HOW TO MITIGATE TALENT SHORTAGES IN LIFE SCIENCES - SHORT AND LONG TERM.

Let's get down to solution talk - short term and long term - rather than spending editorial space on a long introductory piece on the talent shortage issues facing the Life Sciences industry.


Being an executive search firm focused exclusively on the Life Sciences industry, we are privileged at Albright Partners to gain first hand insight into the many challenges facing Life Sciences companies in the Nordic region and abroad. From our dialogues with our clients, it is evident that todays number one obstacle to growth in the Life Sciences industry is talent shortage. And not just talent shortage in QA, RA and Market Access, as has been the case up until recently, but across most line-of-business functions. So what is the solution? How can the Life Sciences industry mitigate this devastating talent shortage?


SHORT TERM SOLUTIONS TO MITIGATING THE TALENT SHORTAGE IN LIFE SCIENCES


1. MOBILITY & FLEXIBILITY

Until the political system truly starts taking the talent shortage challenge seriously, you need to act, and act now. The first place to look is at your current operating model.

You need to take a quick and critical look at your current operating model - what are the current capabilities (people), systems, processes and structures in place in your organization to support your business strategy execution? Are they currently aiding or limiting your ability to work more effectively?

So, what should you concretely do:


Leverage transferable capabilities. Make a capability gap analysis. Identify skills set that are more easily transferable and train them in developing the relevant skills in the area within which you have a talent shortage. Fore instance, design control people in your R&D department could potentially make a (relatively) quick switch - periodically - to e.g. QA Design Assurance or QA Operations or RA functional areas that may be experiencing a serious talent shortage. Why? Because they are already working in close collaboration with people from those areas and are delivering much of the documentation and some of the work processes that they are supporting. The transition complexity is relatively low and intense training in the short run may do the trick.


Leverage digital mobility. Do you have skilled workers at other sites - globally or locally? Switch them - periodically - to take on roles and tasks in a challenged area, but first make sure you have a strong digital infrastructure in place. This is key because, even though you should also pursue leveraging physical mobility between sites - Corona is still standing in the way of moving people to your challenged location and you can come a long way with digital means.


2. INCENTIVIZATION & LEADERSHIP

Incentivize employees to go the extra mile. You are in the middle of the storm and now it's time for the leadership to step up. Show the way. Create a working environment that speaks to the higher purpose. Strong and engaging leaders and freedom to incentivize employees at their discretion (within clear corporate boundaries) will be key to move forward in the short term. You should consider both monetary incentives, increased flexibility and educational incentives a.o.). If you are too bogged down in the longer term consequences of creating extra-ordinary incentives, you will probably move too late. Explain to the employees that these are unique times that call for extra-ordinary short term solutions (in addition to other long term solutions), and that they are offered unique incentives in recognition of their dedicated support in times of difficulty.


3. SHORT TERM RECRUITMENT SUPPORT

By now, you are mobilizing "all men on deck" in the organization to support you in recruiting the staff you need. Your internal recruiters are swamped in work. You are asking your employees to help identify relevant candidates and you are even asking them to actively reach out to their network on your behalf. This is all fine and great. But it's not enough. You need external support. Why? Because the challenge is not finding the right employees, the challenge is to actually getting them to move jobs. You need help from people who knows the industry inside and out and who can help say the right things to motivate the candidates to move to your company.

Employees are enjoying the flexibility and trust from their current employer accumulated from 18 months of working from home with continued good productivity. As a result, many employees are reluctant to change employer as they feel insecure whether or not they can attain the same level of trust and flexibility as they are currently enjoying. Having said that, we are also beginning to experience some increased openness to change employer as employees are becoming less attached, less loyal to their company as a result of being physically detached from the company's site (we will talk more about this later in the article).


Finally, and as mentioned previously, you need to give your entire operating model a quick run through to identify quick fixes - i.e. identify gaps and non-optimal elements in the current way you structure work and exploit capabilities in the organization. Is it perhaps better to periodically instal a network-based organizational structure that can better support key projects? Moreover, take a look at the current processes framing the way you work - do they help or limit you in dealing with your short term challenges? Are they agile enough? Finally, you need to take a hard look at the systems supporting the organization. Are the current systems agile enough? Do they support your way of working? Are they fore instance supporting the sales team with the necessary digital/omnichannel communication tools so they allow the sales team to create impact with their Health Care Professionals (HCP's).


4. ORGANIZATIONAL SET-UP

Classical organizational structures no longer suffice when solving short term talent shortages in todays hybrid work models combining working from home and in-office presence. As a result, many companies have successfully embraced more agile, fluid and network-based organizational structures including the introduction of "mission teams" that are formed under e.g. a project or core team and designated to solve specific underlying tasks. Mission teams bring people closer together increasing loyalty to the team and consequently to the company. Fore instance, smaller team structures, such as mission teams, that are dependent on being able to operate partly or wholly virtually, can be a great format when e.g. innovation or "finding new ways" on a narrow/specific problem are on the agenda requiring close interactive sparring.


There are many other short term initiatives that one must consider to improve the current talent shortage. However, the bottom line is that either the current operating model is supporting you in your short term solutions or you need to make the necessary changes to the model if you are to improve the situation - here and now.


So, what about the more long term solutions?


LONG TERM SOLUTIONS TO MITIGATING THE TALENT SHORTAGE IN LIFE SCIENCES


In our experience, retention principles engulf some of the key long term tools to solving the talent shortage - including:


1. CREATING AN EMPLOYEE CENTRED ENVIRONMENT

Send a clear message that your employees are important. This involves making employees feel