SEC awarded prestigious bronze accreditation from IAOCR

IAOCR logo - with wordingSEC is proud and delighted to confirm it has obtained bronze Workforce Quality Accreditation status from the IAOCR, the accrediting organization for the international clinical research industry. SEC is the first supply chain recruitment business to receive the award globally.

Following an extensive consultation spanning 2016 and the beginning of 2017, including a rigorous process of staff interviews, focus groups and review of processes and documentation internally at SEC by the IAOCR assessors, bronze status was confirmed in March this year.

The Workforce Quality Accreditation was developed by the independent IAOCR in collaboration with industry experts in response to demand from clinical research organizations (CROs) and pharmaceutical companies. The Accreditation is a seven-step process that recognizes and awards globally consistent and transparent systems that have good workforce quality practices in place.

Speaking of the award, Chief Executive Stuart Britton said “We are absolutely delighted to be the first recruitment partner to have achieved this well recognised mark of distinction in the life sciences sector. The award of bronze status demonstrates our commitment to delivering extraordinary results for our customers through the highest professional standards.

But for us this is only the start of our journey. We want to keep demonstrating our level of professional expertise and the work to obtain silver status is already underway”

Jacqueline Johnson North, Chief Executive Officer of IAOCR, said “SEC is a great place to work – the company has a clear and consistent workforce strategy, ensuring that employees feel valued and fully engaged. SEC has achieved the Bronze Workforce Quality Accreditation and it’s clear their values are role modelled from the top. They have developed robust and innovative processes that enable success at an individual and organizational level.”

The IAOCR Workforce Quality Accreditation recognizes four levels of accreditation, including foundational elements of quality. These characteristics must be verified to achieve accreditation in the following order:

  • Foundation – Company has accurate job descriptions and employees have access to core training for technical skills required to conduct quality clinical research
  • Bronze – Company has a proven “red flag” system for identifying and addressing lack of competence in high risk areas as well as a robust and systematic performance management system for employees
  • Silver – Company demonstrates employee engagement is an organizational priority; vision, values, goals and objectives are communicated across the organization; and the company invests in developing role-appropriate skills.
  • Gold – Competence of employees is verified against core global standards and 100 percent of clinical operations personnel undergo independent competence assessments within 12 months of entering a new role.

Interested in working with SEC? Give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7255 6600 or email

Have we forgotten the basics of polite society? Part 2


We received quite a bit of feedback from the previous blog I wrote and so in response I thought I would follow up with a sequel. Everybody loves a good sequel, don’t they?

So have we forgotten the basics of polite society? Are there examples of where sometimes actions are considered common practice when they really shouldn’t be?

How about this for an example: would you sit at your desk and poke somebody in the eye? I would imagine the answer is “probably not”. That’s because it isn’t seen as socially acceptable. But if you put an umbrella in somebodies hand, then see them walk down the street with it held low nearly poking people’s eyes as they walk, it becomes a common occurrence that we see in every street across the land. Why?

How about that very well-known of irritants – road rage. Everybody gets it, there are times when you want to scream at others in other vehicles but having the virtue of patience is very valuable and although there are a small minority of people who are deliberately antagonistic, in 98% of instances the people who have genuinely made a mistake have done just that.

What if we all accepted the fact that people make mistakes in all aspects of our lives? I am not a better driver just because I’ve been driving for a long time (I’ll not show my age and tell you how long I’ve been driving though!) but because I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made. If we translate this in to a work context it can be frustrating if a work colleague makes a mistake, if they have a typo in a presentation, or if they forget to do a task that affects a client and causes a client to get annoyed. If we reacted in the same way to mistakes as we do when the red mist descends whilst driving then the working environment would look very differently. In management we encourage people to learn through making mistakes. We should in theory adopt the same basics of polite society we have in the workplace that we have in the rest of our lives (especially driving!).

Imagine how different the world would be if we were able to adopt the practices in the working world in to our own personal lives? Imagine if you were able to stop, take a breath, then acknowledge that people made mistakes whilst you were sat in your car? The world would certainly be a more positive place. People would react to challenges in a more composed manner. Just look at the recent horrifying situations we’ve been having here in the UK and the way our emergency services have reacted. The response of the public in the support, gratitude and sense of pride in the work they do has been overwhelming. People have been donating food, clothes, water to those affected and it really shows the power of human spirit and endeavour when you see people coming together to support each other.

Imagine a world that could permanently live by the standards of how we react when we as humans face adversity? Imagine if those principles that we have seen of late could be applied all of the time, in every aspect of life? As human beings we are generally good people who have the ability to demonstrate acts of kindness and thoughtfulness but perhaps we just need to show it a little more.

