Pharmaceutical firms have experienced record growth and recruiting levels in the last year due to the pandemic's urgent public safety concerns. As a result, they have been hampered by open roles and are under the stress of understaffed teams attempting to accommodate evolving business goals. 

Man working on laptop

As one study showed, finding and attracting qualified recruits is the biggest hurdle for 68% of businesses to overcome. Most companies have the common misconception that talent scarcity won't drastically impact their business and can easily be solved. However, it's not as simple as all that. To get at the heart of the problem, company executives must first delve several layers deeper to identify specific difficulties they need to address to impact their operations positively. What does it take for companies to identify and solve the correct talent challenges? They first have to identify the key areas that require upskilling by examining the data, then maximising their ROI by investing in the priority areas.

 

Shifts in Pharma Development and Workforce Changes

Macro developments within the sector are causing considerable shifts in the skills required of the operations workforce, driving businesses and individuals to adapt to new methods of working. Occupational profiles are also changing: as a result of automation, certain professions are disappearing while completely new ones emerge. In the pharmaceutical and medical industrial industries, an estimated 50% of current work tasks could become automated. While this could result in more than 90,000 jobs being lost in the next ten years, up to 120,000 jobs could also be created. Pharma executives predict a 27% yearly growth in the number of roles affected over the next decade.

Such shifts, which influence not only labour supply and demand but also job profiles, frequently cause public unrest due to delays in service and medicine. Nonetheless, they have the potential to benefit patients, employees, and manufacturers. Technological advancements offer more efficient and effective operations across industries; for example, labour markets can leverage digital talent platforms to link employees with jobs. While demand for manual and physical labour is declining, demand for socioemotional and technological abilities is increasing. The new industrial models in pharma, in particular, aim to improve the patient experience and outcomes.

 

New product modalities (such as cell and gene therapy), digitisation, and advanced analytics have been and will continue to be the most significant disruptors in pharma operations. More than 80% of pharma manufacturing companies have already experienced a talent mismatch as a result of these disruptors. Only 10% of the impact of disruption that frontline staff believe they are experiencing first-hand is perceived by executives. At least half of all frontline workers are already feeling the effects of the disruption in their jobs, while another 25% expect to be effected within the next five years.

 

Upskilling for Better Pharma Recruitment

Women discussing

According to the analysis, cutting training funds was one of the critical ways firms reorganised to survive the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 48% of respondents indicated their organisation utilised this strategy in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, which only helped exacerbate the skills and capabilities gap. Overall, 60% of respondents indicated that last year's events had widened the industry's capability gaps and that they were concerned that a lack of investment would hurt long-term productivity. 

The majority of pharma companies predicted that they would be able to resume growth and, as a result, restart their training budgets within five to eight months. However, 62% of HR or learning and development employees said they had difficulty convincing business leaders of the importance of upskilling.

Even though all firms consider skills shortages to be an issue, most of their current initiatives may be falling short. A corporation must go beyond traditional training programmes to transform how work is done by introducing innovative techniques to managing employee transitions and learning. 

 

To fill the gaps, companies are primarily using traditional techniques such as hiring or partnering. While pharma has consistently attracted new talent, it now confronts increased competition from software corporations and start-ups. Hiring is a less successful technique because demand for data analysts, data scientists, and data engineers is predicted to be four times higher than supply.

Reskilling programmes encounter a number of obstacles, including aligning their demands with those of the rest of the business, scaling up, and determining which skills are required. Furthermore, executive focus groups revealed that new product launches frequently take precedence over operational improvements.

Woman shaking hands and smiling

Despite the challenges, pharma executives should be aware that their frontline employees want to learn new skills but want organisational and management support to do so. According to research conducted by the World Economic Forum Lighthouses project, organisations must prepare their workforce for this transition, retool their educational systems, and invest in training and lifelong learning in order to create a mobile workforce that can take advantage of the opportunities created by the fourth industrial revolution.

 

To close the skills gap, businesses might utilise a three-phased approach: scout, shape, and shift.

  • Scouting means determining the skills required to achieve the future vision and identifying the gaps between demand and supply. Most pharma companies report being in this phase—a critical step before scaling up.
  • Shaping is designing the program architecture to close the demand-supply gap.
  • Shifting refers to scaling up and rolling out the infrastructure to hire, reskill, or upskill people across the organisation.

 

A Future of Learners

The key takeaway from this is that the pharma industry wants to avoid the pangs of another pandemic and avoid businesses suffering. To achieve this, it's vital to incorporate a new mentality. One where the betterment and education of not just some, but all parts of the business and employees is paramount. Only when this becomes standard practise and is done so in an effective manner can skills shortages be minimised or altogether avoided.