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The rise in talent demand will be for specialist functions like R&D, trials and approvals

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Manu Saigal, Director, General Staffing, Adecco India informs that Indian operations of Randstad, The Adecco Group, Manpower Group, and Gi Group have formed an alliance to ‘Help India Get Back to Work Safely’ and shortlisted pharma as one of its key focus sectors. She also speaks about opportunities created by the COVID-19 crisis to hire talented people, hottest job roles in the life sciences, trends in human resource management, and more

The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously transforming the life sciences and healthcare sectors. But, will these transformations manifest as trends and practices, especially in human resource management?

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the life sciences and healthcare sectors at the epicentre, having generated a disruption for societies, patients, clinicians and practitioners across the ecosystem. The vital role these sectors will play in diagnostics, treatments and vaccines could pave a path to whatever normalcy we can expect on the other side. However, both sectors have experienced a lot of interruption in both, clinical and product distribution as well as consumer healthcare – as many workers have to now adjust to remote work environments. Access to clinical and laboratory facilities are now being reduced which is restricting patient care and therapies and is facing major discontinuities.

Besides, with digital technology and behavioural science converging, the talent pool in healthcare and life sciences need to remain relevant in an ever-evolving business landscape. Several leading players are beginning to focus on new and emerging opportunities. The pace of innovation in India has been unprecedented; as a result, the potential from India players has increased and aspirations have become bolder. Newer talent models are developing for the future of work based on purpose, relevance and growth drivers. Promoting human capital — for analytical data, information gathering—and workforce capabilities built around emerging technologies like AI, automation, analytics, real-time analysis and reporting is already baked into systems and processes, fundamentally changing the talent ecosystem. According to a Deloitte study as of November 2019, 34 pharma companies worldwide are using AI for drug discovery, including, by partnering with AI start-ups.

Leading local players have made several investments in talent acquisition for market expansion and increasing momentum of new product launches. In addition, they will need to build their talent capabilities around marketing, sales force excellence, and commercial operations. The requirements for leadership roles have gone up manifold.

The coronavirus crisis has also shown the importance of re-skilling and the ability of companies to upgrade the skills of their employees. Like in other sectors, the companies that are already adept at reskilling workers will be the ones that can pivot most easily by enhancing workers’ capabilities and skills.

What are the shifts in talent acquisition and retention in both these sectors? 

  • Organisations need to think beyond subsistence and focus on the prospects that this crisis has created – an opportunity to hire talented people at a time when there are imminent job losses, layoffs, downsizing, and business downturns.
  • Focus has shifted towards physical as well as mental wellbeing and safety of employees, adopting an agile work culture, reflective dialogue, transparent communication and flexible work models to enable value creation for the organisation and ultimately, clients and stakeholders.
  • More than ever before, technology will remain a key enabler in the near-future as in many other sectors with disruptive technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analysis, and robotics playing big roles in the talent management process and complex problem-solving. These sectors will likely look at how jobs can be redesigned and work will get reimagined around human-machine collaboration, working with machines to think exponentially.
  • The life sciences and healthcare industry are on an ever-evolving path with many new jobs being rapidly created. Hence, employers will need to be well-aware of the relevant roles that are driving the industry.
  • The companies that can protect their people and build the most experience with real agility in upskilling and reskilling will create a competitive advantage and overcome the downturn faster.

How should job seekers in both these industries prepare to cope with the changes and optimise the opportunities?

Concerns about joblessness and temporary loss of income are plaguing most workers. In these difficult times, adaptability and resilience will help job seekers progress. Fortunately, the life sciences and healthcare sectors are one of the least impacted sectors. With an increased focus on improving pandemic response capabilities and to support diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccine research priorities we would see further investments being pumped into these sectors, both via both public and private contributions.

By understanding the current demand, jobseekers should align themselves to relevant opportunities by assessing their abilities and relevant skills. They should be prepared for the new normal – interview process that now mainly involves tele/video communication, cautious/delayed hiring from employers and more sophisticated hiring models including freelancers, short-term, temporary and even hourly, contingent, and contract workforce. Finally, it is imperative to stay tuned and connected to remain on top of the pile when the same organisations eventually rebuild its talent pipeline and ramp-up their hiring process.

What will be the hottest job roles in the life sciences and healthcare sectors, post-COVID-19?

In the short-term, the rise in talent demand will be in the specialist function domains with a focus on R&D, trials and approvals. Apart from the technical skills in these functions, some of the other current demands are in the areas of product development, automation and digital, data science and analytics, scientific writing, clinical trials, research and pharmacovigilance.

What are the new challenges and opportunities for staffing partners like The Adecco Group? How are you gearing to deal with them?

The post-pandemic recovery where employees will head back to work is a precarious decision for organisations since the phased restart will work on different time schedules and asymmetric recovery patterns that will vary per state, region, location, footprint, and supply chain. There is always the tension of subsequent reinfection and revival of lockdowns. Organisations will hence have to remain agile to quickly progress, start where they can, retreat and readopt when there is an imminent threat of reinfection and, above all, keeping in consideration the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees.

The staffing industry has a crucial role to play in helping other organisations prepare for the post-pandemic world of work. Building on this commitment the HR services industry formed an alliance, spearheaded by the Adecco Group, Randstad, and Manpower Group to help other organisations prepare for the post-pandemic world of work. Extracting lessons from analysing these in 13 countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, and the UK, the Alliance has published a white paper that reviews over 400 health and safety protocols. This paper is intended to be a practical guide for companies and organisations in trying to re-open their business operations. Policymakers, sectors, organisations, and businesses can use this source in their processes to get up and running in a safe, healthy, and effective way, as soon as governments have decided to lift the confinements.

In India, Randstad, The Adecco Group, Manpower Group, and Gi Group, four leading global HR services companies have formed an alliance to “Help India Get Back to Work Safely”. The four organisations, combine their knowledge and strengths in the framework of a non-commercial alliance to jointly tackle the key challenges facing the labour market following the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the alliance will focus on companies in seven key sectors in India – IT/ITeS, Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Pharma, Healthcare & LifesciencesConsulting & Business Services, Retail and E-Commerce, and will consult with various stakeholders in the country over the coming weeks.

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