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Pharma Firms See A Lack Of Needed Skills

Employment: Executives say hiring is stymied by finding people with the right talents

by Ann M. Thayer
February 7, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 6

After significantly downsizing their R&D operations, pharmaceutical companies thinking about expanding again say they can’t find employees with the right skills. That’s one result from a recent survey of life sciences company R&D and human resources executives by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“Developing and managing outside partnerships and regulatory science are the two most sought-after skills today,” PwC reports. These skills have gained importance because drug company R&D increasingly uses contract research firms, outside partners, and crowdsourcing to manage costs and improve prospects for drug development.

About a third of life sciences companies have revamped their approach to R&D in the past three years, PwC found. And between 2009 and 2012, the drug industry laid off 150,000 employees.

Now, 72% of pharma executives say they intend to increase their R&D capacity in the next 12 months. However, half of them indicate that hiring has become more difficult than before, with only 28% saying they’re very confident about finding top talent.

To fix this situation, some 60% of executives plan on investing over the next three years to create a more skilled workforce. But it’s not clear whether any of that investment to fill the skills gap will go to helping those employees who were laid off.

“Companies with decades-long legacies have lost their edge due to repeated layoffs, wearing down the morale of scientific staff,” PwC says. The consulting firm suggests that company leaders should “convey a compelling mission that employees will not only accept but embrace.” At the same time, it encourages human resources staff to develop a strategy for equipping their firms with the “right mix of people and talent in R&D.”


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