Josh Bersin research: Why the pharma industry needs a talent acquisition transformation

The pharma industry is undergoing massive disruption — a focus on skills to fuel innovation will help companies stay agile and competitive. Read the latest report from The Josh Bersin Company using Eightfold data.

Josh Bersin research: Why the pharma industry needs a talent acquisition transformation

  • Pharma is one of the largest industries undergoing major disruption due to digitization, biotechnology, and other factors
  • Research by The Josh Bersin Company using our Talent Intelligence Platform reveals what “pacesetter” pharma companies are doing to respond to this disruption 
  • Focusing on creating value, a digital-first approach, identifying the right skills mix for talent, and using talent intelligence will help pharma companies drive product innovation and speed time to market

The pharma industry is a challenging landscape with the goal of creating treatments that improve patient health while meeting regulatory requirements around the world. Add to this the imperative to balance profit with both accessibility and affordability, and it becomes a daunting task. 

Now, digitization, biotechnology, and what is referred to as the “patent cliff” are causing major disruptions in the industry. Yet, most pharma companies are struggling to develop innovative treatments faster because their talent is missing key skills needed. 

Recent research from The Josh Bersin Company, using more than 1 billion roles and 1 million skills in our Talent Intelligence Platform, found that certain “pacesetter” pharma companies are shifting their talent mixes to gain greater agility and increased rate of innovation. In a recent webinar, The Josh Bersin Company’s Janet Mertens, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Research, and Jordan Schmitting, Senior Research Analyst, HR, shared what these companies have in common and the skills they are investing in to respond to industry trends.

Related content: Watch our webinar with The Josh Bersin Company, which discusses the latest disruptions and potential talent solutions for the pharma industry.

The need for speed in innovation

Traditionally, pharma companies focused on cost savings by using scale and size to weather necessary cuts. In recent years, emerging biopharma organizations, which are smaller in general, can respond more quickly to advancements in science and technology. As a result, scale is no longer protection for pharma companies. 

Another major factor is the nature of treatment and product development. According to industry group PhRMA, it takes 10 to 15 years on average to develop a new medicine from initial discovery through regulatory approval. If pharma companies fall behind in a certain research area, it could take years to catch up. And, since there are more nimble competitors ready to step in, companies need to speed up R&D and time to market to stay in the game.

Pacesetters in pharma focus on value creation rather than cost savings to maintain market relevancy. These companies are investing in process innovation to operate leaner by pioneering new ways of increasing throughput, updating instruments, and streamlining processes. The question is now where to invest money to increase value rather than looking at cuts. Interestingly, pacesetting companies are not cutting staff; they’re upskilling workforces in ways that prioritize process and product innovation. 

Blog: Josh Bersin research: Why the pharma industry needs a talent acquisition transformation

A digital-first approach

To create more value, another big trend in pharma is focusing on digitization and rewiring how work gets done. It’s creating efficiencies that enable speed, scalability, and cost savings without sacrificing quality. In some cases, it’s even improving quality. To be among the first to market with any product, pharma companies are digitizing research methods, clinical trial processes, and manufacturing to stay ahead of the competition.

Based on the research, pharma industry pacesetters had 2.5 times more people with AI-enabled digital skills that apply across the value chain. It’s clear that these companies see AI-enabled digital skills as creating more value. These pacesetters are looking at how to digitize the entire enterprise to prioritize the value creating aspects of the business, including things as simple as expense management.

“One biotech organization we spoke with has already invested over $100 million into creating a digital-first enterprise,” Schmitting said. “And they expect to spend even more than $100 million again by 2025 to further accelerate their ability to design new drugs.”

The RX for a unique skills mix

Value creation in pharma comes down to R&D, and the skills of the workforce to drive innovation. Process innovation and digitization investments are allowing pharma companies to operate leaner to prioritize product innovation. That means the bulk of operating expenses move to R&D, with some organizations investing up to 70%. Others are pursuing new areas of research entirely to expand pipeline potential. It all comes down to a unique skills mix for talent in pharma.

Pacesetters have 1.5 times more people with about 50% more people in R&D roles relative to company size, and that talent has a different mix of skills. Talent at pacesetter companies have 1.6 times more people with product innovation capabilities. Pacesetting companies also prioritize biotechnology skills among researchers more than other companies — their leaders are looking for skills in emerging areas of research beyond research specialties. 

These pacesetters are also investing in digital skills that enable innovation in the research process itself, like where they can connect data sets to streamline laboratory techniques so researchers can work faster. 

Blog: Josh Bersin research: Why the pharma industry needs a talent acquisition transformation

Talent intelligence for building the pharma workforce of the future

Finding talent with this unique skills mix is a challenge unto itself for pharma companies. For this reason, u is critical. Pacesetters are looking to operationalize talent intelligence to analyze the roles and skills needed to meet critical talent needs based on what’s happening in the industry. 

Schmitting said that one company they interviewed wanted talent to support a specific niche research area. The company looked at people from within the company and also at hiring externally but soon realized that they had trouble filling the positions. Additionally, the time to fill these positions was long. 

The company decided to invest in a talent intelligence platform and piloted it with this niche team. It allowed the hiring team to define these positions by a specific combination of skills rather than a simple job description. They were able to better match candidates, both internal and external, to the skills that were needed in the roles and reduced time to fill. Recruiters had a smoother experience because they felt like they were equipped to hire what the company truly needed. This company has expanded these efforts, not only just these niche teams, but across the organization where hiring is needed with a growth mindset focused on innovation.

While the pharma industry is undergoing major disruption, the opportunities to use digitization and advancement in biotechnology are massive. It will take the right talent mix with the right skills to usher the industry into the future. Pacesetter companies are leading the way. 

Watch our full webinar with The Josh Bersin Company “The Global Workforce Intelligence Project Series: Innovation Capabilities and Disruption in Pharma,” on demand now.

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