer)
When it comes to finding top applicants, the best strategy is to talk to others in the field. “Usually good engineers know other good engineers,” says Otto. “From the recruitment standpoint, I need to learn what candidates want from a job. We function more as career counselors than recruiters.”
When posting jobs or working with recruiters, think about what you are seeking in a candidate—beyond specific skills—as well as your company’s unique culture. “You hear about company culture a lot, because it is important in finding the right employee,” says Otto. “A lot of companies want to hire someone who is moldable or trainable. and they are often open to hiring people who may not have a lot of experience in the current position, but are very open to learning.”
Candidates seeking new positions in the medtech industry do well to emphasize their work with cross-functional teams. “If you’re in medical device development and manufacturing, you’re going to work with engineering, R&D, design, procurement, assembly and maybe a prototype lab,” says Otto. “If you can show that you have worked with a team to accomplish a single goal, that’s valuable experience to highlight.”