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




Poland’s labour market is thriving, boasting a low unemployment rate of 2.7%, the second-lowest in the EU*. While this is a positive sign for many Polish citizens, it poses a challenge for employers seeking new talent due to a shrinking pool of young graduates. Poland is also among the countries that are aging the fastest. In the last decade, the median age in our country has increased by 3.8 years, placing us seventh among the fastest aging EU countries.**

The need for strategic human resource solutions seems to be pressing.

In response to a rapidly changing technological landscape, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Skills Report 2023 indicates that about 44% of the workforce will need to acquire new skills or enhance their existing ones shortly. Leadership, social influence, curiosity and lifelong learning are among other skills expected to see growing demand. Analytical thinking also comes high on the list of skills predicted to grow in importance. This is because reasoning and decision-making are currently the least automated workplace tasks. Demand for creative thinking will grow even faster in the next five years. Technology literacy is the third-fastest growing core skill, while curiosity and lifelong learning, resilience, flexibility and agility, as well as motivation and self-awareness complete the top five.

How can we keep pace with a world where technology constantly reshapes jobs? What could help us bridge the emerging skills gap?

It’s a critical time for employers in Poland to find the best approach to integrating fresh talent, valuing seasoned candidates, and promoting the development of their current employees to stay ahead in a competitive market.

Early Talent Programmes

AstraZeneca recognises the importance of investing in the future of our workforce through multiple early talent programmes. We’re not just talking about the future; we’re actively building it. These programmes are essential in drawing young, skilled individuals prepared to make a meaningful impact in the pharmaceutical sector. We provide a variety of entry points, including ambassadorships, internships, graduate programmes, apprenticeships, and flexible arrangements for those nearing the completion of their studies and recent graduates. Our ambition is to immerse these individuals in the pharmaceutical industry’s multifaceted environment. Participating in real projects and accessing a wealth of training resources enables these promising talents to thrive within our diverse teams.

The retention of these well-prepared individuals is a key reason for our investment in their growth and the success of our educational initiatives.

But what does our investment in education really mean for society at large?

Dedication to education and societal betterment exceeds our internal programmes’ goals. As a global industry leader, we take on the responsibility of addressing significant challenges, from enhancing environmental sustainability to improving healthcare access and preventing disease.  The heart of this sustainability approach is to harness the power of science and innovation and our global reach to positively impact society. The Forum is one of such initiatives. We created this unique space on a national scale to popularise and promote science, education, health, and modern technologies. We facilitate education on socially relevant topics through events that encourage conversations. We believe that offering access to knowledge is the right direction. Our collaborations span across the spectrum, from NGOs and innovation advocates to universities, research institutions, and patient groups. By partnering with academic institutions to design new courses, provide curriculum input, and offer lectures, we’re also actively bridging the gap between academia and industry. This holistic approach to talent cultivation and societal engagement embodies our core belief: leveraging science and innovation to create a lasting, positive impact on the world.

What about the wealth of knowledge residing in the minds of seasoned professionals? How can we ensure that the legacy of experience meets the promise of innovation? Innovation isn’t just for those at the start of their careers. It thrives with the insights of those who’ve seen the industry evolve.

The Silver Candidates Market

At AstraZeneca, we also recognise the considerable value experienced candidates bring to the workforce. We strive to create an inclusive environment that appreciates and leverages the expertise of these seasoned professionals. Our recruitment strategy and talent development programmes are designed to tap into this rich vein of talent.

The Returnship Programme is a pioneering initiative aimed at attracting seasoned professionals who have taken a break from their careers or are seeking a new path. This programme, which began in the Global Procurement Services department and has expanded to other areas of the company, provides an intensive training experience similar to an internship but specifically tailored for experienced mature talent. The programme focuses on acclimating participants to our systems and processes and gradually introducing them to manage their own projects and responsibilities.

Our Returnship Programme seeks individuals with significant previous professional experience, offering them the opportunity to integrate their existing expertise with new skills acquired at AstraZeneca. This programme is not a temporary learning experience but a conduit to potential long-term employment opportunities with us. The success of this initiative is evident in the exceptional drive and commitment shown by participants. Their enthusiasm not only contributes to the success of their projects but also elevates the morale and dynamism of our entire workforce. This initiative has proven to be a valuable asset, creating a ripple effect of positivity and loyalty across the company. It is our big ambition to grow and improve this program, not only within AstraZeneca but also wider, across various industries and locations.

We are continuously working on launching and improving innovative workforce development initiatives that blend young talents’ energy with the wisdom of experienced professionals. This combination creates a dynamic and adaptable team capable of leading in the rapidly evolving, highly competitive pharmaceutical industry. The labour market’s difficulties are not the primary cause of this. Why do we strive to create an inclusive culture where difference is recognised and valued? Innovation is the answer. We do our best to foster it by harnessing different perspectives and ideas. We value diversity of thought and recognise the important role it plays in creating a psychologically safe place where every employee can be true to who they are. We also believe that the right thing to be done is not just adapting to change but actively shaping it, ensuring that we have a profound and enduring impact on our industry and society.

We’re at a point where we’re honouring our history and embracing change. In the end, isn’t our teamwork and drive to improve what’s going to make our businesses stand out?

Eurostat, data from December 2023, published 1 February 2024.

** Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute