Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to “Spread Love in Organizations”, a podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.

I am Naji, your host for this special episode in partnership with Boston Biotechnology Summit, a bridge to collaboration and innovative synergies between healthcare stakeholders. I am joined today by Yvette Cleland CEO of Cpl Life Sciences, a global talent firm. In 2019 and 2021 Yvette was nominated by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) as one of the top 50 most powerful women in staffing globally. After eight years working in the pharmaceutical sector, she moved to professional staffing and combines knowledge of both life sciences & staffing in her work at CPL. In 2012 she joined Clinical Professionals to scale the business for acquisition, drive growth and expand the brand portfolio and global footprint expanding into the US in 2017. Under her leadership, the business was successfully acquired, launched the award-winning Graduate Academies and CEO/CMO Biotech summits, and was involved in the UK apprenticeship trailblazers. In 2019 she wrote a Parliamentary Review on life science skill shortages, speaks regularly for industry around the “wake-up call” and her passion is addressing the growing skills gaps in life sciences.   Yvette – I’m humbled to have you with me today!

Yvette Cleland: Well, I’m very humbled to be here as well, so thank you.

Naji Gehchan: Before we dig in, talent management in the era of artificial intelligence, which was the topic of, the workshop you’ve done at the summit, I’m eager to hear more about your personal story, what brought you to the pharma world and now being one of the top 50 most powerful women in global staffing and healthcare.

Yvette Cleland: Um, I, I sort of fell into the pharmaceutical industry if, if I’m really honest, I started my career with a company called Janssen, part of j and j, um, working on their female health products. And then I moved over into, um, more of their palliative care movement and, um, pain control, um, within the farm industry. So, um, I worked on launching the first transdermal fentanyl patch within industry, which, At the time, and it was many, many, many years ago, it, it was, you know, such an advance in technology to have a reservoir patch that could deliver, um, pain control. Um, but I’m, I’m quite a creative person and I love the industry, but I, I love working with people. I started finding the role quite lonely. I couldn’t use a lot of the creative skills I thought I. I sort of fell into recruitment by Pure accident, and there was an organization that was growing quite rapidly. They were looking for individuals that had worked within the pharma industry to crossover and help develop out their staffing. So, um, I made what was seen at the time as an incredibly unusual move to be part of a large, global, very successful pharmaceutical business and move over into a tiny, tiny staffing business. Um, and I have to say the first four months were pretty awful. I didn’t have any training or development. Um, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Um, I wasn’t sure it was going to be right for me, but I made my first placement and I used my creativity to do that. A lady, um, I was actually going out to sell Enbrel, which again was a new launch at the time. She wasn’t a profile, but I knew she was passionate about the role, passionate about the job, and I really had to sell that to the vice president that was staffing that business up and. He kept rejecting me and saying, no, no, no. So I said, look, I’ve got three people that are the perfect profile. You say you are looking for, and I’ve got this lady as well. Will you interview her with the other three? And if I’m wrong and she doesn’t get the job, I’ll never call you again. And she got the job. So it shows me that really understanding people, what drives and motivates ’em, their passion, um, how they’re going to perform with a client. Their motivation and wanting that role. And that’s what got that lady, that job, um, and the VP listening to me and sort of giving me that opportunity and chance. Um, and that then I’ve never looked back from that day. Um, so I understood human to human. As long as you can always speak to somebody and you can rationalize why you want to do something, you can really move something ahead. And also the level of personal satisfaction. I gained in that lady getting that job. Um, and consequently, pretty much every placement I did as a recruiter, um, just continued to inspire me, particularly in the advances in medicine and having to find maybe people that don’t have perfect skills, but have the perfect competency to go on a journey with a business as long as they’ll develop and train them.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much for sharing this. I love it. And I love where we’re gonna be going because you shared really, really interesting pieces, uh, in how you think about leadership, how you think about staffing. So let’s start with staffing actually. So in 2023, um, this is like, we’re in a current environment. Things are moving. We’re constantly hearing, uh, about the challenges of finding the right talents for the right organization, especially in healthcare. Uh, so how do you. Really in a global perspective, how do you think about staffing today?

