Preparing Your Post Pandemic Talent Strategy

January 5, 2021

In order for your company to better prepare for growth, here are areas for consideration, ensuring you adopt the right approach to reinforce investments, optimize business and maximize your workforce.

What has changed during the pandemic? Pharma companies currently face many opportunities. Increased profits are one result of the continued surge in demand from Covid-19 related activities. Investors are now pushing CEOs and their leadership teams to reveal their road maps for the future. That is, how they will best utilize the current business environment and maintain momentum for further sustainable growth. For leadership teams today, linking business strategy, organizational design and operational delivery will create the path to success, driven by people. The pharma industry has seen a surge in organizations deciding to act fast on acquisitions that they have long been exploring and moving quickly to finalize in 2020/21 fiscal years. Those acquisitions have been driven by the need to service the demand requests from customers, particularly vaccine manufacturing capacity. Organizations who are taking on new facilities and don-t have a well-oiled mergers and acquisitions (M&A) talent strategy, can find themselves quickly stuck with many challenges, for both the purchaser and acquirer. Throw in a pandemic and this magnifies issues.

Competition among contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) has increased exponentially due to a number of factors driven by smart investors, demand, Big Pharma refocusing and a sharp increase in new innovative molecules hitting the market. The pandemic has significantly pushed this demand for even more capacity, which is set to continue. A less publicized impact from increased competition is the impact on talent. The availability of talent in the market has been significantly strained, and now stands at a critical point in some geographical regions.In order to demonstrate this point, Big Pharma managed to hire talent mostly through strong internal talent development programs historically. New technologies, digitalization and innovation are creating the perfect storm for organizations to navigate, requiring a rapid rethink of how they hire and develop the next generation of employees, which is driving greater levels of external hiring.

Aftershocks of Covid-19 on talent supply chain The pandemic is now compounding the talent issue. As organizations accelerate their expansion plans, growth plans are often not aligned to the available external workforce.The greatest operational impact has been felt by the pharma manufacturing sites, where the employee cannot be based remotely, as they are part of the production at a specific location. These sites were hit the hardest in those areas, who experienced the highest levels of Covid infections, which required smart planning on behalf of those leadership teams. One key outcome has been of organizations to think about how and where work gets done, some organizations are insisting all employees needs to be back on site, while others are maintaining remote working as benefit to the employee.Mobility of talent of has been impacted throughout this pandemic, with less people physically being able to move through country restrictions. Although what is unclear is the longer-term impact of talent mobility across the globe, mostly driven by country specific restrictions, candidate behaviors and potentially unwillingness to move. Early studies suggest that people travelling much less will be a trend that may continue, resulting in more hyperlocal mobility and even less talent considering a relocation. This trend is forcing sites and companies to think differently, considering things like ‘virtual assignments’, staying in the home location, while working in the same time zone where the work is being delivered.

Impact to organizational design, talent and recruitment costs Many organizations who are on a growth journey, are trying to facilitate this growth with a business model that is localized. Most organizations have a collection of smaller P&L’s from country legal entities, which are often a result of legacy acquisitions. Many organizations opt for fewer resources that sit in the ‘center’. The decision of the operating model creates an impact to an organization’s ability to hire the right talent in an effective and sustainable way to drive their growth, as they often are unable to easily leverage expertise, resources and internal talent.As a result of this structure, many organizations will have a patchwork of how they attract and develop talent; those bigger organizations are leveraging their scale, while a smaller sites may suffer. This model becomes very exposed when talent dries up locally, requiring them to go outside of commutable distance. This often results in leadership to start taking knee jerk decisions on hiring, often resulting in chaotic costly decision when managing recruitment agencies, throwing more and more investment to deal with the challenge. Although rarely organizations stop to ask the question if there is another way to manage talent resources more effectively, building the availability of talent into an organization’s investment decisions, leveraging more sophisticated market and talent insights.

Finding your purpose and power of employer brand Many organizations in pharma often underplay their role in people’s lives, often as a symptom of operating in a highly regulated environment, historically have opted for a more conservative approach to branding. In other cases, they struggle to establish an employer brand, often citing that it is too expensive and no possible return on investment, as they are a business-to-business service offering.Through Covid-19 all organizations minds were quickly focused on their purpose and the CDMO market thrust into the limelight. Since most CDMO companies never even had a structured communications plan, let alone an employer brand, never would have anyone guessed that this highly unusual situation would expose this frailty.Big Pharma was able to do better than CDMOs overall, because they had the infrastructure to handle the surge in communications. Although what was surprising was the role that the employer brand teams played through this crisis, often followers of these companies tracked news through social media channels, historically used for recruitment branding. This gave a compelling reason for marketing and employer brand to work collaboratively, demonstrating how crucial the need to integrate messaging is to the external market and the key role employer branding can play in your organization.

