Catalyst | Dexterity
Taking a long-term
Thermo Fisher Scientific’s total talent approach is helping
it rise to the challenges of COVID-19, explains Noel Brown,
senior director for global talent attraction and acquisition.
At a company ambitious for growth, our total talent strategy has been
developed to meet the challenges of hiring and nurturing talent across 21
global divisions with an average of 6,000 vacancies at any time. We face
many of the same talent challenges as everyone else: building the right
pipelines and chasing talent in high-demand areas such as digital and IT.
So, when COVID-19 led to a ramping up of hiring in some key areas of
our business, we were well-prepared to meet these new challenges head
on. It has enabled us to double down on what we’ve already been doing
rather than having to start from scratch.
Thermo Fisher Scientific is a life sciences company with a mission to
“make the world healthier, cleaner and safer”. As you might imagine,
during a global pandemic, our products and services – whether that’s
testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) or vaccine research – have
been much in demand, with all that implies for deploying the right talent
in the right places (mostly, in short order).
has meant living
our values in so
Building the pipeline
When it comes to building our pipeline for new talent, the foundation
of our total talent approach is a long-term view of talent identification
and nurturing. Our customer relationship management system is at the
heart of awareness and relationship building with the talent we’re going
to need in future. The conversations we have are not just around “I have a
job; do you want it? Yes/no”, but more about: “let’s keep in touch, build a
relationship”. Life sciences businesses are built on curiosity, and we want
to use our approach to build that curiosity in the talent pool available to us.
We’ve always been confident that we have a good profile and reputation
within our sector but, with COVID-19 highlighting in unprecedented ways
what life sciences and pharma companies actually do, we’re also finding
that our talent pool is widening. That same curiosity-driven approach is
driving engagement outside our sector too.
Inevitably, contingent workers are also part of our talent mix. They’re
crucial to help us manage supply and demand variations. But we also see
them as an extension of the talent pipeline, another entry point: there are
often options to convert to permanent positions if that’s what the worker
wants. And we’re always looking for ways to improve our engagement with
those who prefer a more arm’s-length relationship. As in other companies,
this can be a challenge within large, traditional corporate structures, but
it’s a challenge we simply have to face.
More than anything, though, our starting point is always the internal
talent we already have available to us. We have a dedicated internal talent
team and mobility systems that have created our own internal market for
jobs and career development. Existing staff profile themselves, and the
system matches them with potential new jobs. It’s been a crucial tool for
more cross-division and cross-functional collaboration, which is helping
us to keep talent in-company.
Having crystal-clear values and purpose also helps. They’re key to us as
an organisation and lead to high levels of employee engagement. They
also help to provide continuity across divisions and globally. That kind of
engagement has helped us to weather the COVID storm with no disruption
to manufacturing or service, and it will inform new practice as we emerge
from the crisis with a greater appreciation of the different, more flexible
ways in which people want to work. That can only be a good thing for our
We’ve also taken the opportunity to experiment with different approaches
to working within the talent acquisition team, to walk the walk when
it comes to practical process improvement. This has meant a full skills
inventory across talent teams and piloting more agile approaches to how
we work. For example, we’ve brought together smaller cross-functional
teams to meet COVID hiring demands, which have then disbanded and
moved on to the next challenge. It’s been very popular with a team of
talent professionals always looking for new learning opportunities, and
it’s an approach we’re likely to adopt more widely post-pandemic.
The pandemic has meant living our values in so many ways, most
importantly, of course, the very real clinical difference we continue to
make to the world’s response. But it has also created the opportunity for
the talent team to test and experiment when it comes to how best we can
attract, nurture and deploy the talent that underpins everything we do.
It’s shown that our total talent strategy is the bedrock of the dexterity
we’re all going to need in the months and years ahead.
Noel Brown is senior director for global talent attraction and
acquisition at global life sciences company Thermo Fisher Scientific.