Yvette Cleland: So, um, staffing by some degree has been replaced quite a lot by internal teams, now, internal talent teams. But I would always say this to a client when you engage with a staffing partner they speak to or should do, if they’re a good partner. Of different people. If you are a talent person, you can only ever speak about your business and what you do. We go out often globally and can reach into. Passive candidates or corners of the market or because our expertise, um, are seeing how other companies have developed to bring their talent in. We can lend so much to an organization. Um, but, but quite often, I guess, Staffing can be seen as an expensive solution, um, where actually it can be very cost effective if you have the right partner, not the wrong partner. Um, so I guess one of my greatest frustrations and something that I’ve seen in the last 15 or so years is when I joined Janssen, literally 50 or so graduates joined in that year. Um, and everybody was trained and developed, and everybody stayed with that business for a very, very long time. Some of the people I joined with are still with Janssen, 30 odd years down the road. Um, so they’ve stayed a long time. They were looked after, they were trained, and they were developed several years ago, 10, 12 years ago. The trend was to outsource everything. Training and development of people. And we’ve then seen this surge in the last 12 to 15 years of really some incredible new technology, some incredible new biotech businesses. Um, Global pharma are not training people the way they used to. They’ve outsourced a lot of that. These smaller growing biotech businesses don’t feel they are in the position to train and develop people. So as a leader in staffing, I’m now seeing a diminishing pool of candidates. Um, Less and less employers willing to train and develop and to make that commitment. Um, which has then made the industry itself quite cutthroat. Um, it’s meant that we’ve got a lot of stability in companies because, um, every time somebody moves, they’re commanding a greater salary to move. Um, or they’re asking for a promotion and maybe that promotion is too early for their career development. Um, So I think we find ourselves at the moment globally within life sciences and a little of a turbine, and we’re about to go through another radical change with the development of AI that’s coming through and has been coming through the industry for several years. I. And again, around the AI piece, I understand fully how technology companies really engage deeply to get the best talent into their businesses. I’m not sure at the moment that the, um, MedTech industry. Are doing the same thing or as much to attract those incredibly gifted people into their businesses. And even if and can if, and they can do that, maybe the training and development isn’t there. Um, whereas the tech companies are, are really better down and making sure they get people through and they develop them. So I think we have some quite big challenges ahead of us as an industry and I think they’re going to grow year on year.

Naji Gehchan: So can we double click on the talent management in the era of, uh, ai? So you talked about talent management, um, globally and staffing. So if we go into this, Era of AI piece, uh, where do you see the challenges? So I love you linked also development, uh, developing people into practically even retention and helping people to grow and have a long career in a company and keep on building their, their capabilities. So where, where do you see AI getting in the way? Where, where is it, where are the challenges coming from in ai? Is it other companies hiring those talents and engineers and we’re not. Like, how, how do you see it?

