July 2022

The battle of the scarce resource: the employees

There is no shortage of letter abbreviations in life science, and today we have arrived at “T”. This letter plays a key role in the success of organisations in the future. Nothing less.

More bridge builders and fewer mini-me’s

With roots in McKinsey in the 1980s, “T” is used to describe a mix of competences – in a nutshell: the vertical line describes the specialist, and the horizontal line describes the generalist.

“When joining these lines, you get a person who thinks holistically with a focus on achieving cross-functional collaboration across competencies. A T-shaped person is driven by curiosity and is a self-starter when it comes to continued learning,” says Maibritt Thoft-Christensen, Educational Programme Leader for Atrium’s commercial courses.

And why is that so central to the success of pharmaceutical companies of the future?

“It is simply the way the wind is blowing. The pharmaceutical industry, in some areas, still need 0-fault culture based on super-specialised competencies, e.g. in trials and production. But it’s time to realise that a 0-fault culture is not the way forward in relation to e.g. product development and employee well-being. ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’, as they say, so we need more bridge-builders and fewer mini-me’s,” says Maibritt.

Cross functional collaboration across competencies

In competition with tech

The number 30.000 has been mentioned several times as the number of employees that must be added in the pharmaceutical industry in order to continue the growth that Danish life science has archived in recent years.

The trend towards converging industries elbowing their way onto the pharmaceutical industry’s home ground calls for thinking in creating cohesion – and to attract the scarce resource: the employees.

Here, the pharmaceutical industry faces a battle on several fronts: with itself in relation to offering younger generations the type of working life they expect – and with other industries:

“Other industries, for example the tech industry, have an edge in having an image as an attractive industry. Young people who are on the fence regarding taking their competences to e.g. Google or to a pharmaceutical company, must therefore be lured in with values that make sense to them”, says Maibritt.

The roles change: Who are the winners and losers?

It is one thing to know that you lack employees – but which competences do they need to fit the future of pharma?

It’s not the same as current competences, finds “Forward Thinkers Review”. In this report, Atrium, Signum (formerly DLIMI), and SPI have examined what competences and roles are needed in the pharmaceutical industries commercial functions going forward. And there are clear winners and losers:

If you pursue a career in Market Access or Medical Affairs, for example, the future looks bright,” says Maibritt. “Pharmaceutical companies anticipate an increasing need for these competencies. On the other hand, traditional roles in sales will surely be transformed into something else based on the digital universe.”

Winners losers competences roles needed

Management of specialists is increasingly important 

In relation to the T-formed employee, the Forward Thinkers Review points to an interesting trend:

The almost 200 respondents in the report demand an organisational focus on working in ad hoc teams, set up project-by-projects, as well as having highly specialised teams:

“As an employer, it is wise to beware of the expectation that all of your employees are superman. Very few people are both in top 1% in their professional field and, at the same time, natural born drivers of cross-functional collaboration. This indicates that management of specialists will be a highly sought-after competence in the future: a form of management that truly sees the value in alternative perspectives,” says Maibritt. 

Hire for attitude, train for skills – retain through education

Hire people with the right mind-set and then teach them according to your company’s specific needs. This is well-known advice. But in a rapidly evolving life science industry, one is never fully educated:

"Your university competencies are roughly speaking like a new car: the moment you drive it out of the dealership, it is about to become obsolete – and new cars with newer technology are on their way out of the factory,” says Maibritt.

“Therefore, it is time to stop viewing continued education as an employee perk. Learning should not be seen as ‘nice to have’, neither on the part of the employee nor the company. Learning must be compulsory. This is the recipe for both employee well-being and retention and for the company’s overall success.”

At Atrium, we offer continued education for all professional fields in the life science value chain. It is a pleasure to help shoulder the responsibility of the sector and society to further educate the people who’ll create the health solutions of the future,” concludes Maibritt.

Retain through education

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