Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Life Sciences Shifting Quickly: Is Your Talent Supply Chain Ready?

By Kevin Duffy

When it comes to the emerging trends in human capital management within the Life Sciences sector, senior business leaders are anxious over the competitive landscape and the shrinking supply of skilled talent to help drive their R&D pipelines. What is less understood is that having a strong workforce plan that includes external talent (temporary workers, independent contractors/freelancers, service providers, retirees, etc.) can make or break a company’s ability to achieve its strategic goals. Though the full-time labor force still accounts for the majority of the world’s workers, those numbers are shifting quickly.  Comprehensive plans must re-balance the talent portfolio to account for the opportunity, risk, and cost factors that come with the external workforce.

A contributing factor to this dynamic is that Biopharmaceutical and Medical Device organizations are primarily clustered geographically in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and northern California regions.  This environment creates incredible competition for talent and places additional pressure on organizations to find the right talent to fit key roles.  Qualified talent is fully aware of the position this creates which can result in movement from role to role, based upon their economic drivers.  To that end, meaningful retention then becomes the issue as talent is being traded back and forth.  To add to the complexity, the capital influences within this industry also have a strong impact on the availability of talent within your supply chain.  It becomes both disruptive and polarizing as we see more mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures on the near horizon as companies position their financial strategies going forward. 

It’s a complex and high-stakes undertaking within this industry therefore forecasting and understanding the need for all talent types is imperative. It’s likely that you already have a higher percentage of external talent then you realize conducting important work on your company’s behalf.  Whether it be in R&D, working in the lab, or positioning you in the marketplace, these individuals can often times form the backbone of your operations.  They are in your talent supply chain, but they’re independent contractors, consultants, and small firms whose people don’t work for you directly. Instead, they essentially act as “companies of one” working for themselves and lending their talents on a series of short-term engagements.

That’s the reality of the new labor dynamic: Modern companies have to adapt to a more flexible, far less permanent definition of work. In doing so, they also have to completely rethink how they acquire, deploy, and engage their workforce—both external and full-time—for maximum business impact.  Companies are now evaluating their legacy policies around how to incorporate external workers into core company processes, such as learning and development, strategic workforce planning, and the like.  This growing reliance on harnessing the power of the entire workforce prompted KellyOCG to sponsor the latest research from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services.

Not surprisingly, more than 70 percent of those surveyed said their organizations are already using the external workforce to meet market demands and maintain efficiency. But more than half also said that using external workers allows them to bring in expertise that their full-time staff lacks, and that non-FTE workers will become increasingly valuable to their organization over the next two to three years.

While this approach may have been a nice to have in the past, it is becoming even more relevant and vital to the health and stability of leading Life Sciences organizations.  By understanding and engaging multiple channels for talent within your supply chain and having a strong grasp on your long term talent agenda, you will move to the front of the competitive landscape to lead the industry’s growth.

To read the full research paper sponsored by KellyOCG on this topic, click here. 

Kevin Duffy is vice president of Global Solutions and Industry Vertical Leader for Life Sciences at KellyOCG.  He has over 30 years of experience in the Healthcare, Clinical Research & Drug Development industries.

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