Contract Talent: A Solution for Evolving Life Sciences Market Dynamics

By Mishka Symonette, Mix Practice Leader

In today’s life sciences market, rapid access to quality talent is more important than ever. At the same time, the dynamics and trends in the market have made accessing talent increasingly difficult, especially when organizations are trying to remain as flexible and risk averse as possible.

While there is a multitude of tactics and strategies that can be used to combat these challenging market dynamics, there is a particular talent acquisition strategy that I’ve seen work extremely well time and time again: contract talent.

In over 20 years of helping life sciences companies around the world respond to markets and augment their teams with contract talent, I’ve witnessed how finding the right talent – right when you need it – can drive company success.

To tie this experience to what organizations are currently facing, let’s take a look at three of the current trends in the life sciences market that are impacting talent acquisition strategies with a focus on how contract talent can help alleviate the challenges they cause.

1. First-time launchers are in a race for the cure

Competition is growing in the pharmaceutical marketplace with the number of first-time pharma companies launching products rising quickly, more than tripling over the past decade according to McKinsey & Company.

This increased competition, combined with the annual number of FDA approvals for novel treatments continuing its downward path, means that pharma companies need to stay efficient if they hope to stay competitive and get their product to market quickly.

While large-scale pharma companies take their pick of talent and fill out their teams with full-time employees, smaller, emerging organizations with vacancies can be left facing too much competition for the same talent, making some roles too difficult or time-consuming to fill with a full-time resource. Contract roles can accelerate their ability to access the skills they need and reduce both the time to fill and the cost of vacancy.

Additionally, investing in an ill-matched full-time hire could cause a business to lose up to 30% of that hire’s expected first-year wages, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Flexible resourcing models allow businesses the opportunity to safeguard talent investments and preserve the cultural integrity of their organization.

2. Demand for specialized skills outpaces supply

The life sciences are much more complicated than they were 20 years ago, largely because of how fragmented the industry has become. Gone are the days of sweeping, blockbuster pharmaceuticals – now, we’re in the age of niche and specialized treatments, including HealthTech, cell and gene therapies, rare disease and orphan drugs, biosimilars, and so on.

And the talent supply hasn’t caught up yet. Key talent is in short supply worldwide, and often critically low in the U.S., which will continue to encourage organizations to hire contract talent.

Augmenting your team with the expertise of consultants, contract research associates, and other temporary subject matter experts can boost your access to talent by up to 60%, according to EY. For many companies, filling these roles can be critical to finding, or