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Generation (Hire) ME

You are extremely lucky that this publication found out I was available for a writing project and that I am taking my valuable time to write this insightful article. Without my expertise, it is likely you would not be fully educated on this topic and this publication would lose credibility having not published this article. Additionally, I had several offers I was fielding from other orthopaedic publications that were aggressively coming after me, and I chose this particular magazine because it’s the best fit for me and offers me personally the most exposure to an audience that desperately needs my expertise. All that said, try to keep up with me as I cover a very complex topic. Oh, and did I mention I look great in a suit? I look really great in a suit.

Please forgive me for the hyperbole. What you just read was a slight, and I mean slight, exaggeration of the mindset of many of today’s young professionals. Particularly the mindset of someone who has the responsibility of designing and developing orthopaedic and spine implants. One would think that, with an economic downturn that has pushed most industries into major recession, working in an industry that is posting eight to ten percent annual growth would be considered a privilege. To many, it is. But if you have spent any time interviewing the next generation of orthopaedic talent (ages 24-32), you have probably experienced otherwise. Unrealistic expectations, over-confidence bordering on arrogance, aggressive compensation and title demands, and let’s face it – the comeback of over-the-top ties. (It’s true!)

What exactly is going on?? Let me be the first to welcome you to Generation ME. I will skip the broad psychological and generational study on how we as a “society” got here, and instead focus on why you as a hiring authority in this industry are here and what you can do to be successful in the acquisition of this group of professionals.

Our industry is wholly unique. Not only are we charged with producing products that save and improve lives, but our customers are surgeons – a group held in high esteem in general society. These customers are demanding, egocentric and highly opinionated. (Did I say that out loud?) When you combine those high-profile customers, important products, highly regulated design environments that require expertise and training, and the operating room as the showroom floor – well, it’s enough to give anyone a healthy shot of self-esteem when they are successful in such an environment.

Added to this equation is the boom that has occurred in our industry – particularly in spine – that had companies coming into existence almost by the week for a period of three to five years. A wave of new companies, abundant capital and innovation drove the need for highly qualified and experienced engineers. Very shortly, demand exceeded supply. For a time, recruiting and hiring engineers was like working with Jack Bauer. Shoot first and ask questions later! A 20% increase in base? Done! A Director title with only five years in the business? Done! Pay the closing costs on your mortgage? Corner office? Sign on bonus? Four weeks vacation? Whatever it takes!

Much like the housing industry, value became over-inflated. Though the bubble has burst, you are dealing with an entirely new set of challenges. The gainfully employed are valuing safety over risk, especially if they received any deals like those mentioned above. Many start-ups have underperformed, and so today, many people’s appetite for risk is diminished.

Finding, recruiting and screening this group of R&D professionals comes with unique challenges. If you are not prepared for what you will encounter, the interviewing and hiring process will be overly frustrating and your team will be prone to high-turnover. With a few insights, tips and techniques you can position yourself for better interviews, better hires and a better team of engineers – which will ultimately lead to better products. Think of this as a part of your quality assurance and design controls process. There is no better way to position yourself for success than to be intentional and quality-minded about the R&D team you put before your customers.

Cast a Vision

One of the hardest jobs for a hiring manager in the recruiting and interview process is stepping into an entirely different role—one that is contrary to how they perform most other responsibilities within their company.