You Can Increase Your Odds of Hiring and Retaining the Best Talent

Hiring well doesn’t have to be left to chance

Originally published in Life Science Leader Magazine in December 2023 by Lori Dernavich

Finding scientific talent is an arduous process, often stealing precious time from our calendars. Heartbreak comes when new hires underperform or aren’t a good fit, or worse, they are terrific but quit in a relatively short time.

Hiring well doesn’t have to be left to chance. Try these specific actions:

    Define the REAL job
    If you ask a hiring manager to describe the job and then ask the team to describe the job, do you believe the descriptions will match? They won’t. This means a new hire will disappoint someone, leading to frustration and potential failure. Write job descriptions with your team. It will be well worth your time.

    Listen for motivators
    A common complaint from leaders is that some employees constantly ask for a new title, promotion, or raise. “Why can’t they just be interested in doing great science?” leaders ask. Craft interview questions that uncover their motivations (e.g., money, power, science), and then listen intently to what they highlight.

    Set expectations
    If your new employee asks for a raise or promotion after three months on the job (and it happens), then you didn’t set proper expectations. Define your promotion process and communicate it DURING the interview, not after they’re hired. For example, if you’re a startup, tell candidates the salary may be on the lower end of market range, but it comes with equity and exciting science. (HINT: This is where you’ll get insight into their motivators.) Other considerations: Will they qualify for a promotion after using a new skill once, or do
    they have to show a pattern of success? Are promotions and raises random or a yearly event? Communicate this to candidates.

    Be intentional about onboarding
    Regardless of a new hire’s experience, they’re joining your company’s unique culture. Newer leaders often feel intimidated when hiring more experienced individuals. They assume these senior people don’t need onboarding because they know so much. MISTAKE. They don’t have experience in YOUR company, so put them through the whole onboarding process. Everyone needs to be onboarded and trained in the same way. Don’t shortcut this.

    Discuss career development frequently
    It’s easy for employee development to go by the wayside as everyone strives to get all the work completed. When career aspirations, skill development, and overall job satisfaction aren’t discussed, employees notice. This leads to them entertaining recruiter calls or seeking new opportunities on their own. Frequent career discussions help employees grow and feel valued. But wait, there’s more! When creating new jobs, these employees may fit perfectly into them rather than your having to look externally to find the perfect candidates. Your company’s IP won’t walk out the door, the employee remains engaged, and another arduous hiring process is avoided.

Hiring and retaining the best talent isn’t easy, but with proper planning and execution, your odds will indeed increase.