Where did everyone go? From your local restaurant to your own organization chart, attracting and retaining quality talent is the new bottleneck to growth. In fact, 68% of organizations say it’s their top challenge coming into 2022.
In the early months of the pandemic, we saw unprecedented hiring levels across biopharma in response to the urgent need to support public safety. Leap ahead a year and we see many organizations sharply limited by short-staffing against changing business priorities.
Pfizer, Moderna and Alnylam have flagged significant labor shortages in Massachusetts. In Bothell, WA, home to 60 life sciences companies, the market is even tighter. Moderna went so far as to say delays in vaccine delivery in the UK and Canada were due to "limited human and material resources" in its European supply chain. Their CEO said frankly at a summit, "the bottleneck right now is people."
Job openings that once would have received a flood of resumes now require proactive recruiting to net a small candidate pool. The prolonged searches can leave business units chronically understaffed. What happened?
“In the early months of the pandemic, we saw unprecedented hiring levels across biopharma in response to the urgent need to support public safety. Leap ahead a year and we see many organizations sharply limited by short-staffing against changing business priorities.”
1. Strategic outsourcing
Certainly outsourcing is a critical part of the discussion during any talent crisis. Partners are well positioned to have deep pipelines of prequalified candidates to speed time to impact. But, more importantly, many have mature internal growth programs designed to effectively and efficiently train junior talent into more sophisticated and high-impact roles, ultimately protecting against fast spiraling salary costs while delivering the needed business impact
2. Investments in skills, leadership and life
Biopharma and its partners are looking closely at all of the satisfiers of work environments, from a culture people want to be a part of to a challenge opportunity someone never expected to get. In 2022, look for more leadership accelerator programs, deep investment in culture and connectivity, and unique benefits, like work-from-home child care, more flexibility in both location and time, and collective mental health days.
3. Betting on technology and change
As one CEO recently said, there simply aren’t enough humans. As data and personalization become complex, some companies are looking ahead to automation and investing heavily in what can be done without human intervention. Cell and gene innovators like Cellares, Ori Biotech, Avrobio and Cytiva are all advancing automation platforms25 that reduce the need for talent in the cell and gene process. Other shifts will be broader. Over the next 3-5 years, some of today’s talent sourcing challenges will likely be attenuated by other industry trends. For example, the current shortage of experienced clinical research associates will likely be improved as decentralized trial technologies become more frequently used.
4. Building a future-ready pipeline
There are no shortages of stories decrying the exodus of talent from healthcare. Pharmacists have been added to the Home Office’s shortage occupation26 list in the UK. A global nursing shortage27 is threatening all of healthcare delivery. In biopharma particularly, we’ve watched the clinical research associate gap grow since 2016 and now a new hole is opening in regulatory affairs. Furthermore, it’s happening early. Recent research28 by Drs. Frances Richmond and Terry Church at the University of Southern California found that the number of qualified participants enrolling in relevant graduate training programs is declining, particularly worrying as the projected needs of biopharma for regulatory are increasing. Leaders in the industry are actively watching these trends and mapping gaps a decade or more in advance. They’re investing in graduate training programs, recruiting efforts and university partnerships to ensure that, for example, the 70,000 regulatory roles that will need to be filled in the next ten years have rich talent pools.
The Big Question for 2022: Reoffice or Unoffice
We can’t have a conversation about talent in 2022 without talking about just where that talent expects to work.
Although most seem to agree that the traditional five-day office week on large campuses that require long commutes is unlikely to return in its prepandemic form, there are still many nuanced possibilities for what the future looks like.
Abbvie and Abbott were among the first to open, offering voluntary space to key collaborative teams and moving to rotating, part-time onsite schedules in preparation for full reopening. Amgen30 is seeing several thousand employees report to its headquarters on a daily basis while thousands more work remotely. Eli Lilly wants to bring more of its employees back to downtown Indianapolis, specifically focused on using shared environments for collaboration, innovation and learning.
Pfizer is considering a move we’ve heard many talk about: to sell or not to sell? It’s reported to be considering how its Philadelphia-area campus fits into the future of work.
Intentionality seems to be the underlying theme in plans to move forward as organizations look to democratize new ways of work. Remote work may benefit many in terms of time savings, comfort and autonomy. But others are struggling31 with isolation, poorly-fit workspaces, blurred work-life balance and distractions. The “Choice with Responsibility32” program at Novartis is designed to help employees and team define the best-fit ways to function in their roles and lives.
“Other shifts will be broader. Over the next 3-5 years, some of today’s talent sourcing challenges will likely be attenuated by other industry trends. For example, the current shortage of experienced clinical research associates will likely be improved as virtual trial technologies become more frequently used.”
Friction is simply resistance: an experience that makes it harder to achieve a goal or move forward in a process. In the consumer world, friction might stop a stakeholder from recommending or using a product, feeling successful with that product or recognizing value in it.
In healthcare, you can imagine friction holding people back from being screened for a trial or working with colleagues in a new way or engaging in a new channel.
There are three distinct types of frictions:
- Emotional: barriers that create tension resulting in negative feelings (e.g. I don’t know what to do)
- Social: barriers that push more responsibility onto a stakeholder, conflict with that person’s sense of self or create feelings of isolation (e.g. I can’t possibly do this)
- Functional: utilitarian obstacles that slow or prevent customers from accomplishing a task (e.g. another way would be easier)
Think about something you want your customer to do (for example: attend a hybrid conference). Then build two lists:
- What frictions exist (emotional, social, functional)?
- How might we make things smoother (solutions, tips, supporters)?