Yvette Cleland: It’s, I, I, I think it’s a twofold problem. I think number one, the pharmaceutical industry really, and, and biopharma needs to look at how it is actually going to attract that talent in the first place because there are so many amazing technology companies. So that’s number one. Um, looking at that, then we have AI within staffing itself, and it’s a little bit to me, I’m not anti technology. I’ve seen what it is doing at the moment within drug development and some businesses, um, that. But I think where we’ve got a problem with, we’re always trying to get, um, technology to do a lot of the job that we should be doing. And I think one of the most personal things you can ever do, um, as a hiring manager or a business is, um, give people your time and your feedback if you’re trying to bring somebody into your business. And we as an industry tend to do everything we can possibly do. To not do that. Um, we put more and more barriers between ourselves and our hiring managers. Um, we. Sift cvs through technology. We, um, want chat boxes to go and speak to candidates. We want pre-assessment tools. Um, so every step of the way we’re sort of removing a little bit the humanity from that process. Now there are some really clever things, um, like applicant tracking systems. That can have bolt on products, um, that help you be expedient in terms of how you are hiring. Um, but then I want people to really sit back and think about what a candidate journey feels, feels like for another human being and what touch points you should have with that human being. Because you are in the most competitive market in the world for global talent in life sciences. And actually the effect, having the best talent available on the patient population is massive. So to me, let’s not, we, we don’t take the patient out of humanity. So let’s not take the one-to-one people connection out of our recruiting process. In fact, why not be really different and put more of the human into that? So I often get feedback from candidates that have been through an interview process, um, within the, in, within industry. And often they’re taking far too long, they’re not agile. So somebody has given up on some occasions, um, eight or nine hours of their time. They’ve had first interview, second interview. They have, um, spent time with your HR department. They’ve then maybe had a panel interview or gone and meet with six or seven different stakeholders. So they get to the end of that process and sometimes they don’t get offered the job. Oh, sorry, I’ve dropped my, um, so sometimes they don’t get offered the job, um, and they get no feedback. They get no feedback on their performance. Now the problem with that is that person that you turn, turn down on that day, a year later may be the perfect person for your job. Or they may be the brother or sister of somebody that’s perfect for. I think pharmaceuticals can often be a bit like a village. People talk about bad experiences and if you’ve given a candidate a bad experience, they will tell a lot of other people about that bad experience.

Naji Gehchan: I thi this is so important. I love how you frame that. Bring more humanity in our recruiting process. And certainly I’ve experienced it myself, hiring people, like giving feedback after, and sometimes before if we are actually not willing to have this person, you know, if they get into this process where they are presented to you and you just don’t go for it. I, it is just respect for people to take, to take the time to tell them, you know, because again, not Yeah. I, I totally agree on what you’re saying about this. If you. People you’re hiring for leadership positions in healthcare, uh, as, as you do frequently, what are the one or two top capabilities you would look for in those leaders?

Yvette Cleland: I’m gonna throw a little bit of a curve ball at you now ’cause I think there are two skills that we need moving forward into the future. Now, a resume is great at telling you what a person’s skill base is. Personal view of mine is the two most CRI critical competencies that will be needed in businesses moving forward will be an emotional quotient or emotional intelligence and critical thinking. We’ve got two things that are coming at us like a STEAM train at the moment. Number one is data. You have to have critical thinking. To really understand what data you do use, what’s important data, why it’s important, challenging that data. When I say challenging that data, you’ll have different stakeholders are looking at different pieces of data with their own motivation as to why something will or, or won’t be important to. So that sharp, decisive, critical thinking on balance, getting the tone right and, and being able to sort of negotiate in that field is going to be really important. And the other thing as well is emotional intelligence. Um, understanding what drives and motivates the team, particularly if that team is now less connected. Because we now live in a world where everybody wants work-life balance and hybrid working. They want, um, I, I don’t think the gig economy will affect the biopharm industry as much as it is other industries, but it’s definitely a pathway ahead of us at the moment. And I think emotional intelligence, um, you know, sometimes I’ll go on to a, a Zoom or. Meeting with a team member or a Microsoft teams meeting and I can see someone isn’t quite, um, happy. You can notice shoulders down, someone are not as quite as communicative. So sometimes we need to intervene because sometimes it can be lonely at home. Um, and people want that work life balance. But sometimes you need to create. Um, an environment that allows hybrid working and in team working and how you engage your teams and people knowing they’re not actually gonna have as much sort of touch time with you as they may have done in years gone by. So to me, um, and I do it now in all of my hiring, I don’t look at the person that’s joining the business today. I look at that person and think, what will they look like in two to three years time? Are they going to be somebody that can be in my leadership team? They’ve got to, um, be able to deal with a lot of data here now as well, um, in staffing. And they’ve gotta be able to read reports and, and know what to read from that report and what to share with a client and how to map a market. And they also have to work differently in, in a team remotely as well, and also in person, in offices. Um, and we’ve, we’ve seen people struggle coming back into offices after. It’s sort of forgetting really how to engage. Um, or, so here’s a primary one. I’ve had quite a few people come back into our offices and we’re, we’re a sales business. Um, and they don’t like noise. I’m sitting there thinking, oh my, but we are a noisy office. We’re full of people. We are vibrant, we’re full of life. But you’ve been used to working at home with no noise. And now you don’t like coming into this vibrant environment. So I think all those things, and I think exactly would translate to, um, a, a biopharma business or a medical technology business. These same things will, will transpire. So I think we just need a built in awareness around that. We need, um, people that understand people. And if you’re not a people understander, but you may be very gifted in other ways, we need to understand that too and how to accommodate that.

