Mark Weller BIAThe life sciences industry is evolving and the UK continues to be at the forefront of new advances. The BIA Vision, published earlier this year, sets out an ambitious goal for the UK to become a top global cluster in life sciences by 2025 – backed up with the creation of 30 000 to 60 000 more direct, high skill jobs than today. In the blog below, Mark Weller, Director, Hays Life Sciences, discusses the implications of the evolution of the sector on recruiting the talent required to sustain it.

Working within a highly regulated industry with delivery of human health the ultimate priority, life science employers typically operate complex business models. As the industry’s evolution accelerates, its workforce and the methods used to recruit talent must also change. The days of traditional recruiting by direct hire, contingency staffing and strategic sourcing of high-end talent focused on intellectual property are over. The social contract between employers and candidates is changing and it’s all about greater flexibility.

What is driving biopharma business?

It’s no secret that drug development is a complex and costly enterprise. With blockbuster drugs moving off-patent and the research and development (R&D) pipeline shifting its emphasis to more highly specific disease states, the process is now becoming increasingly specialised.

Cancer, with its multiple indications and stages, is a top R&D priority for many pharmaceutical companies. It accounts for up to half the R&D spend. Immunology and addressing infectious disease outbreaks are also becoming the focus of much research activity, an example being the recent ebola epidemic in West Africa. These developments require highly specialised talent, whose skills may be needed at a moment’s notice.

An increasing number of complicated disease states combined with increasingly globalised trial management calls for higher levels of talent specialisation, as well as flexibility, within the industry.

Using ‘purposefully curated’ talent pools

In response to these changing conditions, new methods of sourcing talent are being developed, which allow companies to fill highly specialised talent gaps on an as-needed basis. One such method is the ‘talent pool’. Life science employers can gain immediate access to talent which is ‘purposefully curated’ to meet their specific project needs.

What the ‘purposefully curated’ talent pool means for employers is a ready supply of highly specialised candidates who can make a difference immediately, are an instant cultural fit, have strong team dynamics and are pre-screened for synergy with corporate mission and vision. These project sourcing strategies are fundamentally different from past models of recruitment and are changing the composition of the life science workforce as a result.

CPI_FoF3How is the workforce evolving to fill talent pools?

As these functional service provision models gain increasing traction, a new kind of life science workforce has emerged. Employers should see an upward trend towards high-level positions being filled by independent interim managers and contractors, with project managers, clinical research associates (CRAs), medical writers, those with experience in quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) more likely to work as freelancers than in permanent roles.

The millennials understand the power of technology and are no longer bound by geographical constraints. These candidates are interested in working virtually and in managing their own professional development outside of the traditional corporate structures. As a result, the life science labour market is bound to become geared towards greater flexibility.

Employers will need to respond by learning how to outsource business, as well as learning how to manage human capital remotely. In the new way of doing things, a stroll down the corridor will not be the means to commune with fellow employees or colleagues; this happens by video-conferencing.

A workforce for the future

As the industry evolves, it’s important that we adapt and evolve our recruitment processes alongside; attracting the right talent to sustain growth and enabling the UK to fulfil its potential as a global industry leader.

The original blog post can be viewed on The Viewpoint

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