A Strong Employer Brand and Location are Keys to Recruiting Top Biotech Talent 

The BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) has grown to become the top four U.S. biotech hub and is attracting top talent to the hundreds of growing biotech companies across Maryland, DC and Virginia. The region’s collective story is an important element that attracts talent to move to the area and something that we at BioBuzz work hard to help amplify. 

As Marty Rosendale, CEO of the Maryland Tech Council, stated to BioBuzz in a previous article, “We need to tell stories. We need to tell people our success stories and why they’ve been successful and why being in Maryland helped them succeed. The more we can tell these stories, the more we can get everyone talking about our region and thereby increase our recognition.” 

Rosendale’s sage advice applies to not only the regional economic development strategy, but to company recruiting strategies as well. Just as companies looking to open new locations need to be more aware of what the BHCR has to offer and why it’s a great place to grow a company, to work and a wonderful area in which to live, life science professionals looking to relocate need to clearly see that same message. Telling this story and spreading the word to the workforce requires a collaborative regional branding effort from both companies and economic development organizations. 

To maximize national and international awareness of the BHCR, a regional branding strategy needs to be mirrored by that of individual companies. Companies that develop and market an employer brand that promotes their unique culture and the regional value proposition will see greater success when recruiting talent.

Why Stronger Employer Branding Is Crucial to the BHCR

Strong regional branding beyond the BHCR combined with excellent BHRC life science employer branding is a formula for strong, sustainable growth. Both smaller, emerging companies and established life science organizations are putting greater emphasis and investment into employer branding that can attract talent from within the BHCR as well as from other top bioclusters throughout the U.S. 

The narrative the BHCR can tell to other segments of the U.S. and to international entities needs to be a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. For the region to achieve this effect, regional branding efforts need to inform employer brands and vice versa, which will amplify the power and depth of the regional brand, attracting more investors, talent and new companies.

We’ve written at length about why the BHCR is a strong and vibrant biocluster. However, we’ve yet to take a deep dive into what makes a strong and attractive employer brand. 

Authentic Company Culture: The Root System of Strong Employer Brands

At the root of a strong employer brand is a great workplace culture that reflects a company’s mission, values and spirit. A powerful and magnetic employer brand starts with leadership and early hires forming a unified culture and core belief system that is inculcated into new hires and is maintained even as the company expands.  

Matthew Levy, Associate Director of Talent Development at Kite Pharma, a Gilead Company, stated at a recent BioBuzz webinar, “It starts with the employees you recruit in the beginning. If you recruit employees that are ‘talent magnets’… or ‘talent scouts’, it is a bit like ‘birds of a feather flock together’. They attract more people, who attract more people, and so on. This is the sort of thing that can really help build your brand. I do think it’s important to have a regional focus with your brand…”

Viela Bio, which is located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, focused on culture and brand building in the early days of the company and has worked hard to protect this culture even as the company has grown exponentially over the past few years.

“It’s our culture… it’s who we house and who they know. A lot of what Viela Bio has been able to do is by reputation…because we’ve built a strong, authentic workplace culture folks are interested in working with us,” shared Kate Surdez, Viela Bio’s Head of Human Resources.

Surdez further emphasized that for Viela Bio, its employer brand… “must line up to the culture, and answer why you would leave the safety of whatever job you’re in to take some risk with a smaller startup. For us it’s about an opportunity to truly follow the science and truly have impact at a smaller organization… we want to make sure we offer a story that is very attractive to a talent that wants to make a change in atmosphere and environment for a few years. That’s something that we have been very successful at.”

Defining a company’s workplace culture early on, building consensus and buy-in among early employees and then showcasing this strong culture to attract and retain new talent with similar belief systems is a winning formula for productivity, loyalty, growth as well as a boon for recruiting the best and brightest talent available.  

What a Stronger and More Unified Employer Brand Can Do For Your Company

Today, talent acquisition, employer branding are two sides of the same coin. Though national unemployment is currently high due to COVID-19, the life science industry is booming.  Competition in the biotech industry remains fierce and requires a value-driven, meaningful employer brand and an effective talent marketing strategy to attract the best talent. 

The best talent expects an authentic brand that delivers an outstanding experience throughout their engagement, application, interview and hiring process.

According to Chris Frew, CEO of Workforce Genetics, a life science Recruiting and Employer Branding firm, “The most effective recruiting strategies begin with great storytelling — beginning from the moment a candidate learns about your company, throughout the interview process and all the way through their onboarding after you hire them. Not enough companies invest in developing their story and sharing it clearly and intentionally in their recruiting strategy, but those that do see a clear advantage.” 

Inconsistent messages and unclear workplace cultures don’t attract or retain the best talent. And communicating fragmented, inconsistent external branding won’t attract the right talent or create brand loyalty that you need to recruit that talent away from other companies. Equal attention needs to be given to both internal and external company branding in today’s market. Committing to do so will empower your employees to become the powerful magnets for recruiting new hires that they should be, while also keeping them highly engaged and less likely to leave for another opportunity. 

Here are some statistics to digest if your organization is debating whether or not to invest in stronger employer branding:

  • When making a decision on where to apply for a job, 84% of job seekers say the reputation of a company as an employer is important. (TalentNow)
  • 80% of talent acquisition managers believe that employer branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire great talent. (LinkedIn)
  • 92% of people would consider changing jobs if offered a role with a company with an excellent corporate reputation. (CR Magazine)
  • 86% of HR professionals say recruitment is becoming more like marketing. (iCIMS)
  • A LinkedIn study revealed that survey participants with strong employer brands:
    • Have a 28% reduction in turnover
    • Reduced cost-per-hire by 50%
    • Received 50% more qualified applicants
    • Significantly sped up their time to hire

The benefits of strong employer brands is clear; that is why more and more companies are investing in their internal cultures and leveraging their employer value proposition into powerful employer branding and marketing strategies that enable them to better compete for highly sought after talent. An authentic, effective and persuasive employer brand does not happen accidentally; it requires intent, collaboration, an effective strategy and focused execution to work. 

Yes, there is some heavy lifting, but in the end, the rewards are clearly evident and produce long lasting results. A unified BHCR brand underpinned by a host of cohesive, authentic employer brands can attract the investment, the talent and the new life science companies the region needs to achieve top three biocluster status within the next few years.   

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Steven Surdez

Principal at StoryCore
Steve has over 20 years experience in copywriting, developing brand messaging and creating marketing strategies across a wide range of industries, including the biopharmaceutical, senior living, commercial real estate, IT and renewable energy sectors, among others. He is currently the Principal/Owner of StoryCore, a Frederick, Maryland-based content creation and execution consultancy focused on telling the unique stories of Maryland organizations.

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