This blog post was originally published on Profile Search & Selection. View the article here.
APAC’s healthcare sector has evolved rapidly over the past few years, largely driven by shifting consumer expectations and innovation in technology. The COVID-19 pandemic also, unsurprisingly, intensified demand for healthcare services, including consumer healthcare.
43.5% of shoppers in China have reportedly spent more on their health in the past 12 months, while 23.1% said they are spending more on nutrition. Source: McKinsey
However, demand for talent in all healthcare sectors including pharmaceuticals, healthcare services, MedTech and lifesciences, currently outstrips supply and could hamper growth in the sector.
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of Chinese conglomerates and global companies with facilities in China looking to hire outside of the country. Many have, or are in the process of, moving their ASEAN HQs to Singapore because the region has more access to skilled talent, a thriving healthcare ecosystem, attractive tax incentives from the government and connectivity with the fast-growing Asia market.
In addition, increasing numbers of organisations are now looking outside the healthcare industry to fill open roles. Candidates outside the sector are generally open to exploring healthcare opportunities because it gives them the chance to make a meaningful impact on society, which is a key driver for many jobseekers considering a career move.
Despite the uncertainty and risks stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war, China’s slowing growth and interest rate hikes in advanced economies to tame inflation, Singapore’s economic recovery is continuing. Growth, however, is forecasted at a lower rate, 3.7%, this year compared to 7.6% last year, figures from the International Monetary Fund revealed.
We are seeing momentum pick up in the number of global healthcare organisations that are consolidating portfolios, acquiring technologies and/or companies to complement their business portfolios. We have also seen companies spinning off or divesting businesses to focus on their core organisations. Several companies in the MedTech space are undergoing restructuring as well. This has led to a two-tier structure in hiring in the region - some employers are aggressively hiring while others are more cautious.
APAC's candidate-driven market
The global pandemic has accelerated the talent crunch by a significant degree. We see a greater intensity in the competition for talent in a post-pandemic world. Top talent has more bargaining power than ever before and candidates are more selective when it comes to career choices. Although still an important driver for candidates, salary is no longer the top consideration among those thinking of a career move. However, it's worth noting that after bonus pay-outs earlier this year, many employers re-negotiated with employees and offered above-the-norm salary increments, long-term incentives and attractive retention bonuses in a bid to retain staff.
Broadly speaking, there are two groups of candidates right now. One group is looking for job stability and career development, while the other is seeking the rapid innovation typically seen in healthcare startups. There has been a rise in the number of candidates open to relocation opportunities too, which will be useful to employers located in areas with small talent pools. The talent market is highly competitive in APAC right now, especially for unicorn talent or those with niche skillsets.
Healthcare service providers
The pandemic intensified demand for healthcare service providers and Asia’s aging population is also adding pressure to the tight labor market. More hospitals and clinics are now developing personalised treatments and home therapies to navigate the difficulties patients have visiting hospitals and clinics due to social distancing or regional lockdowns.
Remote healthcare and telehealth are continuing to drive growth in the sector and will continue to do so, especially in the regions that are still being impacted by pandemic-related lockdowns. In addition, there has also been an increased focus on mental health, which was undoubtedly caused by the stress of living through a global pandemic and the periods of uncertainty experienced over the last couple of years. Demand for mental health services among consumers throughout Asia is expected to continue.
Countries in South East Asia need to redouble efforts to strengthen and expand their nurse and midwife capacity by 1.9 million to achieve health for all by 2030. Source: World Health Organization
Lifesciences and pharmaceuticals
The lifesciences industry will continue to play a significant role in managing the global endemic and future pandemics. There has been substantial growth and investment in cell and gene therapies and in the molecular diagnostics space. There has been strong growth in molecular diagnostics, fueled by an increase in PCR testing over the past two years, and other key sectors such as blood screening and detection of infectious diseases, among others. Companies within molecular diagnostics are looking to increase R&D to enable early disease diagnosis. And in drug development, there’s a significant focus on mRNA vaccine development for infectious diseases along with continuous drug development in personalised treatments, especially in the areas of oncology and neuroscience. Pharmaceutical companies are busy developing cost-effective drugs and treatments to improve affordability for patients, while clinical trials have also been accelerated.
The pharmaceutical market in China is now the second largest in the world (with the first largest being the US), research from Statista revealed. In a bid to move into global markets, many organisations have shifted their focus to research and development (R&D). However, this transition requires approval from foreign agencies such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK, the American Food and Drug Administration and such, which greatly complicates the process.
