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Talent war rages on as employee engagement continues to decline

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Phrases like “quiet quitting” and “the great resignation” that have risen in popularity recently have highlighted a growing issue in the workforce—a lack of engagement.

According to a Gallup study published Tuesday, it isn’t getting better. Gallup asked over 60,000 U.S. respondents to rate their level of engagement at work, which refers to their level of involvement and enthusiasm about their jobs and place of employment. Of those, about half stated they aren’t engaged at work, or “quiet quitting”, and 17% reported they are actively disengaged, or “loud quitting".

This marks the second consecutive year self-reported levels of employee engagement have declined.

What’s more, many employees are ready to take the leap. The data indicates 71% of respondents in the U.S. stated they think now is a good time to find employment, while 47% said they are actively searching or watching for a new job opportunity.

A Candidate's Market

For those who work in the life sciences, now is a good time to find a job. According to a workforce trends report published by the Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes (CSBI) on June 7, the U.S. life sciences industry is continuing to hire at a rapid pace, fueling the talent war that has been ongoing over the past two years. CSBI reported the industry currently employs 2.2 million people, an increase of 169,000 workers from 2020.

This competition for talent puts the market squarely in favour of employees.

CSBI found that 37% of companies reported increasing wages by 10% or more across all employees in 2022, and 50% cited both inflation and the intense competition for talent as the drivers of said growth.

Both studies found that across the board, organizations are struggling with employee retention and hiring, above all else. CSBI found these struggles to be exacerbated among organizations hiring employees in regulatory affairs and compliance, computational biology/statistics and product and/or process development.

Some employers have resorted to outsourcing talent and roles to other countries, where talent is cheaper and the market favors employers. Others have chosen to eliminate the roles entirely.

One respondent told CSBI that their CEO moved three production lines outside of the country, effectively eliminating 50 positions in the U.S. and is “just keeping the most productive and the most loyal.”

What Employers Can Do

Fortunately, there are steps employers can take to help their staff become more engaged. Gallup’s solution is twofold:

  1. Focus on your most winnable employees. While it may be too late to win back those who are actively disengaged, unengaged employees, which is a majority of employees according to the data, can regain interest if their engagement needs are met.

  2. Give those employees a better manager. Effective engagement starts with and includes managers, Gallup reported, and stated that managers are quiet quitting, too. Encouragement and support come from the very top, and managers cannot pour out what they do not receive.

Those who reported low engagement in their jobs stated three primary areas in which their organization could improve:

  1. Company Culture

Of respondents who said they are quiet quitting, 47% said their company’s culture was to blame, far outweighing pay and well-being.

While a company’s culture is a culmination of myriad factors, employees value some more than others. CSBI reported that as DEI initiatives become more prevalent in the life sciences, they are also more closely tied to a company’s culture, and employees increasingly value inclusivity in the workplace, even those who are not a minority themselves.

Here are a few of the changes respondents wish their employers would make to the company culture:

  • Increased recognition for contributions

  • Leaders who are more approachable and willing to talk openly

  • Giving everyone a fair chance to be promoted

  • More respect from leadership/management

  1. Pay and Benefits

While low pay and benefits were the most common reason employees listed for being unhappy at work, only 20% of respondents said it was the primary reason. This means that though many leaders will blame a tight budget for their issues with retention, there are likely many other areas in which they can invest to keep staff. It also means that simply throwing money at the problem or giving staff a raise will not fix the root cause.

Here are a few of the changes respondents wish their employers would make to their pay and benefits:

  • Salaries that are proportional to qualifications and merit

  • Fully subsidized childcare

  • A monthly gas voucher to lower the cost of commute

  • Employee rewards for high company performance

  1. Well-being

Well-being can mean something slightly different for every employee, but one element is found across the board: work-life balance. For some, this could mean increasing hybrid and remote work options. For others, it could mean clearer communication from managers about the hours they are expected to work and the projects they need to complete so employees can better plan around their work schedules.

Here are a few of the changes respondents wish their employers would make to improve their well-being:

  • More opportunities for remote work

  • A serious interest in employees’ health and overall lives

  • Longer and more frequent breaks

  • Communicating shifts/projects in advance so employees can play

Sometimes it is inevitable that employees will still wander off. This may leave you with your hands in your hair. Especially in the Life Science industry, there is a shortage of qualified professionals as developments go fast. Consultants at QTC Recruitment know the market as no other and can handle any recruitment issues your organisation might stumble upon. Just have a look at the solutions here

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