Naji Gehchan: This is so crucial. I totally relate to it. Right? Like and sometimes they are put one against the other, unfortunately, like it’s a people person or critical thinker, but actually it’s the combination of both that will make things work. Right. Especially for the teams and organizations to deliver.

Yvette Cleland: Yeah, absolutely.

Naji Gehchan: So Yvette, I’m gonna give you now a word and I want a reaction to it. So the first word I have is leadership.

Yvette Cleland: Okay. Um, emotional intelligence, vision and integrity. They’re the main things for me in leadership.

Naji Gehchan: What about women in life Sciences, glass Ceiling.

Yvette Cleland: Can you say more? I, I worked on a really, really senior role last year. I was approached by, um, I’m not gonna say who because of who they are, but it was big. And they came to me and asked me personally to recruit a highly significant role, um, within that trade body. And I hadn’t recruited myself for about 10 years. Um, and I was questioned when I did my final shortlist as to why it was all male and the majority of women that I approached for the role were either just quite not senior enough or didn’t feel they could compete within that’s sphere. And that made me quite sad. Um, I, I have met some of the most inspiring women, um, in life sciences I’ve ever come across. And my daughter works in technology and she also, um, has come across just some incredible, just incredible women. But I, when I went back and wrote the report, I wrote in the, I wrote a fully d n I report for the. Organization. Um, and, and I gave in-person commentary about what, how these women had responded to me and said, I, I don’t think that would be for me. I, I don’t think I would fit into that world. I’m not sure. Then a year later I had to recruit the role one below that, and for that I had a really diverse. Um, shortlist because there were more women at that level, more women prepared to go into that. So I think it’s a little bit industry and a little bit women. Um, if I approached you for that role, it was ’cause I felt you absolutely and utterly had the skills and competencies to nail that job. You should have had more faith in that. And number two, I did go to that organization with some slight curve or female candidates. Um, and they would, they, they wouldn’t look at them. So it was like, well, there you go. Um, I’m saying, this person has the future skills. You might need to spend 10% more time training them, but you’ll have a more diverse, you know, Application level for what you’re looking for. So, um, so that’s why I say glass ceiling, although I think we’ve come a very, very long way, a very long way from the years when I was in pharma.

Naji Gehchan: Sure. And, and I, I, I wanna double click on, on this piece, uh, especially, you know, your recruiting obviously diverse, uh, population and, um, and placing them in, in the industry. Um, We, we’ve seen, right, in research, like men would say they are more comfortable. Uh, they say they can do the job. Like, so how, how do you deal with this? ’cause the example you gave was women actually saying, no, this job is not for us. It’s higher. So, but probably it’s the same for men. They just came across more confident. So I’m interested as you go through those processes, how you make sure you’re taking those unconscious biases. That even the person doing the interview has in mind, like the glass ceiling is at the beginning within our heads, right? Not pushing us to go further. So how do you make sure you get into really those talents for you to push them to get placed in those roles?

