Big Pharma has hard time identifying talent

The talent gap is an emerging problem businesses will have to deal with in the short and medium term. As the workforce ages and baby boomers retire, scores of jobs once held by experienced talent will become available for the country's youngest and brightest. However, many companies have said they encounter trouble when hiring talent to fill such positions; and while that sentiment has been voiced in manufacturing, in particular, and other notable industries, it wasn't felt much play in pharmaceuticals, until recently.

More than half find hiring difficult
Big Pharma executives voiced their talent search concerns in a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCooper. In "New Chemistry: Getting the biopharmaceutical talent formula right," the accountancy firm found companies that have long relied on existing talent pipelines have seen the reserves run dry and are finding it harder to locate and hire qualified talent.

Fifty-one percent of responding pharma leaders said hiring has become increasingly harder for them, which PwC noted was the highest percentage of any industry. Overall, 28 percent believe they have the access to top talent. This number could be better if businesses partner with technical recruiters to boost their presence in the labor market.

In order to counter the outflux of top talent and the challenges of hiring, 72 percent of executives said their organizations will look to improve research and development (R&D) capacity during the next 12 months, while nearly 60 percent will increase investments over the next three years to foster a more skilled workforce.

"The scientific community produces the golden eggs of medical scientific discovery, and as biopharmaceutical companies aggressively overhaul their R&D engines, they also must create an environment where the source of innovation can thrive," said Michael Mentesana, U.S. pharmaceuticals advisor for PwC. "Scientists are driven by the chance to tackle tough problems, but not when they are operating in a pressure cooker environment with incentives that aren't well aligned with company goals or their own sense of satisfaction."

New skills, focus on HR needed
The report noted the difficulty biopharmaceutical companies encounter in hiring may be linked to the advanced skill set among scientists they now look for. Thirty-four percent said developing and managing outside partnerships was a desired skill, while 33 percent valued regulatory science knowledge. Another 25 percent identified biomedical engineering as a skill they wish to see in potential candidates.

In addition to working with engineering recruiters, businesses need to improve the way they treat HR if they want to land the top talent. PwC found just 52 percent of executives said their leadership views HR as a strategic function. The remainder look at it through a purely technical lens.

Biopharmaceutical organizations that need to hire talent but don't know how to go about acquiring it can work with accomplished recruiting agencies to help with the task.