It is easy to adopt simple practices that seem insignificant but make a real positive impact. If I go back to a simple work-related example such as answering a colleagues telephone. For some people it isn’t their most favourite task but if they stop to take the time and acknowledge what is going on around them and picked up that phone they can have a big impact. That incoming call could be very time sensitive and by answering it that person could be helping a colleague to provide better customer service, make a client or candidate feel happier and impact a number of people’s days positively. If it is a challenging call, then taking action and apologising instantly if there is an issue, can have a massive impact even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Some of you reading this will be old enough to remember the sketch by Ben Elton about “gotta get a double seat” (on a train) on the TV programme Saturday Night Live. It’s a little old school now but very funny at the time. How many times have you got on a train and it’s busy if not packed and you see somebody with their bag across seats that could be taken by somebody else? And how irritating is that? It’s the same with people who sit next to you and believe the middle arm rest is theirs, playing elbow games with you, to which you want so desperately to react. But why? What will it achieve? Are they deliberately doing it? Have they had a bad day and are simply using this small pocket of time in which to vent some passive-aggressive behaviour? Now imagine you talk to that person, find out about them, get to know them and find out what kind of personality they are. You understand what their issues are and perhaps by talking to them you have been able to improve the atmosphere, maybe their mood, and you can both go about your lives in a better frame of mind.

Sometimes accepting that somebodies reaction to something you say or do can have a great impact on their lives can help to turn a situation in to a positive. If somebody makes a mistake how do you know that this person doesn’t have issues away from work that is affecting them? There are so many people who have unrelated difficulties away from work – some are carers for example. Perhaps they are having problems with personal relationships, or grieving, which is causing them to have problems that are translating in to their work lives. Understanding that they are human beings with a life outside of work and showing empathy and understanding as well as support can make a big difference. That level of commitment to a person shows how much they are valued and will also positively impact the way they perform in your business.

One good deed deserves another. I’m not exactly your ‘karma’ kind of person but why not apply this simple philosophy, if someone does something nice for you, just repeat it to someone else. I’ve asked the question as to whether we’ve forgotten the basics of polite society in two blogs now but I believe that there are ways in which we can all be reminded that we can all play our part in making the answer to that question a resounding ‘no’.


Overview of HEOR/market access – a consultant’s perspective

This is the latest in our series of industry sector blogs that we’re producing at SEC. Today’s blog features Benedetta Arinci, giving an insight in to the types of people who succeed in the HEOR/Market AccessBene 6_AllyBright industry.

Can you give us a brief overview of the types of roles you place?

The beauty of the Health Economics and Outcome Research (HEOR) / Market Access (MA) market is that if you ask ten ‘experts’ for a definition of the discipline, they will all tell you something different. What that means is that the roles that we work on vary from one company to another.

The HEOR/Pricing Reimbursement and Market Access (PRMA) positions we source for, funnily enough, are not focused on sales. Candidates are educated to post graduate level with most of them in a scientific discipline.

The Market Access function (that includes HEOR) is present throughout the life cycle of the product even if the core of its activities will be in Phase IIb and Phase III. The aim of the function is to successfully launch a product ensuring optimal price and reimbursement from the payer.

  1. In Pre-clinical/Phase I there would be some early pricing assessment, landscaping of the disease that is being studied and payer environment, etc. The role would be to establish if the molecule is commercially worth investing in.
  2. Phase II/III is mainly focused on evidence generation, payer early engagement, early pricing strategy, value messages testing and development of value propositions/dossiers and economic models.
  3. The end of Phase III and launch is focused on the finalising of pricing and access strategy, launch sequencing strategy, development of Health Technology Assessment (HTA) dossiers at county level, etc.
  4. After the launch the different HTA and reimbursement dossiers will need to be justified to those that pay for the product and there would typically be some commercial optimisation and uptake activities (value differentiation studies).

In HEOR and Market Access three quarters of the roles we work on come from organisations who provide consultancy services to pharmaceutical companies – CROs & smaller specialised consulting firms. The other quarter comes from the industry directly (pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and more recently medical devices companies). The distinction between the two is quite important and the responsibilities, for example of a health economist in consulting, will be very different from the responsibilities of a health economist in pharma.

The roles that we come across the most in consulting and pharma are:

In consulting:

  • Health economics modelling / Economic evaluation
  • Data synthesis and analysis – HEOR/RWE statistics
  • Evidence generation – Epidemiologists or Health Outcomes Specialists
  • PRO/ PCO – Patient-Reported Outcomes Scientist (Quantitative or Qualitative – could be two different roles)
  • Market Access Strategy / Payer strategy
  • Market Access Writing / Value Communication

In pharma/biotech’s:

  • At affiliate / country level:
    • Health Technology Assessment – Health Economist or HTA specialist
    • Value Demonstration
    • Governmental / Public affairs
  • National Pricing
  • At corporate / global level:
    • Health Economics modelling
    • HEOR Evidence Generation
    • Value Strategy
    • Product Launch

Depending on the company, its structure and therapeutic areas, there would be some mix and match and they will all have different titles.


Describe your ideal candidate – what do they look like?

In terms of skills, the ideal candidates vary depending on whether the client is from a consultancy/CRO background, or a pharmaceutical company background.

