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Authors: Tara Smylie and Gabrielle Bauer

To attract and retain the best, most life sciences companies offer such benefits as flex time, remote or hybrid working options, and year-end bonuses. Far fewer capitalize on a perk that virtually all employees value highly: career development support.1 This can take the form of professional development (PD) opportunities or individual mentoring.

A push up the ladder

Climbing up the career ladder, whether reaching for that tenured professorship or medical director role, takes years of hard work. By offering PD services, you make the ladder just a little less steep for ambitious new hires. Here are some options to consider:2

  • Career coaching services: These services are likely to attract ambitious and self-motivated candidates (i.e. people you want to work for you).
  • Leadership training courses: Such courses will allow your keenest employees to develop the skills they need to take on new and more challenging roles. When developing or selecting these courses, consider the increasing importance of soft skills in the life sciences.3 Leadership and emotional intelligence are hot commodities in today’s world.
  • Support for further academic training: Your employees’ career ambitions may depend on pursuing further university education or other relevant credentials. There are different ways you can help with these goals, such as providing financial sponsorship, granting time off work to complete schoolwork, and offering educational guidance.
  • Research opportunities: For employees whose positions involve research, provide chances to practice and refine research-related skills. Find out if they’re interested in a particular area of research, presenting research findings to others, or something else—and offer opportunities based on their answers.

The magic of mentoring

The dictionary defines a mentor as an experienced and trusted advisor. Within the context of a career, a mentor is someone who shares their knowledge and expertise to help a less experienced employee (sometimes called a protégé or mentee) achieve success.4

Just how much do employees value mentoring? The numbers speak for themselves: Nine out of 10 workers with a career mentor report being happy in their jobs, while more than 4 in 10 workers who lack a mentor say they’ve considered quitting their job in the past three months.5 Given that happy employees consistently outperform the competition,6 it’s fair to say that mentoring benefits not only the mentored, but the employer. The mentored employee performs well, which makes them happier, which further increases their performance, in a positive feedback loop that raises satisfaction all around.

When developing a mentorship program, start by creating a profile for every employee who participates. To get a sense of their strengths, weaknesses, and professional goals, you can give them a questionnaire with such questions as:7

  • What skills would you like to cultivate or improve on?
  • What skills do you feel proficient in already?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What qualities are you looking for in a mentor?

Provide your mentors with a similar list of questions to assess the areas in which they have the most to offer their future mentees. Ideally, a mentor and mentee will have similar backgrounds

and career trajectories, but the mentor should be farther along and thriving in their current role.

Hot tip: to ensure your mentorship program achieves its objective, periodically solicit feedback from mentees and be prepared to make changes based on what they say. Maybe they would like more networking opportunities from their mentor or maybe they don’t feel totally heard. You won’t know what needs improvement unless you ask.

Broadcasting your PD services

Start by mentioning your PD and mentorship services in your job description. This shows that you care about your employees’ success and will pique ambitious candidates’ interest. By the same token, mentioning your PD and mentorship services during an interview will invite a candid dialogue about a candidate’s career goals. Through these discussions, you can identify which talent will fit best into which projects—and which candidates have the greatest interest in advancing within your company.

If you’re working with a recruiter, be sure to inform them about your career development services, as these offerings will help the recruiter pull in high-quality candidates. The recruiter may also suggest adding other offerings to your current list. That’s another reason to work with a recruiter specialized in the life sciences: they’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates, so they know what motivates the best and brightest to come around and stick around.

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of offering career development opportunities to your employees—so don’t wait to get started.

Sources

  1. 4 Extraordinary Ways to Compete for the Best Talent in the Digital Age
  2. Professional Development Examples
  3. Soft Skills in the Life Sciences
  4. What is a Career Mentor
  5. Nine in 10 Workers Who Have a Career Mentor Say They are Happy in Their Jobs
  6. 11 Shocking Employee Happiness Statistics for 2022 That Will Blow Your Mind
  7. 4 Steps to Matching the Right Mentors and Mentees