Hiring Your Way to Growth

April 20, 2022

When it comes to navigating the post-pandemic landscape, getting back to normal is not an option. You only need look back a few years and you-ll find a world where professionals worked together onsite and big pharma brands dominated the market. Sound familiar? However, the advent of technology, the rise of agile contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs), and the pandemic, have all accelerated the pace of change beyond anything we could have imagined. They haven't just altered the landscape, the changes have been so radical, some have referred to them as a parallel universe, and I don't disagree. Last year I wrote an article about preparing your post-pandemic talent strategy.1So, with another year under our belts, what's changed? The well documented post-pandemic challenges and opportunities are still with us. The talent shortage is still biting, pressure is high and skill sets still need nurturing. But business is also booming, technology is driving innovation and opportunities for growth abound.

Will the future stay flexible? One common theme to emerge over the past two years is the rise of hybrid working; in just two years it has become an accepted norm. We're seeing that one size does not fit all; some organizations have fought against hybrid working, while others have embraced it, so we-ll be unpicking this debate and examining the shape it could take going forward. Continuation of hybrid working introduces both challenges and opportunities in the ultra-competitive market. Many companies have seen record growth, and organizations continue to rethink those roles that can be full-time remote, versus a blended option. Workers have become accustomed to a certain way of working and requests to return to the office can be met with resistance. Although we do see a trend for those workers who want to be in the office more from a social capacity. As I'll mention later on, it is important not to exclude those employees who have to be on site. Production technicians and manufacturing operators may not have a choice, but should be included in the conversation as regards to team dynamics, compensation and possible remote -admin- days to recharge. It is not just employees who are demanding flexibility and choice. It is a two-way street. Equally for those employees who have moved to lower cost base state, employers will look to explore the cost of delivering that work, versus an employee who is 100% onsite. If hybrid working has no negative impact on growth, some employers may explore a more extreme approach, taking certain functions offshore, for a fraction of the outlay. Hybrid working addressed a long-standing issue for many. For the first time, their personal lives were now visible to their employers. Companies now had to take into account people-s families, partners and outside commitments. The conundrum for employers, however, is that they hold long-term rental on facilities that need to be populated, but forcing people back on site has seen an uptick in resignations, with the flames being fanned due to the increase in vacancies, ultimately compounding the talent shortage. On the flipside, there's also a potential generational difference to consider, as some Gen Z and Millennial employees may wish to return to the office, for the social aspect and to learn from their senior colleagues. Contractually, it's worth noting that remote working may also have legal and insurance connotations. Most hybrid workers are still under contract for a permanent office location, meaning their employer has responsibility for their safety. Remote working considerations will need to include budget allocated for health and safety and wellbeing. So, two years on, companies are realizing it's not a binary choice as to whether or not to get out of the kitchen and back to the lab. What's emerging is the need to adapt to individual requirements.

'Where is the work getting done? Hybrid working and flexibility need to be considered as part of a broader menu for employees as to what suits them as an individual, but will also work for the role and the company as a whole, and importantly, one that will be regarded as fair among colleagues. -The big question now for businesses to consider is not necessarily who is doing the work, but where is it getting done. There's a possible trade-off for employers who may be thinking about adjusting compensation based on where the work is getting done. For some, taking the hybrid otion may mean a pay cut-why pay Boston weighting if you-re no longer travelling in from a local Boston address? Whatever the offers agreed upon, employee equity is paramount, and it needs to be clear and tangible to all. Whilst those on the manufacturing frontline may have no option but to be on site, compensations can be considered, for travel expenses and commuting time. It's important to differentiate the contribution of onsite workers, or employers could end up with some disgruntled employees on their hands.The mental health and wellbeing of employees is also an important factor. The contract market is a high-pressured working environment. An additional benefit of hybrid working is its contribution to health and wellbeing. Just one day offsite every fortnight can help decompress, saving burnout before it happens. So how to find a way forward? It's all in the detail.

The importance of talent planning With so much to consider, it pays to think holistically, and the key lies in making the talent plan both practical and pragmatic.When making strategic decisions around how you develop, manufacture and sell your product, talent planning needs to be considered right at the start, rather than an afterthought, and interwoven as part of the overall growth strategy. For a company with ambitious plans for growth in a buoyant market, demand often outstrips capacity and it's vital to be able to reassure new clients that you can deliver. It's often a balancing act, but with a talent plan in place, that growth threshold becomes a more predictable place to be, where the next steps are clear regarding your workforce and hybrid strategy.-If you can't hire the right people at the right time, you don't have a business. It all comes back to thinking what needs to be delivered and where that work gets done. Depending on the answer to that question, employers can then set out which functions can remain with existing employees working remotely, or even outsourced to a lower cost base. A talent plan paints a complete picture upon which a company can plan, deliver and grow.

Leveraging talent insightsTalent insights can be a key component and form the due diligence of talent planning. Before planning growth and subsequent recruitment, in-depth knowledge and research of the industry, location and the talent base is vital. Research should take into account availability and location of skills; the demographic to whom it might appeal; their needs versus the location's infrastructure (for example, schools, suitable housing and transport links); and any budget constraints.If you're recruiting for a senior role, there may be fewer candidates, and research will show you may need to cast the net wider, perhaps internationally. It's about knowing where the talent is, what's important to them and how much they're currently paid. It's also important to throw away past preconceptions and stereotypes and replace them with well researched, hard facts. For example, not all female workers may require flexibility around children, and more experienced, older employees may not have any trouble adapting to new technologies. The stereotypes are often wrong. Regardless of gender, culture or generation, a lack flexibility is recognized as a factor driving people out of the workplace.Using talent insights is all about getting the best possible ROI and outcome on your recruitment spend. It's about making things more predictable for an organization, taking out the guesswork.

Looking from the inside, out From the inside, looking out, talent insights are invaluable. It starts with detailing the job profile and looking at the current rate of compensation. Besides materials, labor is one of the biggest costs within an organization. If you sign a contract with a 20% profit margin, only to find out that since you last hired, salaries have risen by 20%, your profit margin is flattened before you-re even out of the blocks. When it comes to hiring in a hurry, a lack of talent insights and planning can lead to a poor fit. When we recruit, we think like consumers. Companies can be prone to desperation purchases, just like anyone else. It's important to understand what you're looking for before beginning the hiring process and take a right-first-time approach. The knock-on effects of a poor fit, apart from the damage to efficiency and output, reputation, brand and market standing, as well as the eye-watering 50% of an employee's annual salary cost to the business, goes deeper, with disengagement suddenly becoming contagious, which is often why employers struggle to manage the slippery road of attrition once they-re on it.

And the outside, in From the outside, potential employees are also shopping around, and brands still hold some sway. But they're also looking beyond that superficial image, to the specific menu of benefits that will suit their lives. Companies need to be clear how they are going to take their brand to market, and how they want to be perceived as an employer. It's all about balancing the requirements of the role and the company with creating enough flexibility for the perfect employee for the role. They need to walk the talk and show they are open to talking about what both sides need. Like any new world, there's a lot to navigate and discover. But with research and planning it's possible to land that Holy Grail: the right talent, in the right place and at the right time for growth.References

  1. Kelly, N. (2021, April). Preparing your post pandemic talent strategy. Contract Pharma, 34-36.

This article was first published in the April 2022 edition of Contract Pharma

Posted by

Neil Kelly

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