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Plugging the Gaps

How technology can aid strategic workforce planning in pharma.
Plugging the Gaps

The pharmaceutical sector will continue to face challenges for years to come with cuts in government spending and looming patent cliffs. Concurrently, an exciting period of product development is revealing itself, creating rapid shifts in focus between therapeutic areas for many companies. A combination of these factors creates some specific challenges for our sector when it comes to acquiring and retaining talent. In order to overcome these challenges it is critical for organisations to better understand the make-up of their workforces today, to better map existing skills and talent, and to plan resource requirements for short-, medium- and long-term changes to strategic and operational requirements.

Working in such an environment, it's no surprise that businesses across the industry are currently facing complex staffing challenges, ranging from the ability to identify, engage with and hire candidates with niche skills, to the challenge of proactively cross-training and reskilling employees to enable a more agile and productive workforce. The traditional approach of investing large sums of money to enable hiring on demand is no longer sustainable as budget constraints and a push for greater efficiencies become business imperatives.

Added to this, the pre-existing, typically rigid management structure is not conducive to strategic internal mobility. Many pharma businesses are made up of functions that operate in relative silos created by knowledge centres and geography, and there is subsequently a somewhat blurred picture of skills and capabilities across the organisation as a whole. This is further impacted by the fact that HR and hiring teams within the sector can struggle to stay ahead of the shifting and complex skill sets that exist within the organisation and that are needed to meet future demand.

The term 'Big Data' has long been batted around in almost every industry, but in such a complex sector, the benefits are clear. Redeploying staff to either different geographies (virtually or physically) or therapeutic areas will be hugely beneficial for companies when it comes to reducing costs, addressing skills gaps in niche areas and, perhaps more importantly retaining top talent.

Without the data to identify the skills that exist, it is nearly impossible to plan to upskill and retrain professionals

However, without the data to identify the skills that exist and where gaps may lie, it is nearly impossible to plan to upskill and retrain professionals to ensure that they are ready to meet future business demands. If we are to evolve workforce plans in pharma, this is where predictive analytics come into play.

Any business that operates in an industry that is facing skills shortages must have a clear idea where the talent that needs to be brought into the organisation will come from, as well as when existing staff are predicted to leave or where the business will create new demand through growth or product development - basic supply and demand modelling for talent.

Predictive analytics can be used to support both the supply and demand side of effective workforce planning. On the demand side, analytics can simply predict skill shortages by modelling future retirement data and attrition trends and layering business strategy for growth and product development.

On the supply side, analytics can be used to not only map talent across the sector but to predict when talented people are statistically more likely to seek their next career move. This may seem like an impossible task, but innovative tools already exist to achieve this. Almost all Talent Acquisition functions today will be using social media to identify prospective talent for their organisations but the vast majority will be inefficient, contacting dozens of prospective candidates in order to solicit one application. New technologies exist today that not only identify the passive talent in the market but rate the likelihood of that talent being open to a new role; allowing recruiters to greatly improve their conversion of passive candidates to applicants and hires. Added to this, core skills and competencies can be identified and assessed in line with specific job requirements and wider company needs, reducing the burden on HR and hiring teams.

There is no one-size-fits-all overnight solution to the many talent challenges that pharmaceutical firms face today and will continue to face in the future. By using predictive analytics to better track and manage supply and demand in relation to increasingly complex workforces, HR teams will deliver true value and competitive advantage to the businesses.

Article by
Jim Sykes

Client services director at Alexander Mann Solutions

12th December 2016



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