"The Great Exodus"- so apocalyptically dubbed - refers to the inflation in numbers of professionals resigning from their roles following the COVID19 pandemic. Like rats leaving a sinking ship, the pandemic had an unprecedented effect on British business, with entire workforces having to adapt to new rules and regulations. Unlike other industries however, the healthcare communications sector thrived throughout 2020 and 2021, as influxes of pharmaceutical funding was flooded into vaccine development, production and implementation.
The spike in resignations identified during and immediately after the Covid19 pandemic has retreated back to it's pre-pandemic levels. How has the "great exodus" impacted healthcare communications as a sector. And, given the sector's consistent ability to revolutionise during periods of uncertainty, can healthcare communications as effectively mediate the negative impacts of stagnation in the same way it has mass-mobilisation?
Effects on the Healthcare Communications Sector
Economists attribute the decrease in the number of resignations across businesses to the economic uncertainty that so many of us currently face. Whilst the pandemic forced change onto many working professionals - for better or for worse - the healthcare communications sector was not as impacted as other markets. Healthcare agencies have embraced hybrid and remote work across all levels long before the pandemic, so the overall shift to work-from-home across UK businesses did not uproot a sector already founded in flexibility. As well as this, healthcare was a good industry to be associated with, as whilst other sectors declined and furloughed large percentages of their workforce, the need for continued innovation and development in pharmaceuticals and medical devices ensured the stability of agencies associated with these key clients.
Fight, Flight or Freeze?
However, whilst the UK has slowly recovered from the pandemic itself, it's clear that the economic impacts continue to effect British business. The aforementioned influx of funding into pharma has since been scaled back, and as a result agencies are looking for new ways to be more cost-effective, dissolving teams and redistributing existing talent. This overall sense of uncertainty has likely resulted in the stagnation of career moves and resignations, as even those unhappy in their current roles or who would ordinarily be considering the next step in their career are instead prioritising the stability that their current role provides. As long as they feel that their role is secure within their current agency, many candidates are less likely to risk the move to somewhere new when there are consistent changes within the sector spurred on by economic hardship.
Staying Put: Tactical or Not?
As reported by the BBC, uncertainty is not the only factor that should be taken into account across UK businesses in general. Rather, Julia Pollak (Chief Economist at jobs site ZipRecruiter) attributes a percentage of the stagnation to how the pandemic has changed the way many people work by normalising remote/hybrid working and greater flexibility. As emphasised previously, however, the healthcare communications sector has long been ahead of the curve in offering more flexibility. As such, can we truly draw parallels between the stagnation within the healthcare communications market and that within the general UK market when it comes to how talent have reacted to hybrid work?
Investment and Brand Awareness
A more relevant question to our healthcare communications network might be how has pharmaceutical investment changed since the pandemic, and where does that leave communications agencies? Though we can identify that the spike in funding during the pandemic (the life sciences industry received nearly half a billion pounds in investment in 2021) was anomalous in comparison to the decrease in investment across the last ten years, one perspective rarely considered is how the pandemic has affected healthcare communications from a marketing perspective. Whilst the "great exodus" across UK markets has been largely halted due to overall uncertainty, is it possible to attribute the lack of mobility in the healthcare communications sector to a more positive factor?
The continuous news coverage provided by the British Press in the height of the pandemic (with near hourly news updates) resulted in pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and AstraZeneca becoming household names; people with no association to the healthcare market were now realising that their COVID 19 vaccination was produced by the same company that made their antihistamines or SSRIs. In many ways, this mass publicity could be seen to have resulted in a broadening audience for healthcare communications agencies who now had an increased level of brand awareness for their clients within the British public.
Whilst economic commentators are comfortable saying that the period of "great resignation" is over, it is worth noting that trend of mass quitting coming to an end is not felt within every sector. Klotz, when interviewed by the BBC regarding the shift, identified that "healthcare...resignation rates are well above 2019 levels", going onto state "there's probably going to people who are leading healthcare organisations who are still struggling to find workers or with high turnover."
The one saving-grace, if you can call it that, of an economic dip is that it often acts as an airbag for talent hurtling towards handing their notice in, but in healthcare communications, a consistently high staff turnover comparative to other sectors in the UK market indicates that- despite the UK's economic status, healthcare communications professionals are still staying in their roles for less time.
Mobility isn't bad
Whilst high-staff turnover is rarely a good look for agencies, general talent mobility is not a bad thing, as roles are consistently opening up for those who have been impacted or felt previously discouraged to consider making a move due to the ongoing economic crisis. As we've articulated before, the healthcare communications sector's ability to evolve is one of it's greatest assets, and continued innovation results in new roles, creative campaigns and scientific goals going live every day. Though agencies with a high-staff turnover will no doubt suffer the anxiety of this increased mobilisation, the reality is that top talent will no longer sit and wait for the role their in the become better, but will actively search for a role that offers them the change and trajectory they have been waiting for.
As a result, it's no wonder why the healthcare sector has stood out from the crowd during the resignation-spate wind down; for a sector that embraces change, and does it well, there's no time like the present.