Company Mission, Location, and Recruitment Policies are Crucial to Sustainable Growth

Biohealth employers discussed the importance of recruitment and retention — and the effects location and resources can have on them — at the annual BioHealth Capital Region Forum. Front and center discussion focused on diversity, opening space in more urban areas, and providing employees with a company mission they can get behind. 

“We’ve done very well this year hiring locally, and I think the key to that success that I’ve observed is our mission. People want not just a job, they want a career as mentioned, but they also want a connection to a higher purpose,” said Christine Dingivan, the President and CEO of Emmes, during a panel titled “Developing and Retaining Talent.”

For Emmes, a full-service CRO, that mission is supporting the advancement of public health. This mission, Dingivan said, helps the company compete against other companies with similar compensation packages.

Biohealth and technology companies are on a bit of a hiring surge, with gaps especially large in tech and tech-adjacent jobs, said JB Holston, CEO of the Greater Washington Partnership. The partnership published a piece in July projecting the job gap into the future.

“By 2025, there could be roughly 60,000 jobs per year that are going unfilled, and those could be tech jobs, traditional STEM kinds of jobs, or tech-adjacent jobs,” Holston said. 

It seems that recruiting in the BioHealth Capital Region should be more accessible than ever because commutes are not always a barrier anymore with more work-from-home, remote, and hybrid positions. The region is also consistently rated an excellent place to raise a family and has many amenities.

“The fact that there are mission-oriented opportunities for family-sustaining careers is inherently attractive. It is inherently diverse. And it has a really attractive physical environment,” Holston, who is originally from the Midwest, said. 

However, there is still a gap between companies and the talent they seek. To help bridge the gap, companies are looking at channeling the talent pipeline from the region’s many academic institutions into entry-level positions. For example, the Capital CoLAB Program at the Greater Washington Partnership helps connect companies to students. The program asks companies what skills they’re looking for and then finds programs at schools that fulfill those requirements or help schools bolster their programming.

“Getting all the employers around the table from all those different industries to collectively agree what they think the KSA [knowledge, skills, and abilities] should be for different subcategories was, in itself, pretty unique,” Holston said. 

In addition to connecting with students, the company leaders on the panel said they have been putting processes in place to help amplify the diversity, equity, and inclusion of their businesses. For example, James Hughes, the Sr. Vice President of Economic Development at UMD Baltimore, mentioned a program the school is launching to recruit junior, minority faculty and help launch their careers through additional resources.

“It’s all well and good to recruit somebody, but you really need to be mentored,” Hughes said. 

Additionally, location and real estate can play a role in attracting talent in the Biohealth Capital Region, as was discussed in the “Real Estate and Resources in the BHCR” panel. While Maryland and Virginia have played a significant role in shaping the BHCR, there are plenty of opportunities to be had in the District of Columbia itself, said Matt Brady, Senior Vice President at Scheer Partners. He said that companies providing jobs in the city in transit-accessible locations will help attract a more diverse group of employees. 

“I think there is a void in the market right now that needs to be filled with more urban, vibrant amenity-rich options,” Brady said. “And the DC hub could definitely bring that about.”

While Mark Matan, President, and CEO of Matan, Inc., focused on the Progress Labs projects throughout Maryland during the panel, he also mentioned the need for more vertical, urban-based spaces in the region. However, because those spaces are often smaller, they might not meet the functionality of large manufacturers and other companies. Brady agreed. 

“The function really at some level dictates location,” Brady said. “And then beyond that, recruiting and retention really plays into the decisions: do you want to be closer to your technical workforce, closer to your executive workforce? Do you want a place that’s accessible to public transit or walkable restaurants and other amenities?”

To watch more of the panels from the annual Biohealth Capital Region Forums, visit the website.