TCR² lauds positive work culture to overcome staff bottlenecks

T-cell receptor firm TCR² Therapeutics told delegates at Advanced Therapies Europe it is key to embed culture into your employees to attract and retain talent in the life science space.

Angela Justice, chief people officer at TCR², told attendees that the key three ways to scale your culture lie in “anchor[ing] your culture through the employee life cycle, focus[ing] on retention, and find[ing] your force multipliers.’

Justice noted that a challenge of anchoring culture typically derives from the values of a company remaining inside the handbooks and on the walls, rather than the firm being “intentional about defining the values and recognizing that values are action granted and behavioral.”

Angela Justice at Advanced Therapies Europe 2022

While there is a general consensus among professionals that the amount of talent coming through is not reflective of the huge investment in capacity being seen across the life sciences industry, TCR² said that you have to be clear about what you want “when you’re recruiting and define what matters to you, what you are looking for, and not just on a technical side but on a behavioral side.”

Justice added: “this isn’t always easy, but one of our competencies is [looking for] emotional intelligence” in candidates.

An integral part of this, according to Justice, is not just to look for people who have the technical requirements that fit the role but also that they have emotional intelligence where TCR2 can then train them “on the technical work side of things” instead of “bring[ing] in someone toxic inside the organization” on the basis that can only provide the technical skills.

Retention

Once you have managed to fill the open position at the company, you then have to ask yourself “how do you keep them?” says Justice.

With high competition in the sector, Justice told the audience that “turnover has gone up since the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to keep rising.” To deal with this, it is important to begin questioning why people are leaving and realize that despite there being “lots of reasons why people leave, we do have control over why people stay.”

With this in mind, TCR2 employs the embeddedness theory, which Justice said speaks to what keeps an individual connected to the organization. This can be sectioned into three parts:

  • Fit – The individual job aligning with individual values
  • Links Workplace friends
  • Sacrifice – The amount of disruption an employee would feel if they were to leave

Justice claims if a company is to deeply embed employees into the three principles, it will make it hard for people to leave the organization.

“It is not the macro issues that are causing people to leave, it is the micro issues, which can come down to career progression, the manager, and we have a tremendous amount of control on the micro issues.”

Force multipliers

Justice described a force multiplier as “a behaviour or something that is applied that increased the likelihood of success.”

She went on to add that “the managers are the number one force multiplier in any organization,” as they define and act as a daily reminder of what your organization’s culture is really about and have the ability to keep employees grounded.

“So, if you think about embeddedness, it’s not just creating a company that employees don’t want to leave, it’s about creating managers the employees don’t want to leave.”