Life sciences is a niche industry with specific needs for talent that often go above and beyond what the existing talent pool has to offer. Current studies show that there are talent scarcity fears throughout the industry, with 67 percent of companies looking to avenues such as reskilling and/or upskilling existing employees in order to fill talent gaps. Entrepreneur, inventor, and biotech executive Leen Kawas recently weighed in on the subject in a Forbes Business Council article, where she explored best practices around another talent management tactic that executives can use to their advantage: outsourcing.
Kawas noted that these leaders need to become more creative in the way that they approach their talent acquisition by looking outside the box. Openings for highly skilled professionals are leading the charge on the job market, but it is taking an average of 105 days to fill non-executive positions, resulting in operations challenges as well as revenue losses. Leen Kawas suggests that companies can take a more balanced approach to their talent management by incorporating outsourcing within their strategic plan.
Outsourcing has long been held at bay by executives wary of losing control over the processes and procedures that are essential to their life sciences companies. In addition, outsourcing has made some leery that results will not be as high quality as those that could be attained by tenured full-time staff. Yet according to Leen Kawas, outsourcing strategically is a solution that can alleviate the strain of the talent shortage without placing too much value on outside resources. She shared that these leaders “build organizational structures that are adaptable and can withstand an environment where funding can be hard to access.” But what does sound and balanced talent outsourcing look like? In her article for Forbes, Leen Kawas shared three key strategies for building an organizational network that can support and take advantage of outsourcing as a true resource.
To start with, organizational stability and clear delineation of requirements is vital to being able to incorporate outsourced talent. Gaps can exist within a talent pool, but understanding clearly the “workflows, key functions, stakeholder needs, budgets, timelines, and goals” for the organization can help leaders close those gaps more efficiently and effectively, according to Kawas. These requirements need to be understood throughout the organizational chain of leadership, with executives relying on managers who have well-defined needs to assess exactly what kind of talent is required to fulfill them.
Kawas noted that there are a variety of different outsourcing options that can be chosen from, including everything from individual freelance talent to entire full-service providers. A direct assessment of departmental needs can help leaders choose the right solutions on a case-by-case basis. “Leaders need to ask themselves which outsourcing model is the best fit for their corporate structure and stage,” said Kawas. “Understanding stakeholder needs, timelines and goals can also help you decide whether you should go with a full-service organization or target specialized groups that can handle parts of the workflow.” Leaders may discover that they can achieve their goals by onboarding anything from specialized boutique organizations to large full-service vendors. The difference will be the individual needs of the team and how best to manage them.
Kawas noted the difference between working with larger organizations versus boutique firms from a life sciences perspective. “I’ve found that full-service providers can be good options for smaller teams or large companies… However, working with specialized boutique organizations has benefits. They often provide a sponsor a transparency, and companies might find this option more cost-efficient as well.”
Second on Kawas’ list of strategies is the importance of designing a matrix with clear escalation plans. Companies that attempt to outsource without having a firm organizational structure with defined communication plans may find it much more challenging to integrate outsourced assistance effectively. “Outsourcing goes beyond initial logistics and financial factors; significant planning needs to be applied before outsourcing can be leveraged effectively,” explained Kawas. By working from the top down to define departmental and team needs, leaders can define exactly which tasks or measures need to be supplemented with outside help. From there, the right resources can be sought after and integrated successfully.
Outsourced talent should be cohesively brought on board to work as part of a greater team with an eye to a responsibility matrix as well as reporting structures. This will help ensure accountability throughout the working relationships of everyone involved. “Your workflow should be proactive, not reactive. To ensure this, create critical escalation plans so any issues can be identified and addressed quickly and efficiently.” This will also help lower and middle management have a solid understanding of what requires or warrants escalation and keep everyone accountable throughout the duration of any contract with outsourced talent.
Third, Leen Kawas encourages executive leaders to take the time to know external partners before committing to a contract. Due diligence can take many forms, but aligning services and talents with exact needs within a matrix environment can go a long way to ensuring that the right talent is onboarded for the right reasons. Oftentimes, leaders make the mistake of treating external talent as external, when in reality they can play as essential a role as a full-time employee. These key players who are being trusted to fill vital talent gaps should be treated as part of the core team at a company, rather than as outsiders. “They need to understand your mission and vision. They need to feel that they are seen and valued. You also need to make sure they’re a cultural fit,” Kawas explained.
Outsourcing can bring optimal value to a life sciences team looking to stave off delays or gaps due to talent pool issues. Bringing in an outside team can often bolster operations more quickly and effectively than running through the new hire process with countless individuals. It can also develop cost savings for an organization when implemented correctly, but Kawas warns that outsourcing should not be used solely as an excuse to try to cut corners. “Creating a flow for how to select and establish a relationship with a vendor will not only support a single project but also help with a dynamic framework for outsourcing,” shared Kawas. This, in turn, will lead organizations to a powerful tool that can further their business even in times of economic unrest.
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