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Biotech's Four Human Resource Challenges

June 25th, 2015
DNA concept artWhen it comes to the HR challenges of launching and growing a startup, biotech is no different from any other. Except, perhaps, that biotech startups rarely can be birthed in a garage.

There is one other difference. "It is impossible to build a successful biotechnology company without the help from a myriad of individuals and external partners."

In an article for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, Craig Shimasaki details four human resources challenges he says every biotech startup faces. Shimasaki, a serial entrepreneur who launched three startups and now heads Moleculera Labs and BioSource Consulting, suggests that at the very earliest stages, young biotechs should operate virtually.

"Money is critical and you need to ensure that the little you have is predominantly directed toward developing your product, or toward advancing the technology that your product is based upon," he writes. Instead of facilities, financial resources should be directed to recruiting and retaining the best people that can be hired.

So important is hiring, that Shimasaki lists recruiting first on his four-point list and compensation and incentives as number two.

This is his list:
  • HR Challenge Number One: "Recruit and hire outstanding and dependable individuals in all functional areas your company professes expertise." Go ahead and post the jobs online, buy ads, and work your network, he says, but "you should selectively utilize recruiters to identify key hires."
  • HR Challenge Number Two: Smaller startups can offer generous stock incentives and significant responsibility. Bigger biotechs can offer generous benefits packages. To compete, smaller companies should consider working with a Professional Employer Organization to help offer some of the same benefits as the big firms.
  • HR Challenge Number Three: Because of the rapid evolution of startups and the changing business practices, "Leaders must adapt management and communication styles as their organization transitions to effectively lead the company and accomplish their goals." The initial command-and-control leadership phase must give way, as the team grows, to
    "a delegate-and-inspect management style."
  • HR Challenge Number Four: Building an intentional company culture may not seem like much of a priority, says Shimasaki, but it needs to be. One will emerge by default, if it is planned. So, he says, "Purposefully choose to build a culture that adds strength and is not divisive."

Image: cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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