Digital health impacts more than a billion lives and according to estimates, digital health in Asia could collectively create up to $100bn in value by 2025, up from $37bn in 2020. Source: McKinsey
Elective surgeries were put on hold across most of Asia throughout the pandemic. As a result, some companies have gone through restructuring, while others have implemented hiring freezes to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic. As the borders continue to open in the various countries, we are seeing a rise in momentum on elective surgeries and a growth in medical tourism.
In China, MedTech companies are benefiting from government policy that is designed to encourage growth among local companies and many have been expanding their product lines as a result of R&D.
Innovation in the sector, namely digitalisation, has played a significant role in driving sales. One of the big challenges is the regulatory environment, especially for multinational companies which have multiple regulations that they must adhere to.
On a positive note, the MedTech talent market in China is stable right now. One trend that is gaining momentum in the region is the migration of management professionals who are now seeking opportunities in local companies as they can see the increased opportunities for growth. However, junior and middle-level candidates still prefer to work for multinational companies and are staying put.
The rapid growth in healthcare means many talent acquisition leaders are struggling to define future skills needs. Strategic workforce planning is growing in popularity as a result.
Hot skills across APAC
Digitalisation and innovation
Digital skills are highly sought after in healthcare. There has been a slew of technological developments from robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain. Big data and analytics are also advancing and are playing an integral role in R&D within the industry. For example, data scientists are using advanced algorithms to gather information from a vast range of sources, including industry websites, data libraries and so on. The sheer scale of data within the industry is also playing a role in its growth as data experts must manage, review and analyse gigantic databases.
Companies are seeking talented individuals with a strong understanding of the wider healthcare landscape and technical capabilities to connect data and use it to address health conditions.
Customer journey experience
Candidates with customer journey experience are highly sought after. Organisations are looking for candidates who can take an inside-out approach to give employees the best experience, which will naturally lead to a greater experience to customers.
Regulatory and compliance
As companies look to improve their systems and process flows within the industry, applicants experienced in regulation and compliance are highly sought after. In addition, more organisations in healthcare are practising environmental, societal and governance (ESG) business practise. They want to build sustainable businesses for local communities, so candidates with experience in ESG are in demand.
Candidates that can act as change agents and have the ability to multitask in a hybrid environment are in demand in APAC, particularly in China.
In the wake of the pandemic, there has still been difficulty surrounding in-person meetings and visiting clients. Companies have been re-inventing the approach to outreach and sales professionals, as a result, must have digital skills.
Omni channel marketing experience in the healthcare industry is becoming increasingly important. Candidates with the skillsets to create unified messages across multiple channels to provide a seamless customer experience are in high demand.
Research and development and laboratory management
More diagnostic laboratories have been set up over the past couple of years to meet the needs of PCR testing for infectious diseases and serve the development of vaccines and biologics in Singapore. There has been a good increase in demand for professionals with lab management experience.
What do candidates look for in a company?
The employment landscape across APAC has evolved more in the past few years than in the last decade, so employers must continuously seek new and creative ways to motivate and incentivise employees and candidates alike. We have outlined some of the most popular employee expectations below:
Flexible work arrangements
Many employees worked remotely for the first time in their careers during the onset of the pandemic and were able to get an improved work-life balance as a result. Many have proven that they are as productive, or even more productive working from home. A large proportion of companies in APAC have already implemented hybrid working arrangements. The future of work will be centered around flexibility and choice. If companies want to attract and retain top talent, it is important to offer a flexible work model that caters to candidates’ and employees’ work styles and productivity.
Financial rewards and employee wellness programmes
Top candidates are juggling multiple job offers, and some are being offered high salary increases to join new companies. Salary benchmarking, using real-time labor data, can help employers ensure the salary and benefits they offer are competitive to ensure they don’t lose out on top talent. There is also an increase in expectations for companies to support employees’ well-being. Companies that provide attractive and well-thought-out employee wellness programmes will be at a significant advantage in attracting top candidates and retaining talented employees.
Career development and growth opportunities
A recurring theme among most industries in APAC, not just healthcare, is the desire to learn and develop. Organisations that provide comprehensive L&D programmes will find it easier to attract and retain talent. And upskilling programmes also give companies access to future skills, which is much needed given the pace of innovation and digitisation in the healthcare industry.
To make an impact on society:
Healthcare is one of the few industries that by default allows workers to make a real impact on society. A sense of purpose is very much a motivator for many candidates, so companies that give people the chance to make a real difference should showcase this in their recruitment marketing.
The demand for healthcare talent will continue to grow.
Speak with our experienced consultants today to learn more.
Yvonne is one of our managing directors in Singapore. She specialises in senior mandates with a focus on finance and accounting, sales and marketing and general management across Southeast Asia. Yvonne has more than 20 years of executive search experience, with a background in senior finance recruitment at an international firm in Singapore.