The onset of the pandemic has brought unprecedented, sweeping changes while highlighting the importance of resilience and innovative thinking in addressing complex challenges. The spotlight has been on pharmaceutical companies to meet demands fast – especially with worldwide vaccine rollouts.

As a result, there’s been exponential growth in an already competitive healthcare and life sciences market and pressure on contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs), and contract development and manufacturing Organisations (CDMOs) to turn out solutions at competitive costs. To do so, finding the right talent is imperative.

Related: Pharmaceutical and CMO/CDMOs: A marriage of convenience?

PageGroup consultants across continents say that partnerships between CMOs and CDMOs, and pharma companies are an apparent change from years past. Previously, pharma companies might have either taken on the entire process of developing and producing a product from start to finish or outsourced manufacturing of lower priority products to a CMO or CDMO.

Now, pharma companies often work hand-in-hand with CMOs and CDMOs to get a molecule, therapy, or vital vaccine from concept to the public. In fact, according to Daniel Ferzoco, Senior Manager at Michael Page USA, investors are pouring funds into early-stage drug discovery companies. Some of them lack the means to move a product from its first phases to production and commercialisation. CMOs and CDMOs are stepping in to take on those functions.

Strong healthcare and pharma talent demand

The scale of growth and expansion in these companies requires talent across the board, and the rapid increase presents unique hiring challenges. Companies are seeking specific qualities and skillsets that are challenging to find.

“We have seen legacy pharma/biopharma giants increase their portfolio of products more than ever before. For instance, Lupin enters diagnostics, Cipla in digital health, Hetero Healthcare launching vaccines, and Aurobindo Pharma investing in biopharma and vaccines. Therefore, naturally, there is a need created for seasoned niche talent in areas such as P&L, lyophilisation and nanotechnology,” says Deepika Malla, Associate Director at Michael Page India.

She adds, “Moreover, we witnessed consolidation in the hospital space as well, with larger players acquiring smaller local chains. This indicates that patients are willing to spend on hospitalisation a lot more than before (which is supported by insurance players in parallel), and this encourages pharma companies to deliver newer drugs using niche, thus, expensive technologies.”

The trend is shifting regarding the types of positions sought: managers, marketers or business developers embedded in a valuable network, who also have post-graduate degrees in chemistry or biology, are hot on the radar, as are technology transfer and supply chain candidates. The urgency with which candidates are being courted and hired has also risen drastically.

Related: Why a good talent attraction plan is the first step to retaining your best staff

Scouring the globe for rare talent combinations  

The posts that CMOs and CDMOs are looking to fill run the gamut, though business development, technology transfer, supply chain roles and senior-level positions are in exceptionally high demand. The main challenge of finding candidates with enough experience in senior-level positions, or those with scientific and commercial expertise, is that few such profiles exist.

Ferzoco explains, “They need to add business development reps that can sell their services, and these representatives specifically require a strong scientific background.”

Malla adds, “Pharma talent has always been relatively limited in spaces like vaccines, process chemistry and small molecules biopharma development. This became more pronounced with the pandemic as the already-available talent became more upskilled, taking on newer challenges like P&L roles and global opportunities. At the same time, talent have become far more selective in their job search, giving high weightage to aspects such as salary, progression, well-being, and location flexibility.”

Related: How remote work widens your recruiting pool in healthcare and life sciences

“This gave us, as search partners, the need to expand our horizons and to tap into returning Indians and expat talent more than ever. This also forced us to expedite our learning of this space to cater to niche search mandates and close them successfully. This also led to clients being more reliant on our knowledge of the talent market to be able to curate their search criterion better and plan their talent growth plans accordingly.”

Speed is key to finding the right talent

When qualified candidates are found, companies can sometimes come across as overeager by making an offer on the day of the interview. Previously, the process between scouting a candidate and hiring them on might have taken somewhere between four to six weeks.

Clients expect that waiting risks losing the candidate’s interest, and in many instances, they’re right. 
The best way to win a candidate over is to build trust and cultivate a relationship, says Ferzoco. It is vital to make an effort to genuinely understand the person, what makes them tick, and not rely on surface-level conversations to cement a connection.

Across the world, despite the massive presence of top pharmaceutical companies, recruiters have their work cut out for them. PageGroup consultants have noticed that small CMOs and CDMOs are consolidating to form larger organisations. The result is change and job openings.

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