Building an employer brand requires a very specific skill set, although has many advantages. Here are the top 5 reasons why every organization needs to build an integrated employer brand:

  1. Attract and retain the right talent
  2. Drives the most qualified candidates
  3. Decrease cost per hire on average 43%
  4. 69% of candidates are more likely to apply with a well-managed employer brand
  5. Builds internal brand advocacy with existing employees

The new reality created by Covid-19 has required a revision of business strategies, which is requiring a shake-up of talent strategies and leadership teams asking if one even exists? Understanding the required skills needed to execute an organizations business strategy successfully to make the company stand out from the crowd of competitors and ensure compliance are just some of the benefits that this structured approach creates.Understanding the blend of skills required to deliver the objectives is critical, which then drives the optimum operating model, leading to the right blend of skills, carrying out an inventory of the required skills is often necessary. Although companies too frequently focus on permanent headcount as a fixed cost. Contingent labor is often overlooked, because variable labor information is more difficult to collect, it can be surprisingly costly—often consultants and embedded delivery of services can be overlooked. Establishing this can also help with a key issue: understanding how work gets done in your organization. Smarter ways of managing contingent labor effectively can save minimum 10% of its cost, which allows organizations to make investments from these savings in systems, that can give prompt and accurate information about the total workforce, including your non-payrolled population. The talent strategy should also consider the necessary technology that complements the workforce. The right combination of systems, applications, automation, artificial intelligence and team delivering this activity, highly influences the efficiency of an organization. Workforce related technologies are booming and creating real opportunities for companies to build competitive advantage, although having a well thought out plan for technology is critical, otherwise decisions can become very expensive very quickly. While stepping through this process of considering new skills and technologies, companies will identify unnecessary positions that are going to become obsolete in the future, all too often organizations continue to recycle what they have always done. If the skills are identified early enough, then companies have time to reallocate resources, reskill their people and minimize restructuring. During the talent strategy work it is important that cost analysis takes place to understand the costs and benefits of every strategic choice. At the end the talent strategy will reveal the necessary organizational changes and projects that will attract, engage and retain the necessary talent.

Recommendations to CDMOs All talent related actions should be delivered within the context of your organization and budget—prioritize the business objectives always, never compromise the quality of product delivery. While there are no two talent strategies the same, there are some consistent themes, especially translating the business strategy into a meaningful outcome-focused talent approach.CDMOs and Big Pharma compete for the same talent. Although, CDMOs need to play to their strengths in order to attract talent. Generally, they are smaller and therefore can be more agile in decision making, than their Big Pharma counterparts. Talent potentially can have broader range of responsibilities, being involved in many projects, rather than one single track. Find who you really are, what makes your organization unique and put it in the window.Remote work has gained popularity and became more and more common practice. It allows companies to tap into talent pools in remote locations. It’s likely we will see an uptick in those organizations who do not offer remote working or flexible working, post pandemic. Building an infrastructure that facilitates work and collaboration between people distanced is the name of the game. Go beyond Zoom!

Here are five questions every organization should be asking:

  1. Do you have a forward plan for hiring?
  2. How much did you spend on recruiting your talent last year?
  3. How many vacancy openings do you have today and how long have they been open?
  4. Are you confident the hires you are making are bringing the right skills to your organization to deliver on your objectives?
  5. Do you know what candidates think about your employer brand in the market?

Why is this important?

  • Better planning leads to smarter investment decisions.
  • Understanding what you need well, allows you to be more specific in skills required.
  • The longer you have vacancies open the more of an impact on your revenue this creates.
  • If you were launching a new service into the market you would always invest the time, cost and energy into insight prior to launching. This is no different, when attracting talent.
  • Empty vacancies lead to lost revenue.

Lastly, if you want to build a structured talent approach, you need to review how you are currently hiring your workforce. This is a specialist capability, requiring highly capable talent resources, who are able to assist you in the set up and management of the talent strategy, organizational design, succession planning, recruitment, employer branding, onboarding, diversity and inclusion, technology and analytics solutions. This initiative if you choose to take it on, should always be outcome-focused, working seamlessly to deliver your business objectives. Now is the time for CDMOs to think and act for the long-term about their future talent. More disciplined talent strategies with practical, laser-focused plans and rapid, agile execution are the ingredients of the ‘secret sauce’ for success. Expect the rush for talent to intensify when the global economy grows again. Don’t wait. Act now!


Preparing Your Post Pandemic Talent Strategy In order for your company to better prepare for growth, here are areas for consideration, ensuring you adopt the right approach to reinforce investments, optimize business and maximize your workforce. POST-COVID TALENT STRATEGY April 2021

Twitter: @ContractPharma Contract Pharma 35 been significantly strained, and now stands at a critical point in some geographical regions. In order to demonstrate this point, Big Pharma managed to hire talent mostly through strong internal talent development programs historically. New technologies, digitalization and innovation are creating the perfect storm for organizations to navigate, requiring a rapid rethink of how they hire and develop the next generation of employees, which is driving greater levels of external hiring.Read the full article online or Download PDFFor further information please contact

Posted by

Neil Kelly

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