Industry Workforce Seeks Clarity

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Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive: January 2023
Volume 43
Issue 01

An evolving job market has forced life sciences companies to respond.

The past three years have been a roller coaster ride for the global job market. While the pandemic is nearing an end—or, at least, some sense of normalcy has resumed—it has been a significant disruptor to the general workforce. On top of that, inflation as well as a potential financial crisis coming to fruition in 2023 are other economic factors influencing the current job market.

According to the most recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, the number of jobs added to the market has held steady from September through November 2022, with a reported increase of 260,000 in November. That figure, however, was the lowest mark for any month since December 2021.1 But factoring in an unemployment rate at 3.7%, which is one of the lowest since 1969,2 and you have a job market, in the US at least, that is begging for more clarity.

The biopharmaceutical workforce is no different from other industrial sectors when it comes to the rapid changes it’s going through. Pharm Exec reached out to former Pharm Exec Emerging Pharma Leader Greg Griesemer (selected in 2018), the founder and senior HR advisor at 1130 Consulting, for insights on this critical trend in the life sciences space.

Keeping in mind 1130 Consulting works extensively with clinical-stage biotechs, Griesemer highlighted three main trends: 1) companies moving to a more remote workforce strategy; 2) scaling back on hiring plans in 2023 and 2024; and 3) the job market shifting to favor candidates.

When discussing the shift to remote work in recent years, it’s difficult to leave the pandemic out of the conversation, as COVID-19 is what ultimately started this trend.

“There are a number of companies we work with that moved to a remote workforce strategy during COVID and have not returned to the office as of yet,” says Griesemer.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, as the number of remote opportunities available in the job market has skyrocketed since before the pandemic. According to Ladders, a high-level job search website, remote job opportunities represented nearly 15% of all high-paying job listings in Q3 2021. In Q4 2019, the number was at just below 4%.3

As COVID becomes more of an afterthought in the present, what is keeping some organizations from going back to the office? After all, commuting and working in an office setting was a regular part of life pre-pandemic.

“Companies have received the benefit of additional work that has taken the place of an employee’s commute, and those extra hours each day can equate to an extra day’s worth of work each week in some cases,” Griesemer tells Pharm Exec. “This has caused productivity to soar, and companies have moved the line on goalsetting over the past two years in correlation to that spike.”

According to research by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, 74% of employees feel happier when they work remotely.4 As Griesemer alluded to, the reasons vary from not having to commute to spending more time with family.

Meanwhile, the number of remote opportunities is on the rise. But what does the number of opportunities in the overall job market look like going into the new year? As evidenced by some of the statistics cited earlier, the outlook appears a bit muddled for job seekers. One thing that does appear certain, however, is that companies are creating new game plans for hiring.

Among clients of 1130 Consulting, Griesemer says companies are scaling back their hiring plans for 2023 and 2024 to open up more funds for use in clinical trials, given how difficult it has been to raise money the past year.

“Many [companies] who are already public are struggling to raise, as valuations have come back down to earth, and those that were planning IPOs have pushed those plans out into the second half of 2023, hoping the market will return then,” he says. “This has a direct impact on workforce workload.”

Griesemer is also seeing the job market favor candidates more. One of the main reasons for this trend goes hand-in-hand with much of today’s workforce being remote.

“Candidates are bringing a list of requirements with them, primarily related to work schedule and location,” he explains. “Many still want to be remote with an occasional trip to the office.” This has flipped the script on hiring companies that are still primarily in the office, forcing them to reevaluate their views on remote work and evolve to acquire talent.” Griesemer adds: “This is especially relevant with regulatory affairs and biostats roles in particular, as those skills remain in hot demand.”

With financial and economic drivers in flux, there is uncertainty surrounding the pharma workforce dynamic heading into the new year. With new demands from candidates and a limited number of open positions, companies must continue to evolve in order to acquire talent from this new generation of job seekers.


Andy Studna is Pharm Exec's associate editor and can be reached at astudna@mjhlifesciences.com.


References

  1. Breaking Down the Monthly BLS Job Report. HR Dive, December 5, 2022. https://www.hrdive.com/news/breaking-down-the-monthly-bls-job-report/568584/
  2. Pickert, R. What’s a Recession and How Close Are We to One? Washington Post, October 25, 2022).
  3. Research: Remote Work Now Accounts for Nearly 15% of All High Paying Jobs. Ladders, October 13, 2021. https://www.theladders.com/press/research-remote-work-now-accounts-for-nearly-15-of-all-high-paying-jobs
  4. Collins, T, Work Remote After COVID? Nearly 50% of US Workers Would Take a Pay Cut for it, Survey Says. USA Today, November 11, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/11/11/workplace-survey-remote-pay-cut-covid/6367601001/
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