Tailor made benefits can provide a powerful tool for recruitment
Written by Scott Liversidge, Managing Partner, Flame Health
With the global healthcare industry currently facing a major skills crisis, the task of finding the perfect candidate has become an expensive and time-consuming process. In an industry that requires such a niche skill set, it can often be a challenge to define the exact role that you need to fill to address the skills gap within your workforce, let alone find the right candidate who has both the required qualifications and experience that can successfully engage with the role.
With this skills gap in mind, more and more companies are being forced to invest both time and money in developing their chosen candidates in order to ensure that they have the necessary qualifications and skill set for the role. Investments of this scale – especially in the healthcare industry – can be very costly and significantly more so if the candidate leaves the company within just a year or two after finishing his or her training.
In this scenario, the funds and time that you have just spent on training the employee have essentially been wasted. Worse still, this loss is not restricted to just financial implications; the customer relationships and connections that the employee has created may be significantly affected and thus require urgent rebuilding. The expensive task of finding, hiring and retraining a replacement candidate will then create yet another burden, especially if ‘the replacement’ leaves in a similar fashion.
The threat of all these expenses can obviously make the process of searching for a suitable replacement a daunting process. As such, once the right candidates have been found, it is vital to ensure that you are in a position to offer the incentives and benefits that are needed to bring them on board initially and later to ensure they stay motivated and dedicated to the role they have accepted.
One of the most popular methods of attracting employees to a particular role is to provide them with an initial financial incentive that will give them the funds they need to help ease the burden of changing employers. This technique, known as a ‘golden handshake’, has proven to be a useful way of securing the right candidate once they have been offered a role.
While upfront payments like these can be an effective tool, a more tailored method of attraction can be far more effective, especially when negotiating with mature candidates who may have settled down with a family and are therefore reluctant (or cannot afford) to relocate. Although an offer of relocation support can be the first step in this process, other options include location salary supplements and a multiple year contract tie-in, as incentives like these can often help to keep employees motivated even in more remote geographical locations.
Flexible working can be another powerful tool to help you retain your best employees, regardless of their changing life circumstances. The option for remote working, in particular, can be very attractive for employees who have a long commute or external commitments, while part-time and term-time contracts can often be a desirable option for those with children.
If the situation calls for it, the employer should not be afraid to wield a proverbial ‘stick’ alongside any ‘carrots’ on offer. It is entirely feasible, for example, to draw up contracts that require new employees to pay back any of the company’s training or qualification costs if the employee leaves within a set period of time. Clauses like these will act as a strong deterrent to those who seek to use the company’s resources to improve their skills before taking up a position elsewhere. As such, restrictions like these can help to ensure that only serious and dedicated applicants choose to pursue employment opportunities with your company.
Finding the right candidate can clearly be a difficult, expensive and time-consuming process and keeping that candidate on board can be even harder. However, it need not be as expensive or time intensive as you think. The right incentives can be crucial in motivating and retaining your team, but it is important to remember that one size does not fit all. Having the ability to provide a customised benefits package for your employees can make the difference between a successful hire and the foreboding sigh as you set off to re-advertise a position that you thought you had secured 12 months ago.
The future of pharma: personalised healthcare
Ever since the very first healthcare systems were created, the earliest documented being in ancient Egypt, medical professionals have had a reactionary approach to finding cures for ailments. That is to say that a solution is sought after someone has become sick, using whatever methods were thought to work at the time. Thousands of years later, with advances in genomics and molecular modelling, emphasis is starting to shift towards preventative, personalised healthcare rather than "sick care".
This move is led by data analytics as well as genetic sequencing to inform decision-making, which can ultimately lead to more individualised care. "Identifying the right data will support personalised health outcomes", explains Chris Easton, who is Takeda’s Senior Director and Global Commercial Lead, specialising in personalised health and innovation and applying this to rare blood disorders. "It's about how we can empower patients, interpret data and then apply it."
"The historic pharma model, in a very simplified form, is: a patient has symptoms, gets diagnosed, and gets given drugs for symptoms", Easton says. "Now, with holistic patient care in mind, it's much more about the additional components to care that would make a difference. Yes, drug therapy is one of them, but likewise, it's okay to talk about mental health, as the impact of chronic diseases means often there is a mental health challenge. So what can we do to build a mental health and physical health support package, both of which have data associated with them, that we can use together?"
