Developing Talent

The war for talents is about to begin - Are you ready?

Mars 29, 2019
By Dominic Pfau

The war for talents is about to begin. Are you ready?

Companies that operate in the sector of medical engineering and life science face a huge challenge: Finding and keeping the right people. But are the leaders in your company already aware that skilled employees are the most vital resource in the near future and treat it accordingly?

Let us assume that you are the captain of a ship and your vessel has just hit ground. Water is getting in and you are looking for a solution: you could either use pumps to get rid of the entering water or simply seal the leakage. It is obvious that the first approach doesn’t really solve the problem, especially if the capacity of the pumps is slower than the amount of water that gets in. The management and HR departments of medical engineering and life science companies face a similar situation. Their challenge lies in recruiting enough capable engineers and physicists to satisfy their growing demand and to replace the usual fluctuation. They turn to Executive Search companies like us and try to improve their recruitment procedures. But better recruitment is comparable to the pumps on a leaking ship. It simply does not solve the problem if too many skilled people are leaving the company or if the number of available talents is decreasing constantly.

Companies that face a challenging environment when it comes to recruiting skilled employees should rather take a holistic approach to human resource management. Figuratively speaking, to seal the leak means to enhance the recruitment process and convince the right people to join your company, to develop talented employees that you already have and last but not least to ensure that both groups find the best environment in your company and stay there for the longest time possible. The last aspect goes way beyond any recruitment measures and aims right at the heart of your corporate culture and leadership. Do your managers know that skilled and motivated employees are the most vital resource and that your company cannot afford to waste it by bad leadership?

I meet top managers and executives of medical engineering and life science companies on a regular basis. They keep telling me that they try to fill 60 to 80 vacancies at any given time, sometimes even up to 150 vacancies in larger companies. These companies are not searching for “anybody” but very skilled people such as engineers and physicists with a certain experience in their profession. This lack of experts poses a serious threat to the growth of their companies. Some of them are even thinking about moving parts of their business to countries outside Germany to improve their chances for further growth. Therefore, they turn to Executive Search and recruitment companies in order to fill the gaps. But, it is obvious that even if every company is increasing its efforts to find and recruit the right people, the total number of available talents does not rise.

Allow me to take you through what I think needs to be changed:

  • Look internal
    Talent management should no longer focus on gaining young professionals only. I do not doubt the need for employer branding and marketing measures to gain graduates. However, career changers and employees that are already in your company should be screened for their potentials to develop new skills as well. Sometimes you have the right people on board without knowing it or they are not working on the right spot. Lifelong learning is a necessity these days and there are no reasons why people in their forties or fifties should be excluded from improving their skills.
  • Invest in your leadership
    The average duration of employment of your staff and the scale of fluctuation and the reasons for it should be closely examined. A bad working environment and leadership is often the reason for a high level of fluctuation. Keep in mind that every employee that stays in your company does not have to be recruited and trained. Therefore, every manager in your company should be fully aware of the difficulties that lie ahead when it comes to recruiting new employees. By improving leadership skills companies can turn their managers into real leaders other employees strive to work for as they get positive reports from their staff members.
  • Active listening
    Regular talks with the employees about their career wishes and where they see room for improvement in the company should be mandatory, and their results should be taken into account. Sometimes this means that an employee is changing from one department into another in order to gain new responsibilities or to take the next step of his career. For the company as a whole it is much better to keep an expert within the company than to lose him to a competitor, even if one department suffers a loss.
  • It´s all about people
    Make sure you get the right people on board with the right personalities - real people manager. It is vital that your new hires support the above described holistic approach and have the individual competencies to attract, retain and develop talents. Although there have been major progresses in digitalisation and AI (artificial intelligence) in recruitment processes, this will not help you to identify and measure potential or capabilities in individuals and take the tight conclusion out of it. This is still a manmade process.
  • Stay flexible
    Last but not least, flexible working time models and long-term retention measures can make all the difference between a senior leaving a company at the age of 63 or 67 and beyond. You can gain a lot of valuable experience by just keeping your people longer within the company.

Companies, not only in the highly competitive sectors of medical engineering and life science, have quite an arsenal of suitable weapons at their disposal to win the war for talents. It is the job of any manager to make proper use of them. The good news is, that one company's gain does not mean another company's loss. Because, a lot of these measures aim at increasing the pond of talents rather than drying it up for ones own sake.


Do you want to discuss the topic further? Please reach out to Dominic Pfau, Partner & Director at Mercuri Urval´s office in Hamburg


  • Medical Engineering
  • Life Science
  • Developing Talent