Yvette Cleland: Sometimes I use my story because I never, ever, ever, Expected to be chief executive of a staffing business. Um, but no one ever told me I couldn’t. So may maybe I thought a little bit more like a man, I dunno, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that anymore, but I just never thought I couldn’t achieve something I didn’t expect to necessarily, but I never made the assumption I couldn’t. Um, and, and actually with one of the women, but I did speak to, um, I did go through that with her and she then did step up and say, do you know what? Then put me forward. I’m going to go for it. And I couldn’t then convince. To take her forward and allow her to compete alongside that panel, even if she hadn’t have gotten the role, it would’ve given her the confidence. Um, and there was an already really good shortlist there, so I think. Sometimes we have to realize we, we, we can sometimes achieve the impossible. I don’t know if it stems from, and maybe it will be different in the coming years because I think, um, when I think about my education, when I was younger and, um, and actually when I think about things like, um, when I first started in industry, men and women were paid differently for doing the same jobs. That happened to me. And when I went to HR and they said, well, he’s, he’s got a family to support. Well, I had a family to support. Uh, so that would never happen today. It, it just wouldn’t. And, and, and I shared this story recently on International Women’s Day, and there were gasps from the audience. Oh my God. You know, and somehow it

Naji Gehchan: happened. What, what, what wouldn’t happen is someone probably saying this to you, but unfortunately we still see discrepancies between pay. Even in large organizations between women and men, like we’re catching up, but we, we’ve all seen it.

Yvette Cleland: I think we, we have, um, and I don’t want anyone to think that women are wingy because we’re not. Um, but, um, You know, we, we get out there and do our bit and you know, um, fair pay is really important. Yeah. So the reason I bring that up, it’s not a wind, Ramone, the world has changed. The context of the world has changed. Um, put it this way, it may still happen in terms of there being some disparity, but nobody would would ever actually say to, or nowadays, I’m not paying you the same as your male equivalent because he’s bringing up a. Yeah, that, that wouldn’t happen anymore. Um, so we have moved on, but going back to the education system, I guess when I was a little girl, my head was programmed to be a certain thing or to go in a certain direction. Um, it’s not so much that I ripped the rule book up, but because no one ever told me I couldn’t do something, and actually one of my greatest advocates as, as a young woman going into leadership, I was actually a male that just always said to me, you can do what you want. Just get, just get out there and you know, you work so hard, you do this. So, um, The world has changed, but I think for, for certain women there is still that slight mindset. I know there’ve been quite a lot of, um, over the years research done around male and female graduates and how they approach things and their, their mindset around what they can do and what they can’t do. But those are quite, they’re relatively old pieces of research now. And I would imagine perhaps are young women graduates today. They have a slightly different mindset. They’ve been brought up in a different educational environment, a different world. Um, there, there’s just a, a different way of thinking now. So hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years we will see quite a shift. Um, But there’s always work to be done. So I always see myself really in a way, um, of, you know, wanting to go in and break those glass ceilings and, and why not? Uh, and why not share those experiences? If it only affects one woman that may not have thought she could do something, then my job’s done. I, I’m, I’m happy. So, yeah.

Naji Gehchan: Yes. What about Wake up call? I know you’ve, you talk about the skills gap in life sciences and that we should have this wake up goal, so I’m, I’m intrigued. Yeah. What are your thoughts?