For consulting/CRO roles, we look for candidates who have been in touch with the client and can manage expectations, advise on best methodology/strategy and win more business. They need to be effective at managing projects and they need to have worked on the relevant deliverables (build Markov models from scratch from modelers, developed GVD/HTA dossier for value comms, etc).

For pharmaceutical companies it is about finding people who know how to interact, educate and negotiate with different stakeholders (internal and external), again have good project management skills, understand strategy and manage external consultants for the delivery of the different necessity tools. They need to have strong negotiation and presentation skills to represent the brand externally, whilst understanding the trends of the market with a local, regional or global scope.

A good candidate will also be somebody who has shown a level of stability in their career, but is ambitious and committed enough to want to drive their own personal aspirations forward. One interesting attribute is somebody with a good memory! We have people who have to balance a large number of projects, tasks and knowledge, so that is certainly something that comes in handy.

The way we like to work with all people at SEC is to treat them as we want to be treated, which is why for us any relationship we build – whether that’s candidate or employer focused – is based on the values of trust, honesty, integrity and commitment. If we give that to our candidates then we also find we get that in return. That’s why quite often we find that our candidates will eventually become our clients too, as we look to place roles for them.


What have you seen happening in the space in recent years and how will it be changing moving forward?

In the last 15 years Market Access went from a very marketing-centred discipline to a highly regulated one. Now HEOR/PRMA experts make up a more scientific element of the commercial team.

In Europe, as governments are struggling to reduce spending (but also in an effort to mitigate the postcode lottery i.e. access to the best drugs only in rich areas), a lot of guidelines and industry bodies have been put in place to ensure that the technologies they are paying for (reimbursing) are available to all nationally, as well as being cost-effective. This therefore creates a brand new kind of professional with matching training/degrees available in different universities.

The shift of focus to HEOR/Market Access has been quite spectacular. In the last five years alone we have seen a lot of “boutique”/ specialised consulting firms being purchased one after the other by the larger CROs, who have realised that they could not compete with them when trying to start a highly specialised department completely from scratch within their own business. So acquisition of these organisations by the bigger players was perhaps always natural.

Similarly, on the industry side we have seen pharmaceutical companies heavily invest in those business units, sometimes going from zero to ten team members in that very same time frame but still outsourcing a lot of the work to consulting.

The demand has therefore risen much faster than was possible to train the relevant candidates, making the recruitment of those specialists a real struggle, as the talent simple has not been in the market in the volumes needed. Within the next five years as more well-trained and experienced candidates become available, the pressure of recruiting good people will perhaps reduce slightly, but I believe that it will always be a candidate driven market due to the specialist nature and skills of the people that exist. Only time will tell.


Have we forgotten the basics of polite society?

shutterstock_politeLife moves fast. The proliferation of technology and of access to information has enabled millions of people to access resources that they never would have had a decade ago. People just accept that they can do things quicker. But there are times in which I think we need to appreciate that the human element of life can have a massive impact on the work environment.

Let’s look at emails. Meaning, intonation and genuine appreciation for a job well done can sometimes get lost with an email sent with a “thanks” in response. But if you take a scenario at work in which somebody is thankful for the job a colleague has completed that has benefited them, in which that person takes the time to thank them for their hard work in person and at their desk, how much more of a confidence boost can that be to the recipient of the appreciation?

But it doesn’t just have to be in a specific working context that you can give appreciation to your colleagues. Sometimes the simple things work. The traditional mantra of “dress for success” or “dressing for the job you want” is well used, but this isn’t just about getting the latest designer clothing, it should also be about being comfortable in who you are. Then, if you feel comfortable in who you are, you will naturally exude more confidence. Now think about that human interaction with a work colleague in which you’ve been complimented. How did it make you feel? Good I’ll bet. That person has taken the time to give you a boost and I’m sure it felt great. When was the last time you complimented somebody – a partner, a friend, a co-colleague, male or female? Or a piece of work they have done that stood out for you

We spend most of our adult lives in work and not everything is specifically related to the work we do, but some of the basics of life and interaction can have a massive impact on how we feel at work. That can also translate in to how effective and how efficient we are in the workplace.

It doesn’t just have to be in the working environment either, I hasten to add, because you can apply these same principles in life too. Smile more. Give your seat to somebody on a train. Keep the lift open for them when the doors are about to shut. I do that for people I see coming into the office. On one occasion a lady thanked me and told me I was the first person to ever hold that lift door for her. She told me it made her day. I felt good and she felt good.

There are so many ways in which you can help other people and the more you get the basics of polite society right, the more it filters into success in the working world because the values you hold as a human reflect your professional persona and ultimately your organisation’s persona. Especially in recruitment where your clients and candidates see you as the face of your companies brand.

In recruitment our values are a fundamental part of being successful. As recruiters we help people. We provide support to people when they are looking to change something in their lives. If we can do it in a way that gives them more confidence, more belief in what they are doing, then that will also help them to achieve what they want to achieve in life.

An SEC view on the regulatory affairs market

An experienced professional with over a decade of experience within the Life Science industry, Mark Wilkins gives uMark 1_Allys an insight in to the latest developments that he’s seen in his time talking to some of the biggest players in the field.

