Are you going to be job hunting over the Bank Holiday weekend?

Are you going to be job hunting over the Bank Holiday weekend? Here’s some useful careers and workplace advice from CK Clinical to help you get started…

Careers Advice


Workplace Advice

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Top Workplace Advice

Having difficulties at work? See below for the latest advice to help you tackle those everyday challenges in the workplace:

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Quality Staff Recruitment and Retention

Where to start? The recession of course! In 2009 the pharmaceutical industry was affected just the same as everyone else by the economic downturn. Biotechnology companies found their funding being withdrawn or just not being there in the first place, large pharma suffered from drug pipelines drying up, and the related services industries found it difficult to win work, with their margins being squeezed hard by clients who found themselves in a very strong bargaining position. From a purely recruitment perspective there have been a number of effects of this turmoil. For much of 2009 hiring permanent staff slowed, and then slowed more. People were getting to final stage interviews and occasionally even being offered roles before a decision came that permanent recruitment had been frozen. Despite this, many organisations, both large and small, found themselves in need of staff of all types, so interim hires boomed as head count was blocked. Large numbers of highly experienced people found themselves redundant, some for the first time, though for others in the biotechnology sector it was becoming a familiar experience.

Over the past year though, a sense of normality has been returning. Biotechs are finding backers, big pharma has been acquiring products, and headcount is getting signed off again as development is ramping up. So we now have fewer, hopefully fitter, companies, a resource of skilled candidates in many specialisms (though not all) and it’s time to think about how to fill the gaps in the workplace. Getting it right is not easy, and sometimes it isn’t cheap. Getting it wrong can be very expensive; finding you’ve taken on the wrong person not only means the cost of hiring them has been wasted, but the operational consequences in lost productivity, lengthening development timelines and morale can be major as the process begins again.

So what to do? As a recruiter, my obvious answer would be to ring me and help pay my mortgage, though there are other options. If you are looking to bring an extra person into your organisation, word of mouth does bring results. If it’s a role you are able to let people in the company know about, let them know! It’s a small world in pharma, and while it’s not quite true that everyone knows everyone (in some niches it can sometimes seem like that), you will get names that your employees know, trust and would happily work with again. Offer a small introduction fee and you will get people’s attention.

Advertising works; use your company’s website and commercial ones, and also consider the print and online journals that your ideal candidate is likely to read. Such advertising can be surprisingly expensive though, especially if you are not planning the volume required to negotiate discounted fees. Maximising success via the internet means optimising what you put out so that people will actually see it, a task that does require specialist expertise to be done properly.

Many larger organisations have the capacity for dedicated recruiters to be employed internally, or for the function to be outsourced to a service provider. Both solutions work well if you can be sure you have the volume of positions needed to be filled to justify the cost. However, whether you go down the path of dedicated recruiters or decide to task the work to human resources, they will need, in turn, to go to third parties in order to find specialist staff. That’s where recruitment consultancies come in.

The thing with recruitment consultancies is that we charge a fee, hence we are often considered an expensive alternative. Not necessarily so. Choose the right consultancy for the right position and you have an ally who will take much of the hard work from you, be well networked with the right people, and act as an ambassador for your organisation. There are a lot of recruiters out there. What there is not is a real one-stop shop which can reliably fill every vacancy you have (unless your company might be a consultancy offering something along the lines of pharmacovigilance, QA or medical writing services).

Consider cost against value. If you called thirty different recruiters you could probably find half of that number would agree to very low fees and you’d have an instant preferred supplier list to send a bulk email out to for every vacancy. Low cost and low maintenance, but you wouldn’t have the time to brief each of those companies on the detailed requirements of each role. As those companies’ consultants will be working on a large number of vacancies in order to justify their salary because of those low fees, the level of attention given to your roles will be as low at that given to all their other clients. Remember, that consultant is the first point of contact on behalf of your company with potential candidates.

