By Agata Qanadilo, employer branding & recruitment marketing manager, AstraZeneca



The pandemic has caused significant changes in the labour market. After the epidemiological threat, economic and geopolitical changes have led to labour shortages, inflation, and wage pressures, making it even more challenging for companies to attract and retain talent. Remote work became our new normal overnight and proved to be a successful solution due to the trust, maturity, and good communication in our teams. Recently a hybrid working model that caters to the needs of diverse teams became a permanent feature of many companies’ organisational culture, including that of AstraZeneca.

Three years ago, we vacated our offices, with some even predicting the end of stationary work. But that overlooked the fact that office spaces are not just there for individual tasks but also for social interaction. The workplace environment has a significant impact on the creation of a positive company culture and on promoting employee well-being. Contemporary, appealing and stylish office spaces with zones catering to various team-needs encourage us to return to the office and enhance our work efficiency.

AstraZeneca’s STAYSAFE. STAYWELL. STAYGREEN programme has three pillars: ensuring the physical safety of our employees, fostering their mental and emotional growth, and promoting eco-friendly practices. Our message to staff is comprehensive, genuine, and grounded in scientific research. We believe that employee well-being encompasses comfortable physical surroundings and a psychologically safe space. We collaborate with experts, closely monitor market trends, and analyse needs to respond flexibly to changing circumstances.

Despite changes in the modern workplace, the truth remains that people are the ones who shape a company’s culture. In today’s highly competitive and demanding job market, employers must recognise the specific expectations of both job candidates and current employees. A healthy work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to sustainable development within the company are of utmost importance.

The younger generation starting their careers values a collaborative approach and expects support for their development. AstraZeneca offers a range of programmes targeting candidates among students and graduates, such as AZ Ambassadors, the Warsaw Site Internship Programme, the one-year Internship Career Starter Programme, graduate programmes, R&D Postdoctoral Challenge, and Precision Medicine Academy. Our employees benefit from mentoring, secondments, and foreign transfers. With the idea of ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’ shaping the future labour market, many professionals at different stages of their careers seek new opportunities. AstraZeneca’s innovative Returnship programme offers experienced and mature professionals a chance to overcome challenges when returning to work after a long break or changing careers. Returnship equips participants with new knowledge and strengthens their competencies, drawing on their diverse experiences from different industries. It helps these individuals quickly adapt to the new environment, whilst their new teams benefit from new perspectives and fresh views.

Amid a pandemic, war, economic instability, and stress from personal or work-related issues, employees’ mental health can suffer adversely. Companies have been implementing activities to promote employee well-being. However, at AstraZeneca, we prioritised our employees’ psychological safety long before the pandemic. We acknowledge that everyone, regardless of position, confronts various challenges as human beings. Hence, we initiated the Employee Assistance Programme for staff and their families. Anyone facing difficulties can consult a psychologist, financial advisor or lawyer.

Employees now have different expectations regarding their benefits package than they did a mere two years ago. Recent events have emphasised the importance and demand for personalised benefits packages. With evolving economic conditions, varied work arrangements and dispersed teams, customised solutions such as cafeteria benefit package, that meet the actual needs of employees are most effective. Our people can select the benefits that suit their lifestyle, needs, work model, and other relevant factors. At AstraZeneca, we also focus on providing well-being workshops and training sessions that cater to the specific needs of different employee groups.

AstraZeneca places great emphasis on the development of its people, recognising that in a highly innovative and rapidly changing industry, continuous development is essential for success. To this end, we offer co-financing for studies, language courses, and vocational training. Every employee has access to a wide range of internal online training courses that cover developing soft skills like communication, assertiveness, or time management to hard skills such as project management and programming languages. One can even choose a specialised development path and participate in a structured set of training modules offering a full scope of subjects relevant to the requirements of a selected role.

As we cannot predict all the skills we will need in the future, we take a flexible and open-minded approach, focusing on hiring for learning agility and adjacent skills. Our Learning & Development colleagues then ensure that our people are able to enhance their skill sets. This way we build a pipeline of talent, widening the candidate pool and ensuring greater diversity. Adopting a skills-first approach also helps us to create a more sustainable business model and strengthen our commitment to Inclusion & Diversity.

In a highly competitive labour market, Talent Acquisition professionals must be flexible and adaptive to change. At AstraZeneca, we proactively anticipate market shifts, striving to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and agility. As a science-based company, we recognise that the traditional recruitment process must evolve to achieve better outcomes. Utilising technology enables us to challenge conventional recruiting approaches, increasing our capacity to identify and secure top talent. We aim to maximise the value of human resources by automating repetitive tasks, freeing up time for our teams to focus on the candidate and hiring managers’ experience. By embracing technology strategically and intelligently, we aim for something other than reducing our recruitment teams. In this scheme, our Talent Acquisition partners can provide even greater value and act as true advisors to the business.

Our industry is going through an exciting transformation, as the world undergoes significant change. At AstraZeneca, we foster a culture of curiosity and uphold strong values that we practice every day. Our work environment is one where individuals can safely challenge the status quo, voice their opinions, and ask ‘why?’. This is how we drive innovation. Technology and continuous improvement are crucial components of our business strategy, not just within HR. To thrive in the future, we must leverage these tools to make informed decisions, pivot when necessary, and advance with precision.

We don’t know what the future brings but with our values leading our decision-making, detailing our beliefs, and fostering our unique culture I am sure we can face it all.