Does a lower local unemployment rate increase competition for hiring and retaining employees?
The lowered unemployment level does present challenges in attracting prospective employees. It does anywhere you are. With regards to retention, there are opportunities for people to hop from one job to another, as there are in many other developed areas. However, with our industry being somewhat unique in this area, we don’t see the immediate impact of unemployment levels being a driver for turnover.
We have always integrated very closely with UNCW as a potential talent source, particularly through support of a robust science curriculum.
To help prepare UNCW students who may seek us as an employer, Alcami started teaching a class last fall that will help individuals see the commercial application of their degrees in private industry. We will continue that program, and continue to drive and develop the potential of pharmaceutical laboratory service offerings with UNCW.
An ongoing initiative for us is a robust internship program. This year, we have employed 20 interns. The majority of those are here in Wilmington. It’s a win-win-win. Interns get practical job experience for their resumes, have an opportunity to earn, and we are able to employ them within our operations.
What are some strategies for attracting and retaining top-tier talent?
There remain some challenges in attracting and retaining top-tier talent in Wilmington. However, this is also the nature of our industry. People employed in our industry typically flock more to pharmaceutical or biotech hubs, and while we are building biotech in Wilmington, it is not yet known in the industry as a strong pharmaceutical or biotech region.
We have had several higher-level individuals who raised concerns when considering a position here. The quality of the primary education system is not always viewed favorably by individuals considering moving here. Another common challenge is with trailing spouses having difficulty finding employment in the area, although we recently learned of, and plan to collaborate with, some local groups that help find trailing spouses employment in Wilmington.
In contrast, we have hired very experienced individuals who are still active in their careers, but want to establish their work and home in an area like Wilmington. We have found that once individuals and their families move into the Wilmington area, they quickly adopt it as their home.
Our needs as a business are less at the latter end of the career and more at the developing and growing level, and part of the strategy we’ve taken here is to shift some of our leadership roles to our facility in Durham, so we can attract individuals into that pharma and biotech hub.
How important is a company’s “culture” to its overall success?
The culture of an organization is critical to its success. That culture is always evolving, always growing, always progressing. In our business, as it has evolved, the provision of service and mission require some significant shifts in not just what we do, but also how we do it.
To exceed the expectations of our clients and continue to grow, which we are doing, this business has some maturation to do.
We are evolving from a more paternalistic business into one that runs on processes with standard ways of working and delivery accountabilities to meet the needs of our clients.
This accountability doesn’t fit everybody. Some expect it, some thrive in it, and some don’t. That doesn’t mean individuals are good or bad; it’s just the environment in which we work. Ultimately, we’re here to ensure this business is successful for our clients.
The majority of successes I’ve seen in organizations I’ve led, and I’m seeing here, come down to the experiences created through interactions with groups and/or individuals within a business. The experiences you create – and every interaction is an opportunity to create an experience that reinforces a culture of accountability – is one we focus on daily.
How do you identify and locate the right talent?
One of the steps we’re taking is investing in our internal resources for our core business. For those required services outside of our core, we seek experts in those fields and partner with them.
If something is not fundamental to what we deliver our customers, we’re going to hire the best entities to do it for us.
In March, we changed our approach to recruiting, because our internal effort wasn’t satisfactory. There was an opportunity to say, “How do we identify talent? What specific characteristics, experience and capabilities do we need?” We have to define that, so we’re not relying on an interviewer’s experience and/or intuition into what talent looks like.
How can a company meet the needs of a workforce that encompasses multiple generations?
This is an important topic, especially for newer generations coming in. They may ask themselves, “How do I grow my career, and what does it look like to achieve a manager level or a director level?”
Defined career paths are important for retention. Individuals will leave a business if they don’t see paths for personal growth and development or if they lack positive interaction with their superiors.
Once we have created job profiles at different levels, we use those as recruiting source documents, so people can screen, interview and identify people who fit. We also work on career path development with our employees. If a strong employee, hired as a manager, knows he or she wants to be a director one day, we work with that individual to build a road map to reach that goal. This plan includes the experiences and capabilities they may need and commitments from the organization to help the individual get that experience and exposure.
Alcami works to integrate, not only across businesses but also generations. Our business is the strongest when we have a multi-generational workforce.