Life Sciences Trends 2016

Life Sciences Trends 2016

What workforce trends can talent in the life sciences industry expect to see through the end of 2016? Developments that were set in motion in the past two years will continue to disrupt the market, broadening the life sciences workforce spectrum and changing how talent wants to be engaged.

Kelly® is proud to present this concise editorial on important workforce trends that are likely to impact talent in the life sciences sector this year. Our ongoing conversations with leading biopharmaceutical and medical device firms give us this unique perspective to offer to the life sciences talent market for 2016 and beyond.

Mergers and acquisitions

The trend of mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures in the life sciences market sector is alive and well with more than 40 consolidating transactions in the first several months of 2016. M&As are the new normal and can be disruptive to talent, causing employees to become unsettled or uncertain about the security of their jobs.

While it’s always in the respective organizations’ best interests to keep their workforces informed, this isn’t always an immediate option. At the same time, some prospective transactions do not always move forward. The most visible case in point is the aborted Pfizer®-Allergan® deal, which was cancelled after the U.S. Treasury instated new rules designed to discourage companies from moving their headquarters overseas in order to take advantage of lower tax considerations.


Another ongoing challenge to talent acquisition remains the clustering of life sciences organizations in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast corridor, Central Midwest, and Pacific coast of the U.S., as well as the Greater Toronto Area of Canada. Employers continuously compete for top talent in these geographic hotbeds. At the same time, companies are striving to attract high-potential candidates from other concentrated areas—for example, academia from educational institutions or overseas talent in the ASEAN regions.

Virtual workforce

A growing trend is also found in the development of a virtual life sciences workforce. This can be seen especially in professions that involve data gathering, analytics, and interpretation where there are likely to be more opportunities for talent to telecommute versus operating in an office-based environment.

The gig economy

A growing number of highly skilled life sciences workers are choosing to be free agents, working short-term assignments or “gigs.” This sharing, or on-demand, economy allows them to be highly selective and choose their projects, while at the same time keeping their skills sharp and current. It also provides them with more autonomy as a lifelong career choice mainly because of the freedom, flexibility, and entrepreneurial empowerment it offers. Especially among millennials, there is a strong desire to know that their work is socially responsible and has a positive impact.

Outsourcing for global expertise

An increasing number of organizations will outsource parts of their clinical research process to clinical research organizations (CROs) and functional service providers (FSPs). These models provide broad-spectrum infrastructures made up of experienced, specialized personnel such as data management professionals, clinical research associates, regulatory affairs professionals, and medical writers.

Accelerated integration of technology

A trend that’s going to continue to shape the future of drug development is the accelerated integration of technology into everything from electronic data capture, IVRS systems, CTMS tools, and risk-based monitoring, to patient-doctor communications. An emerging trend is patient-wearable diagnostic devices, which are designed with increasing functionality and computing power. This has brought tech giants such as Apple®, Google®, and Microsoft® into the life sciences sector.

In terms of talent needs, this development will result in an increased demand for IT professionals with a life sciences background. Data collection and storage, as well as data analytics will become more and more important. In addition, there will be a heightened demand for talent who can design and build secure infrastructures.

Ongoing optimization of the talent supply chain

According to a recent study by Tufts University, the cost of bringing a new drug to market is approximately $2 billion. Knowing this, it should be clear that a robust talent supply chain will remain key to the success of organizations—one that can be adjusted as needed to expand or contract an organization’s workforce, attract different types of talent, or change operational priorities as needed. Team continuity needs to be addressed within organizations in order to eliminate waste and reduce risk. This requires ongoing optimization of the talent supply chain and continuous application of talent analytics to make choices that support operational and drug milestone goals.

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