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Recruiting Realities

Sabine Hutchison, Susan Philippo and Ron van Eijsden of Docs Global discuss changes in staffing affecting the pharma and biotech industries

Times are changing and we must be flexible in the way we work in order to adapt towards these changes, and most importantly, to achieve goals and maintain profitability. There are numerous external factors which influence one’s way of working. In these times, companies are reviewing how alternative resourcing solutions can assist them in reaching their goals. Recruitment needs are shifting for pharmaceutical and medical device companies. This article addresses the changes in the strategy surrounding the evolving resourcing industry. We will talk about the challenging economic environment, the shift from task to strategic resourcing, the large wave of redundancies and the challenges expected throughout the year.

CHANGES IN STAFFING REQUIREMENTS

Competitive and technological changes in the pharmaceutical industry – from powerful new drug chemistries to innovative R&D partnerships and marketing plans – are reshaping the business strategies of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Sponsors continue to search for ways to increase productivity, decrease costs and develop new treatment modalities that will enhance profitability.

In turn, they are looking for a range of flexible resourcing solutions to ensure their drug development milestones and business goals are met. Previously, clients may have been more in favour of one specific type of resourcing model, whereas now they are looking to use a variety of models to best suit their requirements. Where there was first a big trend in short-term, small amounts of staffing needs, the trend now is towards complete service programmes, including teams with line management involved. This happens not only in clinical, but also in sales and marketing. The need for flexible teams who have sales targets to be met is a question that we get asked often. In order to deliver these resources, staffing agencies need a stable network of experienced candidates.

CHALLENGING ECONOMIC CONDITIONS

Permanent headcount is being reduced at sponsor companies throughout the industry, increasing the demand for flexible staffing solutions. Sponsors are looking to build more strategic relationships with resourcing companies and want to work in partnership with them to create the right resourcing models for their business. Due to the need for creative solutions, it is imperative that providers truly understand the needs of their clients so that they can find the best solutions in the staffing industry. We think there are three distinct elements to the recruitment process for flexible resourcing:

Planning
To ensure the timely provision of resources, planning processes must be implemented as an integrated element of the governance structure. It is critical that both partners openly share needs on one side and availability on the other to ensure all gaps are identified early and filled in advance. It is critical to have multiple flows of resources available for client recruitment needs.

Consolidation
To execute a consolidation process, existing vendor resources and transiting client resources are merged into a single manageable pool. The sponsor has the advantage of enhanced flexibility as resources can be quickly scaled up or down.

Recruitment
Recruitment consultants should be trained and specialised in clinical and sales positions. Strong recruit teams must match the sponsors requirements and ensure resources are available on the required start date.

THE SWITCH FROM TASK IN-SOURCING TOWARDS LONGER TERM ‘STRATEGIC OUTSOURCING’

People talk about an important shift from task in-sourcing relationships between sponsors and CROs/staffing organisations towards longer term ‘strategic outsourcing’. This shift allows pharmaceutical companies to focus on their core competencies, while their staffing vendors deliver flexible staffing strategies which are efficient and cost-effective. As there are many peaks and troughs in drug development, utilising flexible contract staff resources minimises risk.

In a long-term strategic outsourcing relationship, communication is one of the most critical factors. When looking at models or projects which have failed, lack of communication is always a key factor contributing to the failure. Thus, a clear governance structure is critical in any relationship. A well-defined structure and a hands-on approach – not just ‘talking’ about issues but solving them – will ensure clear communication and success. This shift also has a positive impact on the industry workforce; a contracted employee will be able to gain experience through working on various assignments with pharma, biotech and medical device companies.

THE WAVE OF REDUNDANCIES

In the past year there have been a large number of redundancies across all pharma and medical device companies. With so many mergers and acquisitions and, indeed, cost-containment pressures, many companies are focusing on their strengths and are being more selective when it comes to their drug development pipelines. This is resulting in headcount reductions and a move towards more flexible resource solutions – be they full outsourcing or other flexible models – to execute their projects.

While the wave of redundancies across the industry is unfortunate, it has, however, also created a large pool of available talent, much of which is highly experienced. This pool of candidates will be searching for potential employers. Staffing organisations will have the opportunity to hire these individuals and provide these qualified employees to clients as flexible contract staff. It will be critical that employees stay within the organisation thus bringing stability to clients with low staff turnover. Employee recruitment and, most importantly, employee retention should be the number one priority to vendors.

THE CHALLENGES IN 2010

There will be continued pressure on the pharma, biotech and medical device industries to reduce headcount and develop more cost-effective solutions in performing clinical trials and different sales projects. On the other hand, sponsors have different needs in terms of the background, education and experience of the candidates. As the market changes, there is a need to hire staff which allow flexibility in these changing times. When looking at the current changes in healthcare, we see that healthcare insurance companies have an increased influence, requiring individuals to be in place who have a network within these companies. A more strategic sales force, which is more than solely operational, may add value, by adapting the marketing strategy to work according to this new perspective; to be operational, tactical and strategic, and adapt to the changes within healthcare. This change in strategy will also affect the traditional way of recruiting. There will be new channels in order to find the most qualified candidates; recruitment and resourcing organisations must to be aware of the needs for these new candidate profiles in order to address client needs. A true partnership and long-term relationship will be critical for success. Along with recent mergers and acquisitions activity, the industry will need creative flexible solutions to deal with the loss of headcount, while maintaining quality in their drug development processes. The main challenges facing sponsors in the upcoming years will be maintaining quality while at the same time reducing cost.

CONCLUSION

There are many external factors influencing the changing environment within pharma, biotech and medical device companies. This will cause resourcing organisations to address staffing needs and deliver flexible resourcing. There must be an awareness of continous changes, and a readiness to deliver the service and the employees to fulfil the needs of sponsors.


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Sabine Hutchison is Vice President, Global Business Development, at Docs Global. She had previously worked as Project Manager for MDS Pharma Services Central Labs before moving to proposal writing and then on to business development, and as the Director of Business Development for Input Clinical Research (acquired by M-Source). She has a BSc in Chemistry. 

Susan Philippo has a MSc in Sociology, Labour, Organization and Management. She started her career as a HR Adviser within a large pharmaceutical company. She has been working for Docs since September 2005 as a Recruitment Consultant, an currently holds the position of Business Director, Sales and Marketing.

Ron van Eijsden is the European Business Director for the Clinical and Medical section at Docs. He has broad experience in various fields in both science and industry. After graduating as a biologist and obtaining his PhD in Molecular Biology, he started to work at a small biotech company active in medical devices. He has been in international staffing a recruitment for more than seven years.

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Sabine Hutchison
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Susan Philippo
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Ron van Eijsden
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