Give us a brief overview of the types of positions that you work on and the types of individuals you work with.

In my time working on this market, one of the things I have grown to love about it is the varying nature of the types of roles that exist. What I’ve certainly seen in my time is a large variety of senior roles, associate director positions and certainly there is always demand in CMC and clinical focused positions. Many of the pharmaceutical and biotech organisations we speak to want to focus on strategic positions and product life cycle development but what struck me when I started working in to this market was the sheer variety and depth of knowledge of the people I spoke to. The types of people I speak to on a daily basis sometimes have anything from five to 30 years’ experience and the demand for this type of knowledge and skill set is massive. The types of roles we have vary from local to global level. .

Where do you see demand from employers you currently work with?

We have had plenty of demand from big pharma and our client base is growing, but what we’ve started to see – and where I certainly think the market is moving – is towards smaller/medium biotech’s. We’ve also seen an increase in demand from consultancy companies too. That is certainly where our focus is at the moment. These types of smaller agencies also generate interest because they can be really interesting places to work. They produce interesting products and that’s where a lot of candidates are looking at too.

What does the perfect candidate look like to a lot of the employers you work with?

Authors and writers of clinical trial applications, or marketing authorisation applications, with line management experience. They would have operational skills with global experience too. Employers are often looking for people who have experience in delivering strategy and if you have a big pharma background then you would definitely be in demand. If the person has worked for a consultancy, then that’s fantastic, but the biggest area of demand for talent that I’ve seen is Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Products  (ATMP), which includes the biologics. If you have that type of experience in the market then you will be a very sought after person and I’d definitely like to talk to you! Either from a CMC or clinical perspective. Biotherapy is also an area where there is plenty of demand for.

What’s your experience of good candidates in the regulatory affairs market?

People working in the regulatory space are very outgoing. They are incredibly intelligent and are rarely introverted. The best candidates are fantastic negotiators – which you’d expect given that they have to deal with health authorities – and they always have personality. Some can be very technical, like the CMC guys you talk to, but all are very personable people.

What does the regulatory affairs market look like in ten years’ time?

That’s a very difficult one to predict. There’s no doubt the biotech revolution is happening, the med device revolution is happening, which is where the regs market will be. The world is becoming more regulated and we’ll need more experts to be part of that. These people will be at the forefront of making sure that medical devices, and biologics are safe. Medicine is becoming more personalised and the revolution of DNA profiling for medicine is something that is not inconceivable in the distant future. From a regulatory affairs perspective, the future is certainly looking bright.

SEC and me – six months after joining

Laure Desplats, one of SEC’s Academy graduates from 2016, discusses her last six months at SEC and what she has learLaure 2ned.

Freshly graduated from Kedge business school in France, I decided to take the opportunity to start my career in recruitment abroad, and with the UK labour market being such an interesting one it seemed like a natural choice.

Why recruitment? Simply because I had the feeling that it was made for me. It is the perfect combination between the commercial field and human interaction which fits with my personal characteristics: I am a good listener, I love building rapport and I like helping people. And as the old adage goes, people buy from people, which is something that is certainly true and I certainly would agree with!

Where? I decided to focus my research in London because it’s a multicultural city were people are open-minded. I already had an experience in this city and my aim was to spend more time living there.

The real challenge was to find a company which has the same values as I do.

When? I applied for SEC the week after graduating and I received a call from Shefika who is part of the Talent Team. We had a really constructive conversation about my expectations, what SEC was like to work in as a company, the culture of the organisation and the values that SEC hold important to them.

It seemed that this company was perfect for what I was looking for. The recruitment process was professional and efficient and my expectations were managed throughout. In two weeks I had one interview on the phone, one face-to-face and a skype interview. It was clear that SEC really was a company that does exactly what it says. I was told about the multicultural nature of the business; something that I have learned well enough now being not the only French person here, but also part of a team that collectively speaks over 20 languages. The interview process was great and welcoming and if I was to give anybody advice if they were applying for a role here at SEC, it would be to be yourself. Don’t be afraid about what you should say or not. SEC likes different people and everyone is unique. But they also have a transparent approach to their interview process and for that I was really grateful. It doesn’t take long before you learn that the values of trust, honesty, integrity and commitment really are adhered to throughout the organisation. If you hold those values dear, then you will fit right in at SEC, that’s for sure.

So I had the job offer confirmed, my travel booked, so adventure could really start…

I arrived in London one day before I joined SEC. I knew that I had training for four weeks with the new SEC academy process and I was excited. I arrived at the same time as four others colleagues and that was nice as I didn’t feel like I was the only new person. That certainly makes you feel more at ease. The academy was really useful for me for many reasons: I got really good tips from experienced people in the company, I learnt how to deal with candidates and clients, I learnt how to perform business development and how to get results and I realised what are the main difficulties of my market. Almost immediately I gained valuable skills and couldn’t wait to get started.

