3 Things to Think About Before You Outsource Your Life Sciences Talent

By Peter Vasquez, Director of Operations at Mix

In the life sciences, outsourcing talent is common practice. Over 15% of field team deployments in the healthcare commercial vertical are now made up of contract talent, 40% of clinical trial activities are outsourced through CROs, and more and more internal clinical roles within pharma companies are being filled with contract staff.

That said, it’s a high-risk, high-reward practice. Whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 100 company, talent is your most important asset, and when it’s handled poorly, outsourcing that talent can be an impediment to your company’s performance and employee development.

As such, knowing which roles to outsource and when – as well as how to pull it all together into a cohesive workforce plan – is imperative for any life sciences leader seeking to outsource his or her talent.

If this describes your situation, this post is for you. With over 17 years of experience in the life sciences, including standing up more than 40 outsourced teams and thousands of contractors across most therapeutic areas and team types, I’ve learned what works. Here are 3 things you should think about before you outsource your talent so you can make smarter, more effective use of contract talent.

1. Consider your core business and market

First and foremost, you need to make certain you understand and can differentiate between your core, critical, and commodity business processes so you can decide on what to outsource and what not to outsource.

  • Core business processes are those that you need to control – think product development, relationships with key customers, executive leadership,
  • Critical processes are the engine driving your business, and
  • Commodity processes are everything else that needs to get done to support your business day-to-day.

Identifying these basic groups will help you establish the “What” you might want to contract out.

Where companies tend to get stuck with the decision to keep talent in-house or leverage contract or outsourced talent is with the critical processes, as the “right” decision tends to change over time and the lifecycle of the company.

Once you have the “What” then you can decide on “When” based on your market, market strategy, and future business opportunities.

Events like new product launches or marketing campaigns can be a great time to use contract staff to quickly access talent while mitigating the level of risk you would have by hiring full-time employees. While these may be short-term opportunities keep in mind that you may want to later onboard that talent full time if those launches and campaigns are successful. On the other hand, if you experience seasonal or cyclical sales cycles, then leveraging contract talent may be an ongoing strategy.

2. What are your unique risks?

Once you’ve considered your business processes and your specific market, the next step is to overlay your unique risk factors, including Product Risks, Competitive Risk, and Market Risk.

Product Risks

For pharmaceutical and biotech companies, the quest for FDA approval highlights a clear front-end risk. In addition, monitoring and updates through real-world data present an ongoing risk, and eventual loss of exclusivity sets a hard back-end risk. Considering these risks on a product-by-product basis will help you make smarter talent decisions, including when to leverage contract talent.

Competitive Risk

Ensuring you have a good handle on the competitive landscape will help you identify potential risks that could impact how you want to bring new talent to your organization. If it seems likely that a new product or competitor could quickly disrupt your projections, outsourcing talent could help bring some much-needed flexibility to your growth.

Market Risk

If there’s one thing that we know to be true, it’s that there are cycles of decline and recovery in the market. One of the great benefits of outsourcing talent is that it allows you to scale up and down quickly as you mix and match full-time employees with contract/contingent labor in a way that accounts for the unique opportunities and risks associated with your product and/or organization.

3. What’s your workforce plan?

After assessing your business, the market, and relevant risk factors, the last thing to do before outsourcing is to pull this forward into a workforce plan and strategy.

Put simply, you must align your business strategy with your people strategy. A mid-size or larger company may want to have specific outsourced percentage goals as part of their ongoing workforce plan, while a smaller company may want to align their outsourcing strategy to specific funding milestones or revenue goals. The point is, having a plan will significantly increase the effectiveness of your use of outsourcing.

To learn more about how to do that, I recommend reading my colleague Patty’s post, The Power of Workforce Planning, and taking notes.

What’s next?

If you feel confident that outsourcing some of your talent is the right decision, check out part two of this series 4 Things to Think About if You’re Ready to Outsource Your Life Sciences Talent, or reach out to our Mix Talent team to discuss your unique needs.

At Mix, we specialize in talent and partner with life science companies to plan for, recruit, assess, optimize, scale, and develop top talent in whatever way best aligns with their business and people strategies. And now our Mix CTO team provides organizations a flexible solution with rapid access to top talent spanning pre-commercial, medical affairs, and sales organizations along with contingent talent augmentation for growing companies.

About the Author

Pete Vasquez

Director of Operations

Pete brings 17 years of broad-based life sciences experience across pharmaceutical, medical device, and consumer products in commercial sales operations, training, market access, and workforce planning, and can advise clients on a wide range of commercialization areas and go-to-market strategies. He has stood up more than 40 outsourced teams and thousands of contract and outsourced workers across verticals, therapeutic areas, and team types. He spent years doing it as a client, telling partners how to be better, and now he’s putting his money where his mouth is to be a better partner for his clients.

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