By way of example, Easton cites the approach taken by elite athletes and astronauts. "Their model is to keep as healthy as possible. If someone on a space mission gets a cold, they're off the mission - it's not affordable to send someone to space that might have a health issue. If you look at footballers and runners, their coaches maintain them at the highest level, and they're using technology and wearables to help monitor their health so that they can make adjustments to stay at peak level for as long as possible."
The aim is to provide a complete, holistic package of care, which Easton acknowledges will pose some challenges to the pharmaceutical sector. "Our model is not necessarily that of a total care package. It's drug therapy or device and technology support therapy. So some things will need to evolve, and that's part of what my role is about."
One way of effecting this change is by collaborating with other organisations, not necessarily limited to healthcare and life sciences. "I'm a big advocate of partnerships and joint ventures. For the pharma sector, these are traditionally through universities and research houses, but I think we need to be willing to look outside the box and look for scalable and transferable technology that is used in everyday life."
"An example is the smartphone you probably have sitting on your desk or the smartwatch you're wearing. These are gathering data all the time. There are probably hundreds of data points that we could use, just from our everyday technology", Easton adds.
While apps like Apple Health, Google Health, and devices like Fitbit collect data, they could be linked to WhatsApp, WeChat or Telegraph to connect to members of a user's care team if a health issue arises. "It's using technology that is already embedded in our lives, that would enable us to share information and photographs. For example, if your knee is swelling and you want to ask a doctor for their opinion, you can send an image, then share the log from your treatment, and it becomes a way of integrating and sharing information."
Shifting towards preventative medicine is one of Takeda's strategic goals for the next few years. An example of how this could work is how people affected by Von Willebrand disease could be supported. This lifelong bleeding disorder prevents blood from clotting and particularly affects girls and women, causing menstrual bleeding to be excessively long and heavy, which has a big impact on their quality of life.
"It's a hereditary disorder, so many women in a family can be affected, but it's hard to diagnose", Easton explains. However, using existing technology that tracks the menstrual cycle via a smartphone perhaps an alert can be issued to let the user know when it's time to start taking replacement therapy for Von Willebrand.
"This means that by the time a period begins, Von Willebrand levels are normalised, and menstrual flow goes down to normal levels. That's actually a massive outcome for someone who has been living with two-week-long periods that bleed through clothing every month. Suddenly for just four or five days, they can use regular tampons and pads. That's a huge improvement to life."
The field of rare blood disorders typically hasn't seen the same amount of attention focused on it - at least in terms of tech innovation - as other chronic illnesses like diabetes. "Rare blood disorders are difficult to show returns on because you've got small patient numbers and often high costs. But if we think about the total patient journey, we could use technology to triage vast numbers of patients and data into more specific diagnosis boxes, so that what is then presented to physicians are smaller groups, of the more likely issues."
Data analysis could, for instance, show that the combination of headaches, nausea and lethargy equates to a specific type of bleeding disorder. "You can start to put these things in categories", Easton says. "And then you're able to do differential diagnosis. But ultimately, what you're trying to do is get a faster, more accurate diagnosis, leading to a specific therapy."
This would be more efficient than administering plasma-based treatments, for example. "A lot of bleeding disorders are caused by a deficiency of something", Easton explains. "There is a lot of combination therapy in blood disorders when you give people plasma-based products because plasma is like the golden chalice of medicine. It has a bit of everything you need. In some cases, when you don't know what the disorder is, this can help patients, but it's not the most precise way of doing it."
"That's one of the ways having very clear diagnostic support linked to advanced direct therapy can help, only treating what you need to. From a payer's perspective, it's very targeted, and there's no wasting money and resources on patients being hospitalised for things that are not necessary."
"If you go back 15-20 years, market access to the pharmaceutical industry was the emerging trend", Easton adds. "We saw all these diagrams of physician decision-making coming down and payer decision-making going up. Now we have another divergence of change, which is the application of technology to support personalised care. This is one of the transformative pieces of pharma right now, and there are a lot of good companies, big and small, being very intelligent about how they're approaching it and investing in those spaces. There's definitely a community building."