We also had some team time to develop our own market knowledge and get used to work with our team, which I thought was an invaluable experience and one that I wouldn’t have changed at all.

In a few words: The academy is – for me – the best way to join a company.

After four weeks of training I officially joined my desk and my team to apply the knowledge I gained during training. Every market has his own challenges, but joining in the contract team I had a team leader in Ollie – who had great experience and has supported me throughout my time. My main challenge was to develop the European market for contract regulatory affairs positions and armed with all of the skills to be a good recruiter thanks to the academy, it was now just down to getting to grips with the market.

How? By expanding my network, spending time to create relationships with candidates, as well as building rapport with clients. My challenge was to understand where the needs come from and ensure use of the internal database to track everything.

The best way to learn is by asking questions to your manager and candidates. You learn so much quicker that way. Your manager will help you to grow up in the company and you need to be able to rely on them and support them in every possible way and in return, you get the same support back, which is great.

I would also say that being proactive is one of the secrets to success. I find it’s better to ask questions rather than hesitating.

I learnt a lot since I joined my team from every conversation and every call. I try to make sure that every call makes me progress to the next step and has a positive effect. I keep learning every day. It’s important to be perseverant and keep your long term objectives in mind.

SEC is a European company with employees from different countries. I was and I am still impressed by the openness of people in the company. It reflects perfectly the mentality I loved when I first came in London. They are all happy to share tips and willing to give advice at any time. If you want to work in recruitment, I would highly recommend SEC.


Are you missing out on skills? Embracing the gig economy

IKerry Bambrick-Sattar SECn the last blog, I wrote I discussed the balance of bringing in new talent, how to approach their development in a way that increases their competence in the role, giving confidence and adding value to your customers, but also allowing them a blended programme offering continuous, professional development.

Today I want to focus on this concept of the ‘gig economy’, because it’s a fascinating topic that I think is certainly very pertinent to today’s life sciences market.

Pharmaceutical companies, CRO’s, CMO’s and Biotech’s continue to invest heavily in technology to enable them to accelerate the time it takes to bring drugs to the market. They continue to use technology innovatively to enable them to connect with patients, collate data to support clinical trials and research, deliver on drug efficacy, as well as understand patient compliance, however, they should also be future proofing themselves and ensuring that they are harnessing the skills needed for operating future technology. Furthermore, we need to be mindful of how technology will play a part in how the industry will engage and attract the skills of tomorrow.

That’s where the gig economy comes in. The types of jobs and the skills needed will always evolve. That’s the nature of the jobs market and the pharmaceutical industry needs to be able to adapt to this.  As organisations consider the career pathways of the next generation I think it’s fair to say we won’t be drawing any straight lines between the roles of now with the roles of 20 years’ time. Likewise, the career pathway we try to draw may look more like a set of alternative routes with the occasional bridge. Year on year evidence shows us people are becoming self-employed and engaging in the agile “gig” market.

Our organisations’ HR departments are still battling one of the top three CEO’s issues:

  • The challenge of a lack of skills – now we need to add how to navigate the landscape changes of less full time workers
  • Bringing in the necessary skills through contingent labour – as people opt for self-employment
  • Freelance work – working remotely with virtual teams around the globe to complete projects or deliver services.

Bidding for projects is not a new concept, there are also several digital work platforms that have been successfully operating for many years now, and their growth will be significant but it’s not a built-in process for many companies and even fewer companies have it as part of their talent management strategy.

You could define the gig economy as a virtual shopping mall for services. It has taken some bad press in recent months with MPs in the Work and Pensions Select Committee calling for an end to ‘bogus self-employment’ practices in its latest report on self-employment. But the gig economy it is but it is set to stay and currently there are five million people,15% of the labour force in the UK that are now self-employed. The government proposals to increase NI is already seeing the tax short fall brought about by a rise in self -employed individuals, but with an equal access to the new state pension, this gives some indication that this way of working is set to rise with the tax system adjusting accordingly.

This shift in the way people work is not just isolated to the UK though. In April 2017, The Committee on Labour and Social Affairs made changes to the Germany Employee Leasing Act, stipulating that temporary workers may only be used for 18 months at a client company in the future (unless a collective agreement governs a longer duration of use). They should also receive the same wages as the permanent staff after nine months. Temporary employment in France grew by 8.2% in March compared to last year, according to data from Prism’Emploi, the French association of employment agencies, and temporary employment grew in middle management and professionals (11.8%) while skilled workers grew by 10.9%. This is a global shift in the way a generation of people think and how they interact with the world of work.

So, what does the employment landscape look like for the future? Well, quite simply, individuals are looking for flexibility in how, where and who they work with. They what to take accountability and self-direct their pay, holidays and being involved in work that interests them. Every business needs to take this in to account and needs to ask itself questions about how it is going to attract the best people and evolve in the gig economy landscape.