While there are many types of recruitment offerings available, which can be tailored to your needs, the basic three are temporary / interim staffing, and either contingent or executive search for permanent requirements. Companies that offer both forms of permanent recruitment (and that really can deliver on both!) are few, though most of either type are likely to fulfil your contract needs also.

The market for retained executive search has changed over recent years. The need to pay a commencement fee to begin the search for a senior level role has lessened, as there are more very experienced and well networked recruiters working on a contingency basis. Why pay a large invoice up front when you could fill that role on a contingent basis and only pay on a successful hire?

Whichever path of recruitment you choose to go down though, please choose your recruitment company with some care. There are many out there and their quality does vary hugely. A good place to start would again be your own staff; ask them for recommendations of recruiters that have impressed them with a good knowledge of the industry and the utmost honesty. Once you think you have found a company worth speaking to, ask them to supply references, to agree terms from the outset, and to be quite clear on what they can’t do for you as well as what they can. To repeat, there really isn’t that one-stop shop which will be able to fill every requirement you have. A good recruiter should be able to advise you on organisations to speak to for areas in which they aren’t specialists.

If you view your recruiter as a business partner, they will view you in the same way. If you have a small list of trusted suppliers you’ll have the time to properly brief them with the full details of positions, background to roles and the personality required to fit well with the team, and they’ll be able to offer advice upon the pool of candidates available. Once armed with that information they can begin the search process, speak to candidates with a sense of conviction, and supply you with a shortlist of highly targeted applicants. It’s useful at this point to plan timelines, and agree dates up front for CV submission, management review and interviews, and you will have that person on board sooner than if each stage in the process was managed ad-hoc.

After review, the interview process for the selected candidates should be conducted with care. As well as having their potential line manager question them on their technical suitability, consider holding a competency-based interview with a trained member of staff, using a series of targeted questions to assess their suitability for the demands of the role. One step in this that remains comparatively rare, but actually proves extremely informative, is getting candidates to meet the team they will be working with. Hiring someone who will disrupt things or ‘just not fit in’ will be a big mistake, and can often be avoided.

Once a potential employee has been identified you need to think about the offer. Do you know enough about the candidate to be sure that they will accept? Ensure that you are fully briefed on points such as other roles the person may be interviewing for, their full package details (not just the base salary) and any family commitments that may influence their decision. There is often a degree of negotiation when an offer has been made, so be prepared for this, but go in too low and you risk losing credibility in the eyes of your chosen candidate. When an offer has been accepted it is vital that the candidate’s point of contact (whether internal HR or your recruitment partner) stays in touch. Candidates often have mixed feelings about leaving an employer, especially if it’s one they’ve been with for some time and have a sense of security with. At this point they are likely to be susceptible to a counter-offer, and having a contact to discuss the emotional aspects of the decision with is likely to be the only way of ensuring they do not reconsider.

So it’s day one and there’s a new employee in reception. How to ensure they stay an employee for a reasonable amount of time? Unfortunately it’s not unusual for staff to leave a new employer within the first six months; the usual cause of this is that expectations have not been met. It’s important not to over-promise during the interview process – if they have been told things will be in place, then they must be. Also, the first week is a bad time to find there are issues in a new place of work. It’s better to make people aware of these things in the latter stages of interview, and maybe suggest they are issues your new person could be involved in improving.

Any company that has a highly skilled workforce stands the constant risk of losing employees to their competitors. If you can afford to do so, the most effective means of assuring retention is obviously to offer attractive rates of pay and a good package of benefits. Many senior staff in the larger pharmaceutical companies have spent their whole careers with the same employer, partly due to the fact that other organisations just cannot compete financially. If you don’t have the budget for this though, you can still minimise turnover by ensuring your employees really value their roles and feel valued themselves. Ensure that there is the opportunity for training and development, and then that the acquired skills are made use of. Offer a clear path for career progression, whether it’s a linear one within the same specialism, or one that gives people the chance to develop in new areas and broaden their horizons.

