The Best Practices in Training and Recruitment

HRBA Spring Quarterly Meeting Highlighted Best Practices in Training and Recruitment in the Biotech Industry

The Human Resources BioScience Alliance (HRBA) was formed 20 years ago to provide a reliable and accessible network of other HR professionals working in the Biotech industry.  Though the HRBA hosts regular quarterly meetings, social events and charitable outings, they just recently began including a roundtable discussion format to let members discuss important topics together.  

  Last month’s round table discussion covered the three topics: Talent Augmentation (Acquisition), Training and Performance Management.  Two of which I’ll highlight in this article. The sessions were highly interactive with a lot of good discussion and valuable feedback shared. What seemed to make these exchanges so engaging was the level of comfort that participants had in sharing their real challenges and putting their ideas out for discussion among the group.  In my experience, it’s rare to get such raw, honest and tangible peer discussions at at professional membership events, but the HRBA has created a culture that makes that possible. That’s probably why they have been around for so long.

  Given the unique nature and regulations within the biotech industry, the HRBA helps to foster this unique learning and development environment and has become the “go to” resource for many practitioners in the field.  If you weren’t able to make this past event, here are some key best practices from two of those roundtable sessions.

“Not only was this a fun way for employees to take part in the training process and learn the material, but it turns out that an added benefit was that the FDA loved it too.”


  1. When it comes to how you train your employees, the format matters: When developing your training programs there are a lot of considerations to make, but the format is very important. One factor that should be taken into consideration when deciding the format is the type of training you are providing; i.e. onboarding, compliance, safety, educational, etc.  For instance, it was shared that an online format for compliance training isn’t very effective since people tend to speed through it and it’s not engaging. However, for job specific training online learning tends to be ok.
  1. Be flexible and focus on results. One organization, of substantial size, got rid of most of their formal online training all together and instead moved to forums and online videos.  They found that the forum style made the training experiential and that both managers and employees were more engaged, especially millennials who are used to learning via videos and the immediate feedback they get through forums.
  1. Be creative. This company went so far as to set up a company youtube channel where their employees even made their own videos and did the trainings, covering everything from quality, safety and even SOP’s. Not only was this a fun way for employees to take part in the training process and learn the material, but it turns out that an added benefit was that the FDA loved it too.

Talent Augmentation:

  1. Make sure it’s clear who owns the process.  This was a question widely discussed and it became clear that ownership of recruiting is managed differently at different companies.  Ultimately what was agreed upon was that the most successful results came from a team approach. This generally meant a shared ownership in the process with recruiters/hr and hiring managers owning the recruiting life cycle and managing the candidates. Managers are then accountable for clearly defining their needs, amplifying the recruiting with their network, being responsive, and owning the final decision.  
  2. Overcoming the ‘Perfect Candidate Syndrome’. Many at the table shared a similar story of hiring managers who had unrealistic expectations to find the perfect candidate, commonly known as the ‘unicorn’ or ‘purple squirrel’.  To overcome this the best practices are to conduct an intake meeting with the hiring manager when the job is opened to set and manage expectations, and also discuss what skills can be trained, and what they are willing to train. Unfortunately, a few members shared that sometimes the manager has to lose the good candidate to learn their lesson on why you don’t wait for the unicorn.
  3. Build your recruitment strategy around finding the best talent, not matching up to a job description.  Kate Surdez, Head of HR for VielaBio shared their strategy for accomplishing this, and it starts with setting a three (3) year plan to understand talent needed to support the business strategy, now and in the future. Next, they clearly define their hiring profile, including the type of science, accomplishments, culture and overall company fit.  Managers at Viela Bio activate their networks long before a position may be approved by using their alumni networks to build visibility and excitement about the company and its’ culture. Once that warm introduction to the company is made, Kate takes the primary role to share more details about potential roles. When they do identify a great candidate, HR and the hiring managers sit down to write the job description to fit the candidate’s profile; opposite what most companies do. “This helps us make sure we are hiring for the right people and ensures the employee is successful”, shared Surdez. “Since we know what we need for the next three years, we stay flexible with our headcount in order to be opportunistic if a great candidate comes to market. We then create development plans that ensure alignment to the business and support role expansion over time”.

As Jessica Keliher, Head of People & Culture at Leadiant Biosciences, Inc.  stated, “Good hiring is knowing how to balance between skills they have and what can be trained.”

If you were not able to make June’s event, I hope this recap helped to answer some of the challenges that you’re facing at your company.  The next Quarterly meeting is in September so put it on your calendar now or contact us to learn more about how you can become an HRBA member too.