It’s impossible to talk about this year without mentioning the “C” word. Each sector has faced collective and unique challenges. As I look through the lens of the Healthcare and Life Science sector for 2021 – I see an acceleration, rather than an alteration of all we envisaged.


Location, location, location?

The HLS sector has long embraced leaders and team members of multiple nationalities. Candidates – especially those from EMEA – have been able to choose where they work based on their career goals and lifestyle preferences.

Let’s take Switzerland as an example. My country is home to major market leaders in the HLS sector; the local workforce, despite being highly qualified, is simply not sufficient in quantity to cover the needs of the all the multinationals within the Swiss borders. The upshot has been the growth of a sustainable international community, as expats from around the globe make Swiss cities their home. It’s a win-win situation for the industry and inhabitants, as the country – and the sector – become more dynamic and diverse.

Confronting Covid-induced challenges

With travel heavily restricted and quarantine in place in many European countries, the HLS sector is rapidly revising and revamping its recruitment and communication strategies.

At a virtual HLS congress I recently attended, Human Resource managers addressed these challenges head on. A key takeaway was that whilst incoming new team members can always pick up systems, information and projects, a main factor for joining a new company is the culture and immediate team– in fact, these are key reasons candidates choose a company. So, how do we replicate this when we’re socially and professionally distanced? This may remain the biggest challenge in maintaining employee engagement for new and existing employees.

Here in Switzerland, many employees are going back to the office, even if some HLS firms are keeping office work to a minimum and avoiding external visitors. Nothing is certain, and evaluation is ongoing. Meetings must be prescheduled, and spontaneous interactions have disappeared. The litmus in all this… is how companies have set themselves up to respond.


Action vs. Reaction

A silver lining to this surreal situation has been the proactivity of HLS companies in promoting employee wellbeing. People are clearly feeling stressed and at times non-aligned with their governments’ reactions. The workplace has become a place where people feel cared for, as savvy HLS firms place focus and priority on their people, rather than on their problems.

In recruitment, there’s an element of courage involved on both sides: candidates are often digitally onboarded and meet their colleagues, weeks – or even months – later. Companies want to look candidates in the eye and processes have naturally been slowed down. This makes flexibility and the ability to find mutual workarounds, essential.


“A” is for adaptation

In the HLS sector, digital dexterity was a prerequisite long before the pandemic. Companies and professionals were already gravitating to working remotely. Ultimately, we are still tribal. We love to congregate in physical or digital realms. Companies that maintain their culture and spirit will thrive. Success now depends on our efficiency to maintain and measure employee engagement whether we’re 100%, 50%, or 10% in the office.



If you’d like to chat about the future of remote work in the HLS sector, please feel free to contact me. I’d be delighted to share insights.


Cristina Rodenas

Dr. Louise Duerr
Partner, Switzerland
[email protected]


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