facing pressure to innovate more quickly, the life sciences & healthcare sector looks for enhanced workforce agility
| 4 min read |
When you think of innovation, what comes to mind? For many, it might be the disruptive creativity of internet of things (IoT). For others, the rapid digitalization of an analog world is bringing about important changes in the way we live and work. And many more of us will be affected by the rise of robots and automation, enhancing our capabilities and intelligence.
What might not immediately come to mind is the transformation occurring in the life sciences and healthcare sector. For instance, traditional chemical synthesis used in drug manufacturing is giving way to organism manipulation. Personalized therapy for the treatment of various ailments continues to advance with ongoing work in genetics. With AI playing an increasingly important role in medical device development, patient care will improve even more in the years to come.
All this change might be great for patients and consumers, but innovation takes tremendous research and development (R&D). It can only be achieved by employing top talent. It’s not surprising, then, that 85% of life sciences and healthcare employers say talent scarcity is one of their business leaders’ greatest concerns and priorities, according to Randstad Sourceright’s 2019 Talent Trends survey of more than 800 C-suite and human capital leaders around the world.
Without a robust and sustainable talent pipeline to help the industry find new cures, enhance patient comfort and improve the quality of life, the sector is at risk of not meeting the needs of a growing global population.
is your talent pipeline healthy enough?
HR leaders in this sector face many talent challenges – some would say more than any others. The STEM talent needed to drive R&D are in short supply already, but more importantly, new niche skills required to support biopharmaceutical manufacturing, for instance, are woefully underdeveloped in the marketplace and in academic institutions, according to PharmExec.com.
Last year, The Irish Times reported that the industries facing the biggest skills gap include pharmaceuticals and biopharma. Roles such as chemical and analytical scientists, who support product formulation and analytical development, are going unfilled for some time. And the International Council of Nurses (ICN) reported that Asia still faces a growing shortage of skilled talent due to aging demographics.
Beyond the challenges of filling roles that are unique to the life sciences and healthcare sector, there are many other jobs that employers across all sectors need to fill: IT specialists, financial roles, HR managers, sales and marketing, and many others.
But attracting talent that is open to working in multiple sectors can be more challenging when you’re in the life sciences industry. Your organization may be better known by its product brands than by its employer brand. And, if you are recruiting for heavily regulated pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturers, you’ve likely operated your workforce with less transparency than other sectors to avoid risk. This is starting to change, however, as talent scarcity grows.
Another challenge facing the sector is its continued march towards digitalization. As manual practices transform, many companies will need to hire more data scientists, app developers and UX designers. Many organizations in the sector are just starting to ramp up hiring for these digital skills. It won’t be easy for them to hire as demand continues to heat up, and life sciences companies find themselves competing more with highly attractive employers outside of the industry.
does your talent strategy deliver real value?
You may already be adjusting your workforce strategy in response to talent scarcity. For instance, you’re likely turning to flexible talent, such as freelancers or contractors, more often, creating a more agile and focused organization that is well-positioned to deliver innovation faster. We also see more life sciences employers investing in their employer brands to become more broadly attractive to all kinds of talent.
Human capital leaders in the sector also believe talent acquisition should focus on becoming more strategic for their organizations. Eighty-nine percent (89%) surveyed by Randstad Sourceright say their strategies should driven by value creation, not cost savings. This is the highest percentage of all major industries we surveyed. Nearly as many (87%) believe the work they do helps prepare their organizations for the future. That’s encouraging because the sector needs to make significant changes. The ability to attract workers in today’s market and students considering a career in the near future, depends on it.
According to the 2019 Randstad Employer Brand Research, the IT and communications sector ranked as the most attractive sector to working-age adults overall, while life sciences ranked fourth behind the fast-moving consumer goods and automotive sectors. To more effectively compete against those businesses, life sciences and healthcare companies will need to work harder to shape public perception.
At the same time, you will need to consider a multi-pronged talent strategy. Hiring alone won’t be enough. Consider how you can combine talent acquisition, reskilling and automation to meet the rising demand for niche and digital skills. Relying more on flexible talent, independent contractors and the human cloud will help, but employers will also need to provide more technical upskilling, as well as university programs to nurture young talent.
make talent strategy a lifeline
As a talent leader in the life sciences and healthcare sector, you face tremendous pressure to meet the human capital needs of your growing businesses. As a global population begins to gray at an accelerated rate, and with demand for new diagnostics and therapies rising, companies will need to become as agile as possible in their talent strategies.
Learn more about trends affecting this sector, what talent expects of life sciences employers and what methods your peers are using to get ahead in a competitive market.
Download our white paper, “disrupt or be disrupted: talent acquisition strategy is a lifeline for the life sciences & healthcare sector.”
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