Yvette Cleland: Like, um, I speak more to the industry than I do to the staffing industry, if that makes sense. So I’m more likely if I ever go and do a talk or if I’m, it will, and it will generally be on skill shortages. Um, and I’m gonna tell you, Something that I find so frustrating. Um, I, for the last seven or eight years have taught week in, week out, month in, month out about skill shortages. Um, and, and let me give you another example. This is quite UK centric, but we, um, I, I’m passionate, um, about diversity and inclusion and I include within that kids from maybe, um, A challenging background that maybe wouldn’t have gotten to go to university. And we in the UK have apprenticeship schemes and they’re degree based. We can take really talented youngsters gifted in science and put them through those programs. And if you are a c E O of a company and you ever want to really look at. What your property properly. Um, look at your ED and I program. If you just did that and nothing else, you would be bringing such a diverse, um, talented. Gifted, um, level of people into industry. Um, but employers don’t do it. So they talk a lot about skill shortages. I get a lot of inquiries about some of the things that we’ve done in, um, in, in engaging and training graduates. Um, and, and we’ve done that and paid for that and put the capital there to do that. Um, because we are passionate about it and we want give back, but I don’t see that coming from industry. Um, And if we don’t do it, and if we don’t seriously have that conversation. So every time I go and do a talk, I have an audience that’s nodding and agreeing and like, yes. Um, uh, and they walk out of that conference. So they walk out of that room and they never do anything about it. I get messages, you know, come and talk to me. I want to hear more about what you do. And I’ll try and call someone or message them. They never get back to me. I will always give my time. I’ve gone into schools, into universities. Um, we’ve developed award-winning programs to bring life sciences graduates and educate them into what the industry is actually about and then get them their first two industry role. Um, I’ve loaned my, um, IP to universities in the UK that are training, um, uh, apprenticeships. You know, we do a lot as an organization, but I do not see companies paying that back. They’re not, they’re outsourcing everything. They’re going to A C R O, they’re then expecting the c r O to train loads of people. But the truth is, the CROs can’t. They’re on thin margins to try and deliver work. They can’t. Blend into that. Lots and lots of training and development. Um, so again, we are fishing around in this same pool of candidates and we are not bringing into industry, um, enough new fresh talent. We’ve got. So many people that are going to retire in the next few years, and we just simply do not have the skilled workforce to, um, replace ’em. And then on top of that, we’ve got lots of new technologies coming down the road that we already don’t have the skills to do that. Um, and yet we’re not investing in that training and development. Pretty much every c e o that I’ve met from industry pays lip service to that. Um, and, and it really needs to get real. It really needs to get real. The four,

Naji Gehchan: uh, the fourth word is spread love in organizations.

Yvette Cleland: So, um, I think the greatest thing you can do in any business is be kind. Um, and that sounds a little bit oversimplified. Um, you can train, you can develop, and we do, we train and develop our people. We, um, we, we give them good work to do. We, you know, we pay good salaries, we pay good bonuses. Um, we offer, um, emotional support schemes for our staff because people sometimes sign themselves in difficult scenarios. But there’s one thing, everybody will wake up on a day and have a bad day, or they’ll have a tragedy in their life, or they’ll have something that happens where they need kindness. And for me, um, I won’t have anyone working with me that I don’t see that trait or that ability. I think it’s what sits at the heart of our business. Um, and we don’t always get that kindness payback, so we don’t do it. You know, it’s sometimes we’ve very kind to people and they let us down, but equally well, um, I’ve got a really strong, very long-term leadership group that, one of them has been with me 17, 18 years. The other’s eight, 10 years long, long time. And they’re good kind people. And my boss is a good, kind person. Um, and the business I am part of and the reason when it was acquired, we, we had quite a few people that wanted to buy our business. Um, and I went with C P L because. They’re good people. They’re kind people. They’re focused. When they say they’re a people business, they really mean it. So my c e o, Lorna, Is a really compassionate, kind, incredibly talented business leader. Oh. Um, and my, my direct boss as well, the person I deal with, um, globally for life science. Again, he is an incredible leader. Um, and I have that again in my leadership group, and I think that’s what retains a lot of our people. They know on a bad day we’re there for them and we do it with kindness and.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Yvette Cleland: Please, please start training people. Put a budget aside. Look at what you’re gonna need as a business in the next five to seven years. Programs in place. Go and partner with other businesses, even if they’re competitors with you. Get academies going get apprenticeships, schemes going, don’t talk. Pay at lip service, go and get some youngsters or maybe some older people that have got fantastic skills that you can transfer into your business or younger kids that maybe wouldn’t get the opportunity to go to university, but you could sponsor that for them. You wouldn’t just change that individual’s life could change their whole family’s life. Um, to do that, if you’re gonna do nothing else, just do that. Invest in. Proper training and development. Don’t always rely on outsourcing for everything

Naji Gehchan: It’s been a pleasure and honor to have you Yvette with me today. Thank you.

Yvette Cleland: Thank you so much for inviting me. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Take care.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to Spread Love and Organization’s podcast. More episodes summarizing the Boston Biotechnology Summit are available on spread love io.com or on your preferred podcast app. Follow spread love and organizations wherever you listen to podcasts and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement. Our world so desperately needs.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to SpreadLove in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

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