RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

RPO CASE STUDY: Biotech Sector’s People Challenge

Solution enables Regeneron to focus on primary goal of discovering new medicines.

by Richard Dunn, Kenexa

For every biotech company working to bring a drug to market, the road to commercialization is a long and costly process. Paving the way to success are scientists working diligently to uncover new medicines for the treatment of disease. With such a high stake on intellectual property, many biotechnology companies place a premium on their talent.

Recognizing that hiring and retaining the best people quickly and cost effectively represents a competitive advantage, Regeneron, a Tarrytown, NY-based biotech firm, improved its recruiting process by partnering with Kenexa, a provider of talent acquisition and retention solutions. By outsourcing, Regeneron was able to significantly reduce outlays for search-firm fees as well as the distraction and cost of finding and implementing recruiting software. Most importantly, importing Kenexa’s proven resources and tested solutions enabled HR to focus resources on supporting managers and employees in their quest to discover and develop new medicines.

Founded in 1988, Regeneron discovers, develops, and intends to commercialize therapeutic medicines. The company has therapeutic candidates in clinical trials for the potential treatment of cancer, eye diseases, and inflammatory diseases as well as pre-clinical programs in several diseases and disorders. Recognizing that success results largely from having great people, scientific, clinical, manufacturing, and support professionals were a priority at Regeneron.

“In a biotech, we don’t just say, ‘People are our greatest asset,’” said Ross Grossman, VP of HR. “Product candidates come directly from the minds and the efforts of our employees. To discover and develop new drugs, you need great people. The ability to recruit the most talented employees in the industry ties directly to success of the company.”

Failing to react quickly was one of the challenges facing Regeneron’s HR department. Before contracting with Kenexa, it relied heavily on contingency recruiting to fill positions. Processes were largely manual and labor intensive. Relying on Excel spreadsheets made it difficult to effectively track open positions, candidate status, cost-per-hire or time-to-fill. Costs were high because contingency search firms on average charge 25 percent of a new hire’s salary.  

Sourcing talent was another issue. Because of the specialized nature of the industry, attracting and recruiting scientific and clinical development professionals is crucial. With many scientists preferring to stay in biotech’s “hotbed communities” such as San Diego and Boston, sourcing talent for New York’s Westchester County is challenging. Having worked in larger organizations that successfully outsourced several HR processes, Grossman look to Kenexa for help.

“We were looking for several things, the first being a partner who understood our industry and had experience in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals,” said Grossman.

Currently, the company employs approximately 600 in two locations. Like many biotech firms, hiring needs fluctuate. In some years, hiring volume is heavy. At other times, very little hiring may occur. Regeneron and Kenexa have developed a flexible staffing model that provides the recruiting resources required at the time: quickly scaling up or down when hiring volumes change.

Grossman noted that since partnering with Kenexa, about 150 hires have been added. Except for a few specialized positions, all direct recruiting is handled by Kenexa, overseen by Regeneron’s director of recruiting. In addition, Regeneron has the advantage of additional resources such as Kenexa’s back-office direct sourcing team in Wayne, PA and Hyderabad, India. More than 50 percent of filled positions were sourced through Kenexa’s India office, illustrating the company’s ability to cast a wide net for sourcing talent.

“Nearly every job we fill now is with a candidate sourced by Kenexa rather than an outside agency,” said Grossman. “The model as we envisioned it is working.”

Grossman said he enjoys working with a vendor that can manage portions of the employment process or the entire staffing operation. Other benefits include a reduction in costs as well as time-to-fill. Although some hiring managers initially balked at a change in process, early successes and Kenexa’s ability to rapidly fill critical positions helped build credibility and positive word of mouth. Through the solution, HR is now more capable of meeting most managers’ needs. By filling jobs more quickly, Regeneron’s hiring managers can return to focusing on drug discovery or clinical development, not on interviewing and recruiting candidates.

Having technology in place has also resulted in better data collection and the opportunity for stronger analytics. Grossman is able to have detailed information and tracking of open requisitions.

“The Kenexa solution has enabled our people to remain focused on drug discovery and development,” said Grossman. “It allows us to have a much more professional face to the hiring managers and we are now more capable of responding quickly and effectively.”

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