When it comes to the biopharmaceutical industry, MSD is one of the titans. The company has had a presence in Ireland for over half a century, and enjoys a strong regional footprint, with five sites in Cork, Carlow, Dublin (Swords and Leopardstown) and Tipperary. The company employs over 2,500 people in Ireland and continues to increase headcount despite the current pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, for a company where innovation is critical, it has applied the same ingenuity to its selection and onboarding processes.

“Everyone involved in hiring across the organisation has been working hard to ensure it is business as usual,” says Maria Cullen, Talent Acquisition lead at MSD Ireland. She explains that “collaboration across different departments is key and makes it possible for our new virtual processes to take place for candidates and new employees.”

Cullen acknowledged that while some companies may be forced to pause recruitment for practical or resource issues, for MSD, hiring remains critical in order to meet business demands, as the company continues to grow and expand in Ireland.

While phone or Skype interviews have been necessary for candidates based abroad, social distancing has meant that this has quickly become the norm in recent weeks.

“We want to ensure a selection process that is both positive and supportive for our candidates. We designed and implemented a virtual approach at a very early stage of the current outbreak as health and safety is a key priority in all that we do. The challenge was to design a virtual journey which would support everyone to bring their best selves to the process and really help them shine,” says Cullen.

Collaboration and innovation

In collaboration with the leaders in the manufacturing sites and information technology partners, the HR and Learning and Development teams at MSD Ireland created an innovative and engaging virtual recruitment process designed to maximise the candidate experience from the initial selection process right through to onboarding. Cullen explains, “with the introduction of these new steps in the interview and onboarding process, our hiring managers embraced agile ways of working to quickly adapt.”

MSD was already creative when pitching ourselves as a great company to work for, and now this crisis has challenged us to be even more innovative

“This hasn’t been without its challenges, but the crisis meant that different functions came together swiftly,” says Trish Kavanagh, who is MSD’s global director for Learning & Development. She credits the success to the team of people who worked hard to make this happen in a very short timeframe.

According to Kavanagh, “MSD was already creative when pitching ourselves as a great company to work for, and now this crisis has challenged us to be even more innovative. It has made us work better and faster than ever before.”

“Traditionally, our employees would come to the site on day one and receive an overview of the company, gaining insight into what a typical working day would look like. We have now adopted a virtual experience. We have over 100 new employees across the four sites who participated in the virtual onboarding programme, and the feedback has been very positive to date.

“Each site has a ‘learning leader’ who is responsible for onboarding new employees and all sites work together to make sure we have an integrated, standard onboarding process. This ensures new employees joining Brinny, Carlow (pictured below), Ballydine or Dublin all get the same great experience,” Kavanagh explains.