Welcome to the latest insights report from BioTalent. We interviewed some of the brightest minds in the field to help us explore the current shape of the life sciences, and what the future might have in store for one of the world’s most impactful industries.
From the tumultuous global implications of Brexit to the emergence of hybrid working in a post-pandemic climate – the world is always evolving, and for companies striving to survive the future, doing the same is a must.
As industries everywhere struggled to prioritise client demand and secure talent long after the height of COVID-19, the life sciences remained well protected.
We developed this report to help professionals develop their understanding of the current trends, trials and milestones appearing throughout the exceptionally specialised life sciences space.
Adjusting to Hybrid Work
Before 2021, hybrid Working was an alien concept for countless businesses, regardless of the industry they belonged to.
That seems like a lifetime ago, and rethinking the norm has since become a staple of the post-covid era – for many, that means embracing the benefits (and facing the setbacks) of a hybrid working model.
BioTalent’s Senior Principal Consultant, David Skinner, recalls:
‘From a staffing perspective, it is such a candidate-driven market, with companies fighting to attract the best talent. Flexible working solutions are fundamental in attracting and retaining the top talent in a competitive landscape.’
While hybrid working has proved to be the most natural and effective route forward for many, out of the transition comes one of the prominent drawbacks facing businesses today – communication breakdowns.
As people work in silos, the cultural benefits of face-to-face working start to dwindle. This may be an instrumental element of what it takes to create a great company culture, yet there are plenty of reports declaring a huge rise on productivity rates.
If David Skinner could do one thing differently it’s this:
I would enforce an effective communication strategy or plan, and have regular touch points with the team. Not necessarily a disaster plan, but a policy in place to ensure the team are always informed and updated.
On the other end of the spectrum, many companies operating primarily via a cloud-based system were prepared for the hybrid model, particularly those who were already global facing.
Even so, organising the environment in a way that enables clear communication and engagement is still a huge barrier to optimisation. When face-to-face working is no longer possible, productive, or desirable, organisations need to show they care about their workforce by putting boundaries in place.
These boundaries are essential in maintaining a healthy work/life balance, and it helps to establish a crucial space between work and relaxation.
Indy Ahluwalia, assistant vice president and customer solutions provider at Genpact, notes that:
The key to creating a great working place isn’t in things like quizzes, where it’s almost forced participation – it’s communication.
Cultural differences have also proven to largely impact the transition to hybrid working among global-facing businesses – while some teams were used to the concept for many years prior to the pandemic, their counterparts in other countries found it incredibly strenuous to make the move. Indy Ahluwalia notes that:
Teams that were office based, specifically the teams in India, were impacted [by hybrid working] a bit more, simply because they’ve been used to going in every day. You have many people who live in an environment that might not be suitable for home working. For example, this could be due to large extended families and small, confined spaces.
As the future of hybrid working in the life sciences begins to take shape, it’s clear that communication, and the quality of the technology that enables it, will be the foundation on which successful models are built.
Brexit’s Impact on Staffing and Supply Chains
As the pandemic threat subsides, many of the most harmful repercussions of Brexit are becoming abundantly clear. It’s not just the UK that feels the pressure of large legislative changes and implementations either – Brexit has forced regulations to evolve, greatly impacting supply chains and the time it takes to deliver products to the EU and the US markets.
Additional rules, such as increased RP (responsible person) oversight for imports, QPs (Qualified Persons) to have experience of releasing products in the EU, and changes to quality systems, have irrevocably altered distribution practices, leaving many pharma companies to struggle to efficiently harmonise with the elements of their global supply chain.
Increased regulations often equate to increased costs. In the life sciences, these trickle-down costs are felt in healthcare, and ultimately, the patients who rely on the development and distribution of new treatments.
Access to the raw materials required to develop products, whether that’s vaccines or medical devices, also starts to suffer as a result of strained logistical functions. For companies to successfully prioritise customer demand, turning to a range of suppliers (rather than relying on a single distributer for 100% of the raw materials required) is critical to reducing the rate of development delays.
As the UK government guidelines were slow to adapt to the changing landscape, the information (or lack thereof) that was available was too simple, leaving much of the message open to interpretation, a factor that proved incredibly difficult for HR teams.
This ultimately affected communication, complicated, and slowed down the hiring process, particularly when placing European nationals within UK-based roles.
Great opportunities emerge in times of rapid change. For an industry that thrives on nurturing the talent that facilitates that change and develops the products and strategies necessary for it to make an impact, seizing on opportunity is essential to both long and short-term success.
Hybrid working has a key part to play in enabling the flexibility required by modern life science employee, with those that need to complete bench work often utilising a rotation system to reduce their number of in-person hours.
Many of the remote working tools and strategies that were adopted during the pandemic have had time to evolve and improve, enabling businesses to, in many cases, optimise their hybrid approach to the industry.
Leaders have reported rising productivity rates as a result of their growing familiarity with hybrid work, and the advancements made by the systems and software that enable it.
This productivity increase is down to a combination of factors, including the mitigation of the commute, the lack of traditional office distractions, and greater employee satisfaction.
Moreover, hybrid working has led to a major increase in part-time positions since a large number of employees are no longer required to work onsite. This effectively makes access to work, and therefore, access to talent, much easier.
We asked an expert quality manager in biotechnology what they experienced with their adoption of a remote working model:
Many opportunities had arisen from an increase of remote working. Since employees did not have to commute, remote working gave people more hours to be productive.
The Conflict in Ukraine
The conflict in Ukraine is affecting millions of individuals all over the planet, the repercussions of which have been felt strongly in the pharmaceutical sector, and in the wider life sciences community.
Pharma companies have seen a significant drop in share prices as a result of the war, an alarming reality caused by supply chain disruption, a drop in trade revenue, (many countries have stopped trading with Russia entirely) and a lack of labour.
Ukraine have been forced to close the doors on a huge number of facilities as a result of the Russian invasion, including those owned by the pharmaceutical companies Novo Nordsik and AbbVie, providing a ripple affect felt across the globe.
Amidst the turmoil and uncertainty of the last few years, the life sciences remain at the forefront of medical innovation. Breakthroughs are happening, and they will continue to happen in spite of the pandemic’s lasting setbacks.
The industry is healthy and rife with opportunities for those who are able to implement adaptable working strategies.
Data-driven methodologies, backed by continuous global collaboration and corporate reformation, will enable companies within the life sciences space to confront the unmet medical needs of humanity.
Despite making up an impressive 49% of the life sciences workforce, there is a distinct lack of women in leadership roles.
BioTalent’s DEIB- (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) led, knowledge-based hiring methodology actively seeks to close this gap, while enabling companies to access a much wider talent pool.
Any workplace, hybrid or otherwise, that’s equipped to provide inclusive and supportive strategies for everyone, will benefit from the diversity of thought required to solve some of the world’s most pressing medical problems.
The last few years have proved incredibly lucrative for the life sciences, with the UK breaking their previous yearly funding record and introducing the government-led Life Sciences Investment Programme, and the US raising $56 billion in venture capital – the current market leader.
A greater awareness of the industry’s importance, combined with access to investment opportunities and rapid advances in modern technology, make the trajectory of funding in the life sciences looks very positive.
The R&D space is becoming increasingly complex, yet the talent pool remains healthy, (and still highly competitive) and investors continue to turn to the life sciences in droves.
Investments in life science real estate may have slowed recently, but even in the face of a looming recession, inflation, intricate policies and supply chain disruption, the industry is still full of hope and vibrancy.