You could do worse than add the gig economy to your board agenda, start considering how your internal talent acquisition team or HR team will operate in a way that gives you access to skills your organisation could be missing out on in the future if you are not set up to accommodate these innovative approaches to careers. Understanding the skills needed now and for the future will help in the process for what your company needs to action in the short, medium and long term. How you might be supporting that early talent you have invested in another decade and how you engage with them now on career planning can influence how you access their knowledge and skills in the future.

Equally important is to be able to demonstrate your ability as an organisation to tap into this talent but ensure you are responsible in your approach to reward, individuals wellbeing and not to be avoiding employer responsibilities when it comes to social welfare and taxation.

At SEC We’ve been working with contingent labour for over 30 years. Our contracting care programmes allow individuals to dictate their working hours, projects of interest and we as a company realise the importance of how we need to change what we do to support our freelance base in accessing our client’s opportunities. As we embrace the gig economy, we understand the need for talent brokerage through digital platforms, smart phones becoming smarter, apps and modern technology we don’t even know about yet.

In our next blog, we will look at how artificial intelligence will further change the working landscape and its impact on the people element of life sciences industry.

For more information on your talent management strategy give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7255 6600.





It’s not what’s on your desk on the first day, it’s the people every day

its the people blogI do let out a little chuckle when I see pictures on social media channels which appear to show a new starters first day. Is there a t-shirt with a corporate logo? Is there a brand new top-of-the-line mobile phone? An iPad? A box of chocolates? A branded mug? An inspirational quote to start you off on your new career of success?

I’m not against welcoming people and making them feel happy and excited about their new world of work. Indeed, everyone should have the excitement of what it feels like to be starting a new life adventure, but I guess what I’m really getting at here is the materialistic element of when I see somebody taking a picture of their new desk with a whole bag of goodies on. But also I think this misses one of the most fundamental parts of joining a new company:

The people.

It is your new work colleagues who will shape and frame what your working life will be like. It is the way you are treated as an employee by your line manager, senior management, colleagues, direct reports and other peers in different departments. If you find an organisation where you have a collective of people who care about the job they do but also care about being a team together and sharing successes together, then all of the paraphernalia on the planet isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference if it’s sat on your desk on the first day. These items are just hygiene factors. They don’t determine how you will feel in six months’ time. They don’t even determine how you will feel in a week. They are the ‘here and now’. But in a week’s time, or a month’s time, if you are in an office environment that has people in it who seem to genuinely care about helping you succeed, then I bet you’d trade in your branded merchandise in a heartbeat.

We run an annual employee engagement survey at SEC and one of the most pleasing elements for me when I read the 2016 results at the beginning of 2017, was from some of the staff who gave comments about how there is a very good peer-to-peer support network in our office. To me that is so important. You should always expect guidance and direction from your line manager or those in strategic positions setting the vision and direction of the company, but without peer-to-peer support that you can call on when you have something that you don’t think you can discuss with your manager or anybody in a more senior position, you need to know that you have people who will help you.

That kind of environment is invaluable. It creates a real ‘family’ feel to a workplace and given the choice I would always choose that over a branded item that is sat on my desk with a note saying ‘welcome to the team. Now get to work!’.

If you work at SEC you’ll be given the support network you need to succeed and what will underpin that will be our values – trust, honesty, integrity and commitment. You can ask any of the team about these values and what they mean to them as an individual, but I always keep my door open, because I want everyone in the organisation I run to feel that they can speak about whatever they wish.


Fancy talking to us about what it’s like to work at SEC? Maybe you’d like to join?

Give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7255 6677 or email

Show people your commitment to professionalism at every opportunity

David BDavid Buist, Operations Director at SEC, gives an insight in to why we took the decision to go through the bronze Work Quality Accreditation (WQA). 

As a business, we are always trying to demonstrate to our clients and candidates – that what we do at SEC is different. With over 55 experienced consultants who come from a plethora of different countries and collectively speak over 20 languages. It’s a real mixture of people giving us a wide and diverse communication network, something we are proud of. We’re proud enough to focus on that with whoever we work with, but we’re also very proud of our service offering, because we like to think that we’re always striving to demonstrate the highest level of professionalism within the life sciences industry.

As members of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and we can say that we take our membership and the Code of Conduct very seriously. This is one way of giving peace of mind to the clients that are current or future clients working with SEC. But in the spirit of our desire to consistently improve our offering, we have spent quite some time also reviewing ways in which we can demonstrate the next level of compliance in the clinical research industry. In 2015 we began talking to the International Accrediting Organisation for Clinical Research (IAOCR) and after several discussions it became clear that we had an opportunity to show our stakeholders that we could demonstrate our quality in the life sciences space, as well as from a recruitment industry perspective.

As a result, we began the process of the application for the Workforce Quality Accreditation (WQA). The WQA is a business improvement methodology that has been principally developed to assist clinical research organisations across the globe by helping to drive up quality standards. It was designed in collaboration with sponsor organisations and CROs to address workplace quality issues specific to the industry sector. It also provides an opportunity to gain an accreditation by demonstrating the commitment to ensuring that human factors are aligned with technology, processes and procedures which a methodology close to the heart of SEC.Print

To achieve the bronze WQA we had to go far deeper than a tick-box exercise. The review process prompted a forensic review of each element of our structure, processes and day-to-day activities in a way that ensures that we continually add value to our people and our clients. The overall aim of the process is to help drive business improvements that are embedded and stand the test of time, something that we have been focused on for many years and will continue to do so as our business evolves alongside our clients.

