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A Contingent Workforce Strategy Is Critical to Life Sciences Companies


Pharmaceutical Executive

Speed to market is crucial to the success of launching new products and therapies.

In today’s ultra-competitive life sciences industry, the race to launch the latest and best new products and therapies is never-ending, and speed to market is crucial to success. To ensure that products are brought to market as quickly as possible, and quicker than the competition, life sciences companies must prioritize and optimize their workforce strategies so that top-tier contingent workers (e.g., gig workers, consultants, independent contractors) are in place and ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.

The speed at which a company brings a product to market can mean the difference between success and failure in the life sciences industry. Some experts suggest that a one-month delay in commercializing or launching a $150 million pharmaceutical product can result in a sales loss of more than $12 million, which is why life sciences companies cannot rely solely on full-time employees who are already engaged in other tasks to support a product launch.1 These companies need a contingent workforce of highly skilled, experienced, specialized professionals, including those with very specific niche skills. Organizations need these workers at various phases of the typically years-long process, which includes the R&D phase, the FDA/New Drug Application (NDA) phase, the clinical phase, the commercial phase and/or the post-market phase.

Contingent workers are generally flexible-many can work for extended periods or at non-traditional hours and at different locations, and they can be brought onboard for one task, one phase or for the entire process-which can help a company be first to market with a new medication, for instance. The cost of bringing a new pharmaceutical to market is staggering, with estimates ranging from a low of $648 million to a high of $2.7 billion, so being first to market is imperative.2 Lost or unproductive time and lack of preparation can hinder a new drug launch by months or even years, which can be detrimental to potential patients, disappointing to medical professionals, and devastating to a pharma company. Being second to market can lower profits, hurt branding, and keep a company from hitting its earnings targets or internal growth markers-which can effectively give its better-prepared competitors a significant advantage. In fact, a second-to-market company can expect an average peak market share of just 34% as compared to the competitor who can achieve a market-first position with a just-in-time workforce strategy.3

Life sciences companies must implement a solid contingent talent strategy in order to attract and retain the best talent and the right talent for each job. Even with 57 million Americans taking part in the gig economy, it is not uncommon to have fewer than one or two available candidates per position.4 The most qualified contingent workers can pick and choose which companies they want to work for, so employers must align their contingent talent strategies with the current market and offer what candidates want and need.

Retaining top contingent talent is as important as attracting and recruiting the best workers. One way to ensure retention is to prioritize talent engagement. While engagement is key for all employee retention, it is crucial for contingent workers. According to Gallup, only 32% of contingent workers feel a sense of belonging in their workplace.5 Employers should work with their contingent labor provider to establish a framework for performance reviews, feedback, and pay increases, aligned to what full-time equivalents would expect.

When it comes to compensation, it is paramount to pay competitively, as contingent talent with niche skills can easily find a firm that will pay them above market rate. Partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can give companies the market insight on pay and salary rates, estimates on available candidates in the market, and details on the compensation those candidates are seeking, giving organizations the competitive edge they need to lead in the industry.

With projections that the global pharmaceuticals market will reach $1,170 billion in 2021, only those companies that are deploying top talent quickly and retaining that talent with well-thought-out strategies will take part in this growth.6 Despite the inherent challenges in such a competitive market, companies that are proactive and precise in their talent acquisition and retention strategies will see significant gains in innovation, productivity, and profitability.




Don Steele, Area Vice President, Integrated MSP, Randstad Sourceright

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