Life Sciences
May 4, 2023

How Staffing Companies Can Provide a Lifeline to Life Sciences

Life sciences is an ever-evolving industry that plays a crucial role in the nation’s healthcare and economy. It’s a rapidly growing sector that encompasses a range of fields, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, and diagnostics. The life sciences space offers tremendous opportunities for innovation in areas such as digital health and personalized medicine. However, the industry also faces challenges, with talent shortages and workforce complications ranking high on the list. With the continuing pressure to expand research, development, and product breakthroughs, recruiting and retaining skilled professionals will remain a challenge — one that workforce solutions partners could help overcome.

The Current State of Life Sciences

In the rapidly transforming life sciences industry, HR teams have become more instrumental in supporting their businesses and their employees, especially in navigating the lingering impacts of the pandemic, an increasingly volatile economy, and the demands of building a productive and highly skilled labor force in a tight market. Innovation, in this instance, has played a pivotal role as both an opportunity generator and a staffing concern.

As Sarah Lindenfeld Hall illustrated in her article for Lattice, “A breakthrough technology poised to unlock an entirely new patient population, for example, will trigger a surge of investment dollars — and the need for new hires, said Joe Mullings, Chairman and CEO of The Mullings Group, a medtech talent acquisition firm.”

Hall’s example isn’t hypothetical, though. New technological advances are already altering the dynamics of the life sciences industry, particularly as the lines between traditional medical devices and personalized, consumer-targeted health devices blur. 

“Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), analytics, and business intelligence could have a significant impact on medical device manufacturers and biopharmaceutical companies in 2023, according to a survey of C-suite executives conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions,” wrote Pete Lyons, National Life Sciences sector leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “At the same time, those executives expect inflation, a choppy economy, on-going supply chain disruptions, and competition for top talent will shape their strategy.”

The current state of the life sciences industry demonstrates the changes taking place and the needs that must be met.

  • Market Size: The global life sciences market is expected to reach $3.7 trillion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.6% from 2021 to 2026. The market is being driven by factors such as an aging population, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, and rapid advancements in technology.
  • Research and Development: The life sciences industry is a major investor in research and development, with many companies dedicating significant resources to developing new treatments and therapies. In 2020, the top 10 pharmaceutical companies spent a total of $82 billion on R&D.
  • Regulatory Environment: The life sciences industry is heavily regulated, with strict requirements for safety and efficacy in drug development and medical device manufacturing. In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny of drug pricing, which has led to pressure on companies to demonstrate value for money.
  • Digital Transformation: The life sciences industry is undergoing a digital transformation, with a growing focus on data-driven approaches to drug development and healthcare delivery. This includes the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze large datasets, as well as the development of digital therapeutics and wearables.
  • COVID-19 Impact: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the life sciences industry, with companies working to develop and distribute vaccines and treatments for the virus. The pandemic has also accelerated trends such as telemedicine and remote monitoring, as well as highlighting the importance of resilient supply chains and manufacturing capabilities.

At the core of all these market trends and industry shifts, you’ll find issues related to building, maintaining, and retaining a skilled and diverse workforce.

Staffing Challenges in Life Sciences

Life sciences is a vibrant field that is always burgeoning and pioneering, but without exceptional talent, progress stalls. Here are some of the top staffing challenges in the space.

  1. Talent Shortage: There is a shortage of qualified and experienced talent in the life sciences industry, especially in fields such as biotechnology, pharmacology, and medical devices. The life sciences sector is highly technical and as a result, it requires a workforce with a strong STEM background. As staffing professionals understand all too clearly, the supply and demand issues of STEM professionals persist as a struggle for hiring managers.
  2. Rapid Technological Advancements: Rapid advancements in technology are driving the need for skilled professionals who can keep up with the latest developments and apply them to their work.
  3. Increased Competition: Competition for top talent is intense, as companies in the life sciences industry vie with one another for a limited pool of qualified candidates.
  4. Aging Workforce: Many professionals in the life sciences industry are reaching retirement age, leading to a shortage of experienced workers.
  5. Upskilling and Reskilling Workers: The life sciences industry is constantly evolving, and as a result, workers must adapt to new technologies and procedures. This can be a challenge for companies, as it requires them to invest in training and development programs.
  6. Diversity: The life sciences industry needs to attract and retain a diverse workforce in order to be successful. This is because diversity of thought leads to innovation, and it helps companies to better understand the needs of their patients and customers.