We were delighted to achieve Bronze Accreditation in March this year demonstrating that we have started on a journey that will only benefit all the individuals and businesses that we work with.

We are committed to providing the highest quality recruitment services to our clients through an exceptionally well-trained, competent and passionate team. As the first supply chain company to attain this accreditation, it helps to validate our approach to ensuring a high-quality service is provided and further demonstrates to our clients that they are engaged with a company that sets the standard for building and maintaining long term relationships.

But we aren’t resting on our laurels. We are already working on the silver Workforce Quality Accreditation (WQA) and aim to achieve it later on this year as continuous improvement is about constantly looking at our processes and finding ways in which we can get better and deliver more value to our clients.


Inspiring stories from our Charity of the Year

We’ve already heard some great stories about Thames Hospice at SEC, but we wanted to share some with you, which is why we’ve got a special guest blog today from one of the team at the Hospice. Jacquie Batchford, Director of Patient and Family Services, has kindly written a piece about her experience of working at Thames Hospice.


I started working at Thames Hospice in 2000 as a Staff Nurse, then moved from Inpatient Unit Sister to Practice Educator and Head of Clinical Services, before taking on my current role as Director of Patient and Family Services.JacquieB - Thames Hospice blogger low res

My very first clinical job was in the NHS, caring for patients undergoing bone marrow transplants, and then I spent a year at the Royal Marsden qualifying in cancer care. I went on to spend eight years working at Mount Vernon Hospital on an acute oncology ward, and progressed to Senior Sister – managing a 27-bed ward. We gave curative and palliative treatments, but also cared for some patients at the end of their lives. I then became a Lecturer Practitioner across the acute trust and local university – responsible for the education strategy. I had found a love for palliative care but missed the patient contact, so took the decision to move organisations and that was how I found my way to hospice care.

I love working in a small organisation where I can still have patient contact and know the staff delivering the care. Within a week of starting at the Hospice, I understood the differences between a hospice and a hospital. There are different pressures in the NHS, but at the hospice I love the fact that staff are encouraged to spend time with patients and that families and loved ones are cared for too.

I have worked at the Hospice for 17 years and, although there have been many changes, there has been one consistent theme – that the person receiving our care is always the most important person.

I am amazed by the bravery of our patients and families in the most difficult of times. The patients all know they have an incurable condition, as do their families, and they face this in their own ways with individual care from us. The common theme is the bravery of facing saying goodbye to each other; I do not know if I would have the courage to face this as they do.

The staff make me proud every day. They connect with everyone who uses our services on a fundamental human level. They share laughter and fun with the patients and families – they help people to live the best they can and enjoy moments of joy and happiness amongst their sadness. The nurses, doctors and all patient-facing staff inspire me to do better in my job, to be the best I can be for them.

Importantly, our supporters and donors inspire me with the lengths they are willing to go to support us. Teams like SEC Recruitment, who dedicate their time to fundraising and awareness building in and outside of working hours, as well as so generously supporting us with donations.

This support is vital in helping us continue to deliver our inpatient, outpatient and community services – from respite for patients and carers, to pain and symptom control, therapy sessions and end of life-care. Looking after families after a bereavement is so important and I really like our Time to Remember and Light up a Life services, which allow families to come back to the Hospice, remember their loved ones and meet with staff again. These events create a special place for loved ones to take time out to really value their memories of the person who has died.

We aim to give families the best memories possible of a very difficult time and we are introducing new ways of doing this. This year, we will allow patients and/or their loved ones to record videos, make memory boxes or write letters to one another with the support of our staff.

Celebrating life and ensuring the people in our care have quality of life no matter their condition, is our vision. To help achieve this, we hold Hospice events throughout the year, including Mother’s Day Teas, screening Wimbledon and Christmas carols. We also help those in our care to achieve special wishes or celebrate milestones. We’ve organised weddings, a New Year party, celebrated Christmas in November and recently arranged a 60th Wedding Anniversary – we even welcomed a patient’s horse into the Hospice gardens, so they could say one last goodbye. We will do whatever possible to bring comfort to those facing a life-limiting illness. This also includes offering bespoke, individual care to children losing a parent, and counselling, social work and emotional and spiritual support for all of the people we see.

Every month, that is more than 700 people across the Hospice and in our community. At the moment, we only have 17 beds at the Hospice and every day, there are more than 10 people waiting for one of those beds. Therefore, we are privileged to have secured the option to purchase land to enable us to build a new 28-bed, purpose-built, hospice in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

We submitted planning permission in March and plan to build a facility which we know will be better for patients, but also help relieve the pressure on local hospitals. This will offer far greater facilities for our patients attending for the day or visiting us for a specific treatment. Included in the plans is a community hub, with therapy rooms, a beautiful space for patients and families to relax, a gym and a large bathroom with a top-of-the-range Jacuzzi bath for patients that cannot get into a bath at home.