None of this is rocket science, but any of this can be and does get forgotten from time to time, as an organisation’s focus on recruitment has to compete with a multitude of other pressures. Take time to consider how to recruit and retain your staff and you will have highly motivated people on board who are likely to stay with you for some time, and be amongst the greatest assets in your organisation.


Jim Gleeson, Senior Consultant at CK Clinical

Tel. 01438 743 047


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Hold onto Your Top Talent Using Social Media

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are all the rage – there’s no escaping them, they’re everywhere – even in the workplace, and whether you like it or not, they’re not going away.

Here at the CK Group, we are passionate about social media and the benefits it can bring to your business. We are strong believers that social media can be an invaluable tool in not only attracting and recruiting staff but also in retaining them. From our experience, when it comes to social media, staff retention is often an area which is overlooked and under utilised. In fact, a survey conducted by Melcrum, found that of 2,600 respondents, only 11% said they had used social media to the benefit of their HR Department (Personnel Today, 2010)[i].

We think HR departments are missing a trick here, so in a bid to gauge the use of social media in HR employee retention schemes, between October 2010 and February 2011, the CK Group surveyed 87 HR professionals and 60 employees. We wanted to find out if and how social media is being integrated into employee retention schemes nationwide.

So let’s start with the basics. We all know that critical to organisational success is keeping your best employees, plain and simple. But in today’s market the harsh reality is that top talent is hard to come by, and holding on to them is definitely not as easy as it used to be.

Why not use every tool available to help ensure this happens? This is where social media can play a starring role in your employee retention strategy. After all, with so many of our employees engaging in social networking during work hours, 81.6% according to our survey, why is it that only an abysmal 10.7% of respondents stated that they use social media as part of their employee retention strategy– surely this is a missed opportunity?

Perhaps you don’t know where to start or you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of venturing into the realms of social networking? Well here are seven practical tips to help you get started:


1. Don’t assume the worst:

It is so important that as employers we understand why and how our staff use social media whilst at work. Do not automatically presume they are using it to chat away to friends or to bad-mouth your company. Have you ever considered that they might actually be using it to perform more productively in their jobs?  For example, they might be blogging about your products, trying to reach elusive customers or exchanging information with industry experts.

So whatever you do, don’t assume the worst and don’t ban social networking sites all together. By banning every site, you’re ultimately telling your employees that you have no trust in them and nothing will push your employees further away from your organisation than this.


2. Encourage your employees to establish and actively maintain their social networks:

Actively encourage your employees to establish, maintain and build their social networks – you want them to communicate a personal brand that is a reflection of their role within your organisation but also them as an individual.

The key here is to avoid implementing pointless rules:

  • Don’t insist that employees have separate personal and professional networking accounts – this is simply impractical.

–          Do allow employees to state their job title and company information on their Facebook profiles, after all it is part of their identity and will automatically feel more connected and loyal to their organisation by broadcasting this information.

By giving your staff this freedom, you will directly enhance the pride they take in their work, and thus the loyalty they feel towards the organisation.

3. Communication should come from the top:

Social media and internal blogging is a great way for Executives to communicate their vision and aspirations for the company – sharing their passions will help to motivate and retain your talented employees.

Communicating from the top using social media may also help to erase those hierarchical differences that undoubtedly exist and help to bring everyone to the same level. It will also make employees feel that they are being heard and valued.

Why not try using podcasts or micro blogging platforms such as Yammer to help broadcast communication from the top?


4. Create alumni networks:

The concept of employee alumni networks isn’t a new fad – they’ve been around for donkey’s years and can be an extremely valuable retention resource for your company. After all, just because employees may have left your organisation, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t still loyal.

All too often, it is employees or ex-employees that are driving this effort and not the company, this is a fundamental mistake. If you as a company haven’t already set them up, you’re missing a trick.  It’s easy enough to do – just take a look at AstraZeneca’s Alumni Network on Linkedin.


5. Ideas sharing:

It’s a fact that actively involving your staff in decision making will increase your chances of holding onto your top talent.

Using social media is a great way to do this – it will get your staff talking, and most importantly sharing ideas with one another. The information nature of social networking platforms mean that employees may feel more free to openly brainstorm ideas without feeling that they are being watched or scrutinized.

An example of a company that have got this down to a tee is Kraft Foods. In 2009 Kraft decided their company needed a little facelift. As with any company, Kraft were aware that their employees are the people that knew their brand best. Therefore, in a bid to generate ideas, the company implemented an internal social networking tool in order for employees to submit their ideas.

In order to cultivate ideas sharing and ultimately increase your employee retention, you need to stop meticulously controlling your employees use of social media and start concentrating on how you can set up online ideas forums, or maybe start a conversation via Twitter.


6. Give your employees the freedom to express their creativity:

Encouraging creativity is key to employee retention. It sounds obvious, but your employees really need to enjoy their jobs in order for them to stay loyal to your organisation. So stifling creativity in the workplace is a big no no.

A great way to get those creative juices flowing and really create a buzz in the workplace is to use Youtube.

A great example of this in action is the Deloitte Film Festival. The organisers asked employees to create short videos in response to the question, ‘What’s your Deloitte?’  Employees were allowed to work in teams of 1 to 7 people to make videos reflecting their experiences of working for Deliotte.  An impressive 400 submissions were received with 2,000 people taking part [ii]. The channel has had over 400,000 views and 33% of staff reported they felt more loyalty to the company as a result.  So why not give it a go?


7. Give your company culture some oomph!

You can use social media to do this. A great illustration of this is the clothing retailer Zappos’ innovative use of Twitter. 300 of their employees are active users of Twitter, and the company are passionate that it helps employees get to know each other in a different way than they would within the workplace, therefore creating a more positive friendly culture. After all, friendship and camaraderie between employees is one thing that will definitely keep them sticking around for longer.  They even hold Twitter classes to help their employees get started.



Whichever way you look at it, social media is revolutionising the ways in which businesses are run and how we communicate. So like it or lump it, we all need to learn to love it. Fact.

Using social media to retain your best talent may seem like an uphill struggle – but, as with any other tool, when it comes to social media – you really do get out what you put in.

As we have illustrated, major companies are already harnessing the opportunity that social media can bring in terms of employee retention. But our survey highlights a distinct lack of uptake with the companies we surveyed, with only 10.7% stating that social media was part of their employee retention strategy.

So, if your company is in the same boat, we strongly recommend that you get involved now. Social media is nothing to be afraid of – it’s affordable and effective and we hope that these simple tips will help you keep hold of your best talent. Go on, give it a go, we dare you.



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Top Management Tips from CK Clinical Recruiters

  • Talk

Communication is key to being a successful manager, no matter which industry you work in. It is essential that each member your team is fully aware of what is expected of them. Make sure you communicate in a clear and concise manner and answer any questions asked.

  • Listen

You might be hearing what your employees have to say, but are you really listening to them? To get the most out of your employees you need to completely understand their needs and expectations.


  • Stay positive

Focusing on the negatives without recognising positive achievements is a big no no. By staying positive, your employees will be more motivated and your team is more likely to succeed.

  • Avoid Favouritism

Once it has been recognised that a manager has obvious favourites, he or she will instantly loose credibility and respect within the team.

  • Delegate

By delegating tasks to your employees, this will instantly free up time for you. So whenever you are given a new project, always ask yourself if there is someone in the team that might be able to help you out.

  • Lighten up

No doubt you take your job very seriously, but you should try to maintain a sense of humour and create a fun, positive working environment.  After all, you don’t want your team to think you’re a stick in the mud do you?

Do you have any other management tips? Please feel free to share them with us below!

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