Attracting talent to an unknown part of the healthcare world

Ben Adams explains how a video collaboration between a college and an agency specialising in medical communications has helped to raise the profile of the industry among young people

Attracting the best talent to the healthcare and medical communications sector is of fundamental importance – but recruiting the best talent can be a challenge that requires new and innovative ways of thinking. Many children and teenagers dream of being doctors, nurses or scientists, but few consider medical communications, working with the pharmaceutical industry as a career option.

The industry is one that works in partnership with pharmaceutical companies – the average person on the street might struggle to name a pharmaceutical company, and it would be a small miracle if they knew the name of a medical communications firm, and what each did. Pharmaceutical companies can accomplish great things, helping to develop medicines that can save and improve lives. Medical communications agencies are engaged by pharmaceutical companies to co-create innovative educational programmes for healthcare professionals. Due to the tight regulations that govern the pharmaceutical industry and the need for business partners such as medical communications agencies to adhere to stringent compliance regulations, it is important to attract the best talent to support such partnerships with pharma companies.

For the recruiter, this poses the question: how can I attract the best talent to an industry that people more often than not have not heard of? Education and greater engagement are key to unlocking this problem.

Case study: Going back to school

Tracey Ellis, Corporate Recruiter at Ashfield Healthcare Communications, a global medical communications agency, explains how her firm went back to school to create a more engaging recruitment project.

“Students from Macclesfield College [in Cheshire, UK] approached us in the summer as part of their digital communications project. They had a real interest and passion in science and asked if we would work with them on a corporate video. We thought this was a fantastic idea to support our recruitment drive, as we don’t currently have a video that shows what it’s like to work at Ashfield, and it would provide the perfect opportunity for the students to really understand what we do.

“We worked with them to explain exactly what our business does and the types of roles available before they came in to deliver their pitch. They then presented a professional proposal for the content of the video before returning to shoot for two days with various members of our team.

“We’re now going to use the video as a recruitment tool on our careers page and via our social media platforms. The video provides an insight into the business which you couldn’t capture in an email or a photograph. It’s also a powerful tool to help spread the message about the pharma and healthcare communications industry and the passion behind it.

“Ashfield works closely with local schools, colleges and universities, regularly attending careers fairs to explain the options that exist in medical communications and offering internships. We’ve created a strong network and this project has come to fruition as a result of that.”

The finished video can be viewed here 

The students’ perspective

Macclesfield College decided to approach Ashfield Healthcare Communications for a collaborative video project as it is a well-regarded company and one of the largest employers in Macclesfield. Moreover, the project gave the students the opportunity to work with a company with expertise in strategy, marketing, scientific communication, digital, creative and market research – a market leader in their sector. With limited knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry and medical communications, the students not only gained working skills but knowledge of opportunities within the industry.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with Ashfield as part of my college course. The opportunity of being able to work with a company as prestigious as Ashfield Healthcare Communications will look fantastic on my CV. I feel that the knowledge I have gained is invaluable, to my education and future career; I now feel I have a much better understanding of the global, healthcare communications industry,” said Tom Willis, Macclesfield media student.

Bridging the skills gap

Attracting new talent to healthcare communications has never been more important as there is a major skills shortage in the industry that must be filled. An innovative approach is needed to overcome this and new ways of generating awareness is key. Tracey Ellis admits she “did not have a clue” what healthcare communications was before working in the industry, “but recruitment and vacancies are a really good platform to push out our message, and more and more of this is being done digitally to reach the most people,” she explains. The key is to get the message across on as many different platforms – whether physical or digital – as possible. This includes better engagement on social media channels; more information on company websites; more multimedia usage such as video projects and infographics; and ensuring the right people are viewing all of this through the latest search engine optimised technology.

Ashfield’s work with local students, its presence at careers fairs and internship programmes are all a part of raising the visibility of healthcare communications as a career option to a new generation. The recruitment video was an excellent example of a project that demonstrated to the students making it, what is involved day-to-day in healthcare communications, which can now be shared to educate a wider audience. We need to spread the word to younger people about the benefits of working for pharma and in healthcare communications in order to make the industry more visible to the next generation. This can be done most effectively by having these agencies work more closely with schools, colleges and universities to allow talented people to see this unknown side of the healthcare industry as a place in which they want to work by helping healthcare professionals and patients get the medicines, knowledge and support they need.

If you would like to have a look at the latest vacancies at Ashfield Healthcare Communications visit the Ashfield website.