Life sciences companies are facing serious talent challenges today. At issue isn't just a shortage of available talent — although that certainly is a factor — but a shortfall of talent with specialized skills. In fact, a recent PwC survey revealed that 57 percent of life sciences and pharma CEOs say they have difficulty attracting and retaining the right people — a higher share than any other industry surveyed.
Meanwhile, talent management plays a significant role in helping life sciences companies address several of their main challenges, including cost control and risk management.
Clearly, talent leaders in the sector will need to get proactive and adopt new strategies — modern staffing models and partnerships chief among them — in order to overcome these and other talent-related challenges. And the good news is that the staffing industry has evolved alongside the life sciences sector to bring a wide range of staffing partnerships to bear on these talent headaches.
Let's turn to look at these various models in more detail — and break down some of the pros and cons of adopting each for life sciences employers today.
The structure and scope of staffing models vary, but they all offer life sciences companies opportunities to optimize their talent acquisition spend, minimize waste and achieve the best possible ROI. That, in turn, should mean having more money on hand to invest in innovation and drive revenue growth.
Here's an overview of four staffing models that can create value for life sciences companies right now.
In an MSP model, the staffing supplier takes responsibility for providing clients with contract staff. Typically, all orders will go first to the master supplier, at which point they are either filled or distributed to secondary suppliers. The master supplier provides the bulk of contract talent and manages the program.
In other words, the benefits of this model for clients include:
increased accountability — after all, there's only one supplier
high spend visibility and predictable costs for more accurate forecasting
greater process efficiencies, technology expertise and compliant talent practices
improved program scalability and flexibility
lower mark-up rates on account of overall volume
The potential downsides of this partnership for some clients include:
lack of natural competition among staffing suppliers in securing talent
potential gaps in skills and geographic coverage, which can impact quality and efficiency
limited visibility into subcontracting relationships, which can increase rates and risk
increased risk as a result of working with a single supplier
In a vendor-neutral MSP model, the MSP operates independently from the organization's staffing arm and does not source candidates for the program — thus, it is "vendor neutral."
Instead, the MSP incorporates multiple sourcing channels and resources (not just the staffing suppliers) into a broader sourcing strategy for the program. All staffing suppliers under this model are given an equal opportunity to fill each order without the MSP giving preference to a specific supplier.
A vendor-neutral MSP may be a good fit for life sciences companies looking to:
create a highly competitive environment among suppliers, generally resulting in lower rates and better supplier performance
achieve simplified billing — often a single invoice
ensure market rates through competitive bidding among suppliers
establish a long-term, trusted partnership with the MSP
When evaluating this option, potential drawbacks include:
too much focus on neutrality, which can result in quality issues, such as a lack of understanding of client requirements and culture
over-reliance on vendor management systems (VMS) in order to realize a significant benefit from competitive bidding
excessive competition per requisition, with the supplier less inclined to compete
higher supplier fees
In a preferred provider model, the provision of the majority of a contingent workforce is exclusively granted to a limited number of staffing providers at specified conditions. Two or more suppliers will have the majority of the company's staffing requirements distributed to them, either in lieu of or underneath an MSP arrangement. Preferred providers may be onsite with the client; they also may or may not be in a competitive-bid situation.
Many companies choose a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) or a recruiter on demand (ROD) partnership as part of a preferred provider model. In these cases, the client strategically partners with a single supplier in order to fully outsource the recruitment function or outsourcing portions of the recruitment process. These arrangements typically allow a company to gain expert-level resources to provide strategic management of program objectives, such as global expansions, implementation, supplier rationalization and cutting-edge best practices across the organization.
A preferred provider model is ideal for life sciences companies looking to:
access niche or specialist recruitment capabilities
gain flexibility and scalability in their talent recruitment function
benefit from direct-to-market sourcing capabilities
engage best-in-class vendors
A few of the potential risks to consider include:
hiring managers may only have decentralized access to suppliers when filling vacancies
the client environment may not value industry best practices
multiple invoices to process and pay
potential inconsistencies around compliance
Given the complexity and risks associated with clinical trials, functional outsourcing has grown in popularity — both as an option within a strategic partnership arrangement, and as a viable alternative to full-service strategic models.
By working with an FSP, life sciences companies can dramatically reduce the dangers associated with fluctuating demand while gaining efficiency and expertise. Well-defined services within the scope of a clinical trial project or program — for example, data management, biostatistics or medical writing — are all good candidates for FSP outsourcing.
Life sciences companies frequently adopt an FSP model in order to:
achieve a high level of resourcing flexibility and efficiency
engage a lower-cost solution than an MSP or preferred provider model
gain access to specific expertise and talent in a therapeutic area, indication or functional specialty, such as clinical trial management or medical writing
have more control and oversight than with a full-service provider
Potential cons to an FSP model to consider include:
less oversight, particularly if the company has multiple FSPs
inconsistent program practices among multiple FSPs
As R&D portfolios continue to expand and transform — and as targeted therapies and personalized medicines come to market — life sciences companies must evolve both their short- and long-term talent strategies as well.
Namely, life sciences companies should embrace new workforce models as a way to fill in-house capability gaps while overcoming R&D and marketplace challenges by externally sourcing innovative ideas, knowledge, skills and technologies. The bottom line is that any company with plans to protect and grow its share of the market must have essential talent in place at this critical juncture.
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