The pharmaceutical industry, like so many others, is going through its own industrial revolution. It is a time of profound change.
The explosion in digital technologies at every level, greater patient awareness, increased uptake of social media and significant changes in the way clinical research and development (R&D) are being conducted are just a few of the factors forcing companies to rethink traditional job roles and talent supply chains.
In the last post, we looked at the trend towards companies outsourcing their research operations to contract research organisations (CROs), but the same is happening in a broader sense, with an increase in the amount of work being outsourced to highly skilled individual suppliers. These operatives work independently and move, as suits their interests and lifestyle, from job to job, rather than working full-time for one company.
Life science meets the gig economy
This cohort makes up part of what is being referred to as ‘the gig economy’. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, 20-30% of the labour force in both the US and EU is now made up of independent workers – while not all actively choose independent work and derive their primary income from it (these are categorised as ‘free agents’ in the study), the figures are indicative of a decisive trend. The pharmaceutical industry is jumping on board in a big way.
What’s driving the trend
The roll-out of mass digitalisation is resulting in work environments that are changing faster than companies can. Traditional pharmaceutical firms, with their deep specialisations, often lack the knowledge, understanding and experience to implement cutting edge digital strategies using the skills of existing employees.
From the point of view of free agents, working independently has some obvious attractions that are also feeding the trend. The intellectual stimulation that comes with a variety of different project types and indication areas, networking across a whole industry, the satisfaction of ‘captaining your own ship’ and better work-life balance are a few of the motivations.
What’s in it for pharma companies
With the cost of bringing new drugs to market spiralling out of control, by many accounts, commercial considerations must take high priority. Being in a position to engage an ‘on demand’ talent pool that can be flexible, fill skills gaps and seamlessly transform as business targets evolve, can offer compelling efficiencies. Having free market access to top scientific and clinical expertise can also be an attraction.
Embracing a new work paradigm
At Hays, we’re witnessing talent resourcing models in the life sciences sector changing. Growth in the biopharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostics markets along with increased emphasis on innovation, data science, speed to market and patient engagement are breaking open old models of business operation.
The growing network of independent, switched on strategists, analysts, researchers, clinical research associates (CRAs), data managers, social media experts, medical writers, big data specialists and others, are here to stay. One way or another, the gig economy is coming to you – whether from the inside or the outside of the traditional pharma business model.
If you found this blog useful don’t forget to read our other blogs:
- From benchtop to boardroom in the life sciences sector – honing your transferable skills
- The 3 most desirable skills in the ‘new breed’ of pharma sales representative