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Going Global: The New Pharma Workforce


Pharmaceutical Executive

Finding the right people for the right job might seem an afterthought for big Pharma companies that have cut their US workforce by more than 250,000 in the past 10 years.

Mexico and other emerging markets top the skills gap list

By Susan Crowley

Finding the right people for the right job might seem an afterthought for big Pharma companies that have cut their US workforce by more than 250,000 in the past 10 years.  But the rush is back on for talent:  the challenge is making sense of what skills and capabilities will be needed to improve the productivity of human capital as the industry adjusts to a new, more global competitive climate.  The Healthcare Businesswoman’s Association [HBA] is making an effort to answer this question, and organized a dinner  symposium on Tuesday in the industry’s jobs heartland – New Jersey – around the theme, “Pharma 2015:  What talents will be required to remain competitive in the future?”

Participants discussed a survey prepared by the outplacement consultant Right Management based on extensive interviews with 15 top pharma companies covering their future talent requirements and to identify the links between proper staffing and achieving consistent gains in innovation, profitability and competitiveness.  The survey findings show that successful organizations that lead in these three areas share a common bond:   higher rates of employee retention and a reputation as a place where people want to work, compared to other companies.   Executives identified as a talent “constraint” the fact that pay and benefits for the top candidates are trending higher for mid-rank positions and above,  and that  a shortage of applicants with specific skills make it more difficult to innovate in certain areas and to pursue particular markets or opportunities.

An interesting aspect of the survey was the designation of country markets with the biggest mismatch between company needs and the availability of talent. Mexico came out on top, followed by Brazil, India, China, South Korea, Australia and the US.  The easy conclusion is that growth in the emerging country market will slow unless the skills gap is breached.   Alternatively, the message might be – if you want a good  job in the industry, point your compass to the east and south.

The survey and discussion also revealed how important it is to demonstrate the capacity to participate effectively across functions and cultures and to lead teams. Right Management executive Robin Guarnieri stated that in 1985, fully 75% of knowledge required to carry out a pharmaceutical industry job function was vested in the individual worker; by 2009, only 8-10% of the knowledge required in a job was retained by an individual.  A result of this trend is that the retained knowledge of a staff member is no longer the differentiator for success – leveraging knowledge to win business requires a culture of collaboration – the cliché is now truth.

Any comments?

Susan Crowley is principal of Multilateral Consulting LLC.  She can be reached at scrowley@multilateralconsulting.com

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