Since 2020, unprecedented global disruptions affecting lives, livelihoods, and business, have impacted India in equal measure, if not more – across various areas, including the pharma industry. If there is one change that is creating a snowballing effect, is the rate of progress and use of technology in its operations.
Consequently, finding properly trained people, to drive the new avatar of technology driven today’s business – right from R&D, supply chain, manufacturing, sales and marketing, customer behavior, market dynamics – poses a facet of ongoing challenges.
This is primarily because, some key business-success requirements have now significantly changed, but many are still nuanced that one may tend to possibly ignore. Thus, early identification of these and placing properly skilled – right people in the right job, who can floor the gas pedal in search of excellence, assume two key priorities for the pharma players, more than ever before.
Most companies, as I understand, are finding this task quite time consuming, if not arduous. The options are basically two. The first one – spot, search and hire the best talent from outside the organization. And the second – spot the internal talents, hone their skills, handhold them for some time on the job, before they take charge and assume accountability for achieving the set goals. In this article, I shall focus on the relevance, criticality, and associated intricacies that pharma leadership may encounter in this process.
Intense focus on the drug industry in last two years – blessings and burden:
A recent research study on Talent Trends For Life Sciences Organizations, published by Randstad Sourceright on July 22, 2022, came out with some interesting findings in this area. The key ones are as below:
- In the past couple of years, the intense global focus on Life Sciences Industries brings both blessings and burden on the industry.
- Key drug manufacturers received unprecedented levels of financial and regulatory support for the development of therapies and vaccines for the treatment and prevention of Covid-19 onslaught on the people across the world.
- In tandem, the drug industry had to withstand tremendous pressures and intense scrutiny to achieve this task by re-prioritizing their R&D focus, which no drug manufacturer had experienced ever before.
Alongside, pharma customer characteristics and behavior also started changing fast in many areas, and consequently the market dynamics. Many of these changes are still nuanced and are driven by contemporary technology. Amid lesser concern for Covid-pandemic, the ongoing metamorphosis in the world of work – impacting almost all functional areas of a customer-driven organization, poses a fresh pharma leadership challenge.
Thus, for future business success, pharma companies now need to capture relevant real-time data, and analyze them to gain in-depth insight of these changes. Consequently, it is important to figure out how much the quality of talent requirement has changed for an organization, to continue to remain as patient centric. However, before doing that, it’s worth figuring out what kept the wheels of pharma businesses moving during the years of the recent pandemic.
What kept the wheels of business moving during the pandemic:
Several important studies have made dip-stick assessment in this space. One such recent study findings of Randstad Sourceright highlighted the following three, among others, as the key success factors for employee motivation in trying times, which kept the wheels of business moving:
- Empathy of the leadership,
- Flexibility in work life
- Ingenuity of employees to quickly adapt to the new normal
Some of these, or all, may linger in the minds of many employees. They may still long for empathy at work and flexibility in the workplace, to unleash their full potential for organizational success. Otherwise, they may look outside, especially to those companies who can meet their expectations, in the new normal.
In this situation, fostering EQ within the organization to encourage employees committing to the corporate shared goal, is a key requirement for pharma’s performance excellence. The bottom-line is,how well an organization continues to nurture and retain or attract new talents, besides honing their skills in line with the changing customer value delivery process, would be critical.
Need to identify even nuanced changes in workplaces:
Thus, before making a dip-stick assessment to ascertain the changes in organizational talent requirements, it is worth getting a sense from the available studies what’s going on today in the industry.
Like many other countries, the pandemic is no longer an unsettling unease for most pharma organizations in India. At the same time, studies reiterate that it’s for sure that the pandemic related disruptions have ushered-in visible or nuanced transformations, especially in the operational areas of the life sciences business.
Some recent studies, such as, one done by McKinsey & Company on – Creating the workforce of the future, made a notable observation. It emphasized, “Pharma companies struggle to predict where they will see the talent gaps, these disruptions create, though a majority monitor key trends and track talent needs. Only a minority of companies (40 percent) believe that they really know which skills are needed now, let alone in ten years (less than 25 percent).”
Which is why, I reckon, it is now critical for the Indian pharma leadership to identify, analyze and address, both perceptible and nuanced transformation within their customers, employees, and other stakeholders. And then zero-in on changing talent requirements of employees in key operational areas, including sales and marketing – to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
However, it is worth remembering that the supply of quality talent remains limited, although it is essential to catapult the business in a higher growth trajectory. Besides, gradually changing employee expectations in the workplace culture – work-flexibility could emerge as another sought after factor to attract new talents from the millennials.
The ways to move forward in this area:
Many companies may decide to hire new talents from outside the company, whereas some may look for developing people internally, through well-structured internal human development initiatives. However, the research study of Randstad Sourceright finds: ‘67% of life science and pharma leaders believe reskilling and upskilling employees for different roles is an effective way to address talent scarcity. Additionally, 63% say they already invest in internal mobility platforms to augment their recruiting efforts, while 53% plan to increase their investments in this area.’
Further McKinsey & Company in their above-mentioned article also suggested: ‘Reskilling employees to address talent gaps can help a company retain the bulk of its operations workers and empower them to take advantage of a new world.’ So did another article on building pharma talent of tomorrow, published in the Pharma Executive on October 05, 2022. It emphasized that training current employees who already know the business, and are familiar with the inner workings, would expectedly take much less time to deliver that is expected of them.
I also understand, a few large Indian pharma majors are also focusing on internal talent development as one of the key organizational development initiatives. They are identifying internal talents in an organized manner, up-skill them to shoulder new responsibilities – following a well-charted career path for each one of them. It’s important for the leadership to demonstrate and make these employees also feel that they are of great value to the organization.
From the above perspective, I reckon, in today’s environment when many employees are eager to search for a greener pasture that suits them better, the above approach also provides an opportunity for pharma employers. This opportunity is primarily to retain talents, by incentivizing them with learning, and development process, besides a chance for career progress in the company.
One thing for sure is critical to ensure that right talents are always placed in the right job. This is crucial to keep pace with not just significant transformations. But even for emerging and nuanced technology driven changes in customer characteristics, behavior, and market dynamics. Thereafter, each organization will need to identify available in-house talents for upskilling, honing and development. Whereas some fresh new talents may necessarily be required to hire from outside or outsourced.
Several recent studies have also indicated that the best strategy in this regard, is the optimal combination of hiring from outside or outsourcing the new requirements, alongside internal talent development initiatives, and charting a career path for them. To chart on this emerging frontier calls for a mindset change. Thus, it is important for us to remember that only permanent factor in the pharma business is – change. Can one ignore it? Of course, but at one’s own peril, because in the long run “What You Do is Who You Are” in the future pharma business.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.