Addressing the shortage of skilled staff in the pharmaceutical industry

Published: 20-Jan-2023

The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered a number of weaknesses in the pharmaceutical ecosystem. Not only was the fragility of the life science industry’s supply chain exposed, the lack of availability of experienced STEM professionals to meet spiking demand was revealed as yet another vulnerability, notes Jim Lehane, Global Leader of Life Sciences Manufacturing at Cognizant

The ongoing Great Resignation is exacerbating the shortage of skilled workers in the pharmaceutical industry as companies struggle to find and retain talented team members.

Although compensation is always a major consideration in anyone’s career planning, if the job or role does not provide purpose or real fulfilment, salary alone won’t achieve the loyalty, dedication and retention that pharma needs from its next generation of STEM workers.

Unlocking the retention conundrum

The key to unlocking the recruitment and retention conundrum lies in offering a better employee experience, more rewarding work and delivering the purpose and fulfilment that people thrive on professionally.

Similar to the concept of the “user” or customer experience, the employee experience encapsulates what people encounter and observe from the moment they apply for a job throughout the entire course of their employment.

And although salary and career advancement are important factors for STEM graduates when choosing an employer, a study by Amarach Research found that 43% of decision makers believe that offering interesting and valuable work is key to retaining staff.

Creating a better space for a fulfilling and potentially life-saving career

Employers can attract and retain skilled employees by clearly communicating the impact and value of their work, making it apparent throughout the recruitment journey how their contributions will ultimately go on to positively impact, and in many instances, save patient lives. 

By offering opportunities for advancement, skills development and professional growth, as well as a diverse and inclusive company culture that reflects their core values, employers can also strengthen their appeal to potential STEM candidates. 

Bringing together different cultures, skill, abilities and experiences helps employers to equip their teams with the right mix of insight and expertise, enabling them to successfully do a wider range of functions within the organisation.

As with the customer experience, creating a better employee experience requires committed resources that address both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of team members’ interactions with the business and make it the best it can possibly be. 

It is becoming clearer that pharma needs to accelerate its emphasis on delivering a better employee experience. With no set game plan in place, some entrenched highly corporate organisations must prepare themselves for a steep learning curve. 

To attract and retain top talent, it is essential to address the employment and retention priorities of potential candidates and employees. This includes not only offering competitive salaries and benefits, but also clearly communicating the value of the work and opportunities for advancement to appeal to them.

Those that fail to act now may only compound the issue with serious repercussions for pharma and put considerable constraints on the industry’s ability to deliver safe and affordable medications to patients around the world.

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