What do the leading executives in Japan’s pharma industry and the world’s top sports coaches have in common? They are always on the lookout for talent. They are searching for the best available team at any given point in time. Pete Carroll, head coach of the University of Southern California Trojans football team, was quoted as saying, “Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, so you can’t put anything above that.”
At an industry event, an executive from a leading US company ushered me aside, metaphorically grabbed me by the lapels of my jacket, and said, “Philip, there is a real shortage of talent at our company. Let me know of all the great people in the market. It doesn’t matter what their function is; if they are right, then we can create a position.” This reminded me of a past executive at GlaxoSmithKline who would often quote Jim Collins from his book Good to Great: “If I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could. I’d put off everything else to fill my bus.”
A 2007 survey by The Economist magazine of 600 chief executives of multinational companies with businesses across Asia revealed that a shortage of qualified staff ranked as companies’ biggest concern in China, with their second-biggest headache being in Japan. Our data at Morunda reinforces these findings. We surveyed US pharma companies and found that 47 completed searches at all levels in 2010. The average was 92 days, with candidates starting 30 to 60 days after receiving the offer letter. Four of the searches in the survey took more than 250 days. However, if we look at the director-level positions—11 in total—the average search took 201 days to complete.
An HR director from a European biotech company recently told me they had met more than 30 candidates for a regulatory affairs (RA) manager position and had yet to extend an offer after three years. Smart companies are always in recruiting mode while others are thinking of creative ways to fill their open positions. One regional VP thought it wise to build from the top down. The strategy of hiring a more senior candidate solved his problem in the short run, and he hopes that the candidate has the charisma and drive to build a team full of younger talent. Top talent will follow top talent.