R&D recruitments: the impacts and challenges in food companies

R&D recruitments: the impacts and challenges in food companies

As a specialist of very specific and technical recruitments for the food industry, Leaderia and its European partners at IFR-A (International Food Recruitment Alliance) has been working a lot on R&D recruitments over the last few years. We found it interesting to compare the needs of companies in the UK and the Netherlands*, the impacts they want through their new talents, and about the peculiarities around these recruitments across Europe.


What are the requirements of the customers when recruiting R&D profiles?

In the Netherlands, the requirements are always more demanding. Almost all customers ask for specific degrees, with a solid knowledge of the food industry, the ability to switch from one product to another one. They also often grant much importance about the personality: someone able to communicate and closely work with the other departments, entrepreneurial, sensitive to customers’ needs is appreciated. We have the same effects in France, where the technical skills are obviously key but the communication skills and the embodyment of the values the company promotes also are (for instance, we look for people personally convinced about meat alternatives). We have been very much requested about R&D assignments.

On the other hand, in the UK, since the Covid pandemic and even more since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the R&D services slowed down. Companies in the UK are more cautious with their investments and do not see the R&D services as essential as Operations or Engineering.

What is at stake for your customers when recruiting R&D profiles?

 For French customers, we have noticed that, considering the context, companies wanted to make the difference from competitors through its innovation force. They ask us for creative profiles, able to be disruptivethink out of the box and answer to realistic trends while being new.

In the UK, less fantasy is at stake… Most customers are reducing the costs by focusing all their efforts into the core product range. Some companies, still innovation-driven, now centralize their efforts to find solutions in order to improve cost efficiency and energy savings thanks to new processes developed by the R&D.

For our Dutch partners, it’s all about if the company is sales reactive or proactive. A reactive company only brings products that the customers want, so the R&D objective is to meet this demand. They thus would prefer a knowledge-based profile, with a lot of experience to work on the required products.

On the other hand, a proactive company will bring something new to the customers and create a new demand, the wanted profile will then need to have a more sales-oriented vision.

What are the challenges of recruiting R&D profiles?

In the Netherlands, on average, R&D jobs are pretty popular: around 60-70 % of graduate people want to work in R&D. The product development area is pretty easy for fulfill, the research of new product is a little bit less attractive. The main challenge is to advise their clients about the attractivity of their needs, to be perfectly aware of the trends (an industry which used to be attractive at the time may be not attractive now), and help them to determine what they really want.

In the UK, the candidates aren’t as active as they used to in the past, because there was a sharp rise in employment rate and payroll within the last few months.

More important, R&D profiles are high-skilled profiles in a very specific field so they are more difficult to find. Because of Brexit, recruiting EU candidates isn’t always a better solution, so our British partners have to look for candidates abroad. They perfectly know the ingredients market and their role to advise customers makes completely sense.

Same observation for France: sometimes, our operational customers want the perfect copy paste of a former employee in terms of technical skills. As candidates are more and more hunted, we need to offer them a real step forward, be attractive, and this may happen if the person is not perfectly plug and play. We also have to convince our customers that a profile with a strong motivation and a high potential is much more relevant and sustainable than hiring an already experienced person who will get bored too early to stay long.

Please find more about our international alliance and feel free to ask us about your European projects!

*We currently lead cross-cultural projects together with the UK and the Netherlands on R&D assignments, hence the idea of this Newsletter.

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