Post the virtual ceremony of the Asia Recruitment Awards 2020, Singapore, MSD’s Head of HR APAC, Noora Alsagoff shares her team’s winning strategy for the gold win in the Best Employer Branding category.

On 24 July 2020 where over 70 gold, silver, bronze and individual winners were crowned as top talent acquisition and recruitment teams and individuals across APAC, MSD was one of them.

In this interview, Noora reveals four pillars that are foundational to the organisation’s employer brand and culture in helping to unlock a strong competitive edge in the industry.

Q What is your organisation’s recruitment strategy, and how has it evolved in recent times? How does this agenda fit into the bigger HR priorities, and do you work closely with the CEO for this?

At MSD, the talent acquisition function is part of the HR organisation and collaborates closely with business leaders to ensure its priorities are always aligned with business needs.

Working within a fast-evolving healthcare landscape, with the need to embrace digitalisation across all parts of the company (particularly in commercial, data science, and research), our recruitment strategy has also evolved to focus on developing and acquiring talent with an array of skills that may not have existed just a few years ago.

Q Share with us your winning recruitment strategy. What were the key business drivers behind this strategy?

The competition for talent within the biopharmaceutical industry is a fierce one. At the same time, in our efforts towards digitalisation, we are also seeking candidates from diverse backgrounds in other industries to strengthen our talent pool.

We recognised the need for a unique and dynamic employer brand that could attract, not just candidates who already know who we are and what we do, but those who are not yet familiar with the strength of our brand in the biopharmaceutical industry.

Our winning employer brand strategy focused on:

  • The culture of our organisation as being inspiring, collaborative, diverse, and inclusive – and the tag line, 'Invent. Impact. Inspire.' was born. This tag line is used in our entire external employer branding communication globally.
  • Glocalisation, where the global employer brand could be adapted to the talent needs of a particular market. For example, if a market was in need of manufacturing talent, recruitment imagery would reflect engineering and quality assurance. If it needed research professionals, imagery would reflect people in lab coats.
  • A social media strategy that included sponsored posts with tailored content for targeted audiences.
  • Implementation of a new technology called Phenom People, a CRM platform that enables recruitment marketing and event management, AI-powered job search and a chatbot on our career websites, distribution to local job boards, and deep analytics to help us understand the impact of our efforts.

Q In what shape or form did you experience challenges, and how did you overcome them? 

In the biopharmaceutical industry, there’s a disconnect between demand for and supply of talent. It’s a candidate’s market, where skilled professionals have the liberty of choice and employers are under pressure to provide a truly differentiated employee experience in order to attract and retain top talent.

Through the articulation of our employer brand, 'Invent. Impact. Inspire.', we were able to shape our strategy and messaging around our values as a company – that only by focusing on patients first, will the profits follow. This strong sense of purpose proved to be a valuable proposition especially for early talent, who are seeking purpose in their career.

Q On to the most important part – results! How did you measure the ROI or milestones of this initiative?

The implementation of the Phenom People platform has provided us with the opportunity to study the behaviours of visitors to our career websites globally. Job seekers can also sign up for accounts to enable easier job applications on our platform; and we now have more than 130,000 candidates registered since the introduction of this platform in mid-2019.

We also have more than 1mn visits to our posted jobs, over 200,000 clicks to “apply”, and some half a million interactions with our chatbot.

More than just numbers, we’re most proud of the way we’ve been able to expand our reach to a diverse pool of talent from beyond the biopharmaceutical industry – which gives us greater opportunities to hire the best talent for the many exciting roles we have now and in the future.

Q What’s your secret to telling a great employer brand story? How closely do you work with your peers in marketing to bring this story to life?

We tell stories on social media from the perspectives of our leaders as well as colleagues across generations, tenures, levels, functions, and divisions. In this way, our audiences are able to get a real sense of the work environment in MSD, be inspired by the successful career journeys of our colleagues, and understand how we touch lives.

The talent acquisition team also works with a group of social media ambassadors across the region, who are empowered to amplify these stories to allow for greater reach to their networks.

Photo / Provided

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