As experts in the palliative and end-of-life care field, an important part of our work is also education and training. So we hope to build an education centre, with the space and equipment to increase training, not only for our own staff but for external staff from care homes, hospitals and other care facilities.

Achieving our dream means that we can see more patients in a better environment, but with the same extremely high quality care. We are so grateful for your support in helping us achieve this.

Aligning the talent model to fit your strategy

happy peopleAs somebody who has worked for a variety of different organisations in the life sciences industry, my experience to date has allowed me to be in positions of either acquiring talent or building talent pools for organisations. It has always been great to get exposure to different cultures, sizes of organisations and the adoption of differing approaches to managing a company’s own talent / people strategy. For most employers the central premise when it comes to people retention is succession planning, ensuring that key talent is identified and nurtured from an early stage. But as with all commercial entities, there is always a balance to be struck, because there is always a need to demonstrate value to clients right from the word go.

It’s a real challenge because from a hiring perspective every organisation wants to ensure the success of its future by nurturing talent. But what do you do if your client is looking for immediate results and struggles to see the value of a proportion of the team you have working with them being inexperienced?  In particular how do CROs and CSO’s convince their customers that this can help their business?

It’s a tough sell. But it is a sell that needs to happen nonetheless. How can you bring through the next generation of talent without exposing them towards projects at some stage?

Investing in training and developing somebody with a view to them delivering ROI within three to six months represents a number of risks, including impact on  quality, time, efficiency and costs of rework. In addition the sponsoring company wants assurance that its project is not going to be the training ground for the CRO/CSO. If a company cannot charge for an individual’s time until six months into a project, that affects the productivity levels of your business, which in turn can lead to internal pressures on costs and resources.

However, risk is always going to be a factor when companies invest in new talent. How much risk is associated with an individual going into your clients’ offices and working on projects, if they are relatively new to the industry themselves? That’s where effectively designed training programs and accrediting organisations can be so valuable because they train to and measure competencies of individuals on set criteria. This ensures that when somebody works on a specific project, they have a set standard with which to work towards, giving the client the reassurance that they need. Having a robust auditing process also mitigates the risk towards sponsor companies because they know that a certain standard of accreditation has been adhered to. We all are aware that the number of years’ experience does not always equate to levels of competence.

Therefore your talent model – in my experience – is always about balance. You can never have a perfect scenario and you always have to make trade-offs. So finding the balance between bringing on board new talent and delivering ROI from day one to the client need to be managed properly.

The life sciences industry continues to evolve rapidly and most skill sets are in  high demand. Companies have to grow their own talent on a continuous basis and this is costly and resource intensive. One of the frustrations for companies is with the delay on project delivery as they try to acquire the perfect skill set externally. Do you invest more in talent acquisition or in your L&D department? These are the real pressures that hiring managers within CRO / CSO organisations face continually.

But it’s about more than just managing risk and being able to charge customers for your early talent, it’s also about the competition and ensuring your early talent feels invested in, getting the initial entry into the company right is essential in developing greater loyalty to your business. Early entrants who are put through a mixture of on-the-job, blended training with opportunities for peer relationships to thrive as well as mentoring can allow individuals to grow and develop at the right pace. ‘Boot camp’ scenarios are always a great way to embed those peer relationships and the benefits last for years. From experience, some of my best life friends come from my Airforce training days, large numbers of people having to learn to live and work collaboratively for the greater good.

The alternative is being thrown into a role in which they are expected to deliver immediately after an initial process, but the training process is longer as a result, it helps neither the hiring organisation or the employee.

So why is an effective partnership with a recruitment provider valuable? Recruitment companies get deep into market insights to support business decisions on a number of talent based decisions, including where companies should be investing in early talent programs. The experienced contracted workforce that you engage could be providing additional value to your early talent programs (through mentorship to complement the training and development process through and can even support onboarding activities).

But you have to find the right partner. It’s something I spent a lot of time analysing when I operated on the other side of the fence. I needed to work with a partner who would listen to me, understand the needs of my business, then offer both long and short term solutions. Your talent management strategy should involve a partner who can provide you with the support you need to upskill and develop your rising stars. If you’re working with a recruitment partner who can  support more than transactional filling of roles and that helps you to build in a plan of people development (which could involve contractors who could come in and mentor the talent that a business wants to invest in for the future), then you know that you have found a business-to-business relationship that is most interested in making your organisation successful, not just lining its own pockets.

Alternatively, running a graduate scheme through your recruitment provider, whilst they are learning and developing whilst employed by the recruitment business, mitigates any risks or perceived costs before your new talent can be integrated in to the business as a billable employee.

We’re always happy to discuss options available to CROs, CSOs, pharmaceutical and biotechs, so if you want to discuss about how SEC could support, call me on +44 (0) 207 255 6600 or email me at