Making diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives a priority remains a hurdle in many industries today. But for life sciences, more forward momentum is needed. “Workers have made it clear that DEIB matters for recruiting and retention,” Hall pointed out in her article. “According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, employees are 47% more likely to stay with an organization if it’s inclusive.”

That said, Hall also noted, “Within life sciences, there’s work to be done. In the biotech sector, for example, people of color comprise just 38% of all employees, according to Measuring Diversity in the Biotech Industry, a 2022 report created by biotechnology advocacy organization BIO and Coqual, a think tank that champions equity. And while most respondents told researchers that recruiting and promoting diverse talent were priorities, less than 20% of companies had set goals to do it, the report found.”

How Staffing Companies Can Provide a Lifeline to Life Sciences

Many of the obstacles HR leaders in life sciences confront are extremely familiar to workforce solutions companies. And they have spent years tackling these problems and refining solutions that can throw a lifeline to life sciences organizations.

  • Developing Strong Relationships with Education: Staffing companies can help to identify and recruit top talent from universities and colleges. By developing strong relationships with these institutions, staffing companies can get ahead of the competition and find the best possible candidates.
  • Using Innovative Recruiting Strategies: Staffing companies are constantly honing their recruiting strategies to reach a wider pool of candidates beyond social media, online job boards, and other channels. They have become more adept at tapping into alumni networks, associations, professional groups, targeted social networks, employer branding and outreach efforts, and incorporating more intelligent data analysis and automation into their processes.
  • Offering Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Staffing companies are helping to attract and retain top talent by offering more competitive compensation and benefits packages. This often includes offering signing bonuses, relocation assistance, referral bonuses, and other perks.
  • Promoting Diversity and Inclusion: Staffing providers have a deep understanding of the diversity landscape, and they can help companies develop and implement diversity and inclusion strategies leveraging decades of direct experience in those initiatives. They also help promote diversity and inclusion by partnering with organizations that are dedicated to addressing DEIB issues. This could include providing training and resources to help employees understand the importance of diversity and inclusion.
  • Providing Access to Specialized Talent: Staffing companies can help life sciences companies access specialized talent that may be difficult to find otherwise. This can include providing access to professionals with niche skills or expertise in emerging areas of the industry.
  • Providing Rapid Response to Demand: Staffing companies can help life sciences companies quickly scale up or down their workforce in response to changing demand. This can include providing temporary or contract workers to fill short-term gaps in staffing, or helping companies find permanent employees when they need to expand their workforce.
  • Providing Industry Insights: Staffing organizations more regularly provide valuable insights into industry trends to help clients stay up-to-date with the latest developments. This includes sharing information on emerging talent trends, providing insights into the competitive landscape, and assisting companies in identifying areas where they may need to invest in training or professional development for their employees.
  • Alumni Recruitment: As we discussed in our article on “employment extenders,” there is power in leveraging the wisdom and experience of senior talent. Older workers have rich institutional knowledge about how to perform in their jobs and can serve as mentors to new and younger employees. Employers also save on the costs of rehiring and training workers — many of whom may either lack the experience or are less likely to remain loyal to just one company. Staffing providers have created robust alumni hiring programs over the past 20 years. New generations of online hiring platforms also emphasize a recruitment process that incorporates ad campaigns, candidate experience, relationship management and social networks, with specific functionality for employment extenders — tracking rehire eligibility, creating virtual benches of qualified candidates, and more.

Some of the biggest labor challenges that life sciences leaders endure today are issues that the staffing industry has conquered. By partnering with workforce solutions providers, HR professionals can receive the support they need while focusing on the future gains of their growing enterprises and the vital solutions they deliver. 

Photo by Diane Serik on Unsplash

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