In January, I attended the 40th Annual JP Morgan Health Care Conference, the traditional kick off annual event for the global life science investment community. Like many conferences over the past two years, JP Morgan was held online in 2022 – an all-too-familiar reflection of the virtual world we have all adapted to during the pandemic. Throughout the week, there were several over-arching themes around people and talent in pharma and healthcare services that resonated with my own experiences in the industry. I’ve noted some of my top takeaway messages and insights below.
Talent challenges during the pandemic – how should leaders respond?
A common thread throughout the week’s discussions was how to maintain a productive and stable workforce when faced with remote working, lockdowns, isolation, or illness-related staffing shortages. For example, many Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisations (CDMOs) have had to respond to the challenge of keeping manufacturing sites operational while trying to meet unprecedented demand for vaccine and biological production, coupled with increased requirements for critical healthcare products globally. This has vastly increased pressure on staff and left little room for professional development or wellbeing initiatives. This story was echoed by many healthcare organisations, posing the question – how should leaders respond to these challenges?
A key response is empathy. The pandemic has forced people to reassess what is truly important, the power balance has shifted, and from a talent perspective, the swing has been in the candidate’s favour. To attract top talent, employers more than ever need to assess the key motivational drivers from a personal and professional perspective. The same applies for existing employees; the most compelling leaders are those able to understand the challenges the broader team is facing, both at work and at home, and to respond appropriately.
Nurturing the next generation of talent – pipelines for future-proof skills
Many US and European pharma companies are reshoring their drug and ingredients manufacturing in response to the drug shortages that have arisen from the pandemic. This creates workforce challenges; after two decades of API manufacturing outsourcing, skilled workforce availability is limited. There is additional demand for specialised skills for the development of advanced therapies, large molecules and cell and gene therapies. A possible solution is collaborations with academia to create specialist training programmes.
As pharma evolves into the virtual age, there is additional crossover with parallel sectors such as tech, IT, and cybersecurity, coupled with increasing demand for transferrable skills. Computational approaches to disease diagnosis, drug discovery, development and commercialisation will continue to gain momentum, and become a far larger piece within therapeutics in the coming years. Leaders must therefore consider hiring talent from outside the traditional healthcare sector to truly capitalise on available and needed talent. For organisations facing specific skills shortages, interims can provide an excellent solution.
The discussions and deals at the conference have kicked off the year with an optimistic outlook for sectors such as genomics, cell and gene therapies, and vaccine development.
Contact me directly if you would like to discuss any issues I have raised or to find out about how we can help you unravel your talent challenges.
Poppy.Moore@theRSAgroup.com – I’d love to hear from you.