In the medical technologies industry, a truly effective sales and marketing team is hard to find - or to replace. Sam Meakin, Director at the Recruitment Management Group, offers a guide to cultivating and harnessing talent.
More than ever, the medical technologies sector needs its highest performers to be fully engaged and actively participating in organisational development - but not enough time is spent on retaining and developing existing talent. Cultivating talent in the workforce is necessary to ensure high levels of sales and marketing achievement while implementing efficient business delivery; but it is also important that individual professional developments are built upon, personalised and recognised.
The new healthcare market
Healthcare is an increasingly complex market, and both NHS and private sector health providers are becoming a great deal more commercially minded. As such, they need to be managed with a much greater degree of sophistication. Most are now looking for solutions-based partnerships rather than just a product - and this has a real impact on how the medical devices sector needs to position itself.
As a consequence, medtech businesses need to take a close look at what skills and behaviours they are looking for when they are employing their sales and marketing teams. Individuals need to be able to sell not only to clinicians, as in the past, but also to procurement and finance professionals. This makes good business acumen invaluable.
To address the changing needs of their customers, many medical device businesses are now implementing account management or business development structures rather than the traditional team of reps. Lessons can be learned from the changes in the pharmaceutical industry over the past ten years - employing healthcare development managers, for example, has been hugely effective for businesses in communicating with customers at a strategic level.
Up-and-coming sales talent
For some time now, there has been a shortage of high-calibre jobseekers in the medical devices sector. Businesses know who their best people are and look after them, giving them little reason to look around for alternative career options.
This creates huge competition for the talent that is actively 'on the market', resulting in Dutch auctions that inflate individuals' salaries far above their level of competence. At RMG we are frequently disappointed by the calibre of candidates we interview and assess who work for well-respected names in the industry but fall some way short of demonstrating the basic skills needed for success in today's healthcare arena. This raises the question of whether these companies are settling for what they can get, rather than focusing on talent acquisition and development.
Savvy businesses can stay clear of this scrum by enhancing their recruitment strategy and looking outside the traditional candidate talent pool. Recruiting trainees, for example, is an excellent way for a company to enhance its succession plans and nurture new talent. However, most companies are not set up to do this well, and cannot afford the period of unproductiveness before such individuals gain an appropriate level of competence.
That leaves the option of headhunting: seeking out people who are content in their current employment, but may be willing to listen if a more beneficial opportunity is correctly positioned to them. The major advantage here is the opportunity to capture an individual from a direct competitor who can both deliver a short-term gain and add to your succession planning pool. The fact that our model has moved from 80% advertising to 80% search and selection reflects the way the job market is moving.
Methods of engagement
Companies need to develop a cohesive attraction strategy that will make them the sort of employer that people aspire to work for: an employer of choice. This is where your trusted recruitment partners can be worth their weight in gold: they can give you a clear idea of the state of the current market, how your business is perceived and what today's medtech professionals are looking for.
Frustratingly for many recruitment professionals, many clients still consider recruitment to be a very transactional process. All too often, a vacancy means a desperate scramble to find a person to fill a role, with the result that the business employs someone who may fit right now, but who will not be right in the long term. Rather, employers should see a recruitment drive as an opportunity to bring in genuine talent that will impact on the business in the long term and help to differentiate them from the competition.
Some clients, however, do not fully appreciate the 'consultant' element of 'recruitment consultant', and frequently make decisions based purely on the black and white details of a CV rather than engaging in meaningful discussion concerning the rationale behind the submission of a candidate.
When engaging with potential employees, businesses should not underestimate the value of personal contact. The technological revolution has arguably transformed the recruitment process - but at a high cost. Web portals and e-mail have made it easy to gather hundreds of CVs and make contact with multiple candidates, but picking up the phone to speak to a real person - and not their digital persona - can save hours in wasted interviews and recruitment blind alleys.
Recognition and reward
A strong and well-developed HR function is essential to getting the recruitment process right. Making good decisions at the earliest stage is crucial, and a good HR team (or consultant) will look beyond technical competencies and towards cultural fit.
The initial recruitment process can also be considered as part of the new employee's personal development: it is never too early to identify strengths, weaknesses and motivations that should be addressed.
Hiring managers also need to be aware of their existing team members' motivating factors and nurture their talent. It is vital that they are not threatened by people whose skills and aspirations exceed their own - this is all part of succession planning. Employers need to ensure that their own employees are not putting barriers in place that stifle the development of others. Forward-thinking companies need to put in place a talent management programme that gives all employees the opportunities they need to make a difference to the business.
Conversely, managers have a key role in recognising when an employee is not up to the right standard and must have the difficult conversations as early as possible. Lavishing investment on an employee who does not have a future with your business, whether due to a lack of skills or a poor cultural fit, can only result in a breakdown of relationships and a bitter termination of employment - with their impressions of your business taken out into the job market and creating potentially damaging perceptions.
Nurturing talent can help to make a good company great. People are at the heart of any business, and keeping them motivated and happy reaps dividends for companies. The rapidly changing healthcare market presents a real opportunity for medtech businesses to pull away from their competition, armed with an effective talent management strategy and an ongoing commitment to people development.
Sam Meakin is Director of the Healthcare team at RMG, an executive search consultancy based in Cheshire. With over 20 years' experience of recruiting talent in the healthcare sector, RMG provides both a national and international service covering all functional disciplines and levels of seniority.
Web portals and e-mail have made it easy to gather hundreds of CVs and make contact with multiple candidates, but picking up the phone to speak to a real person can save hours in wasted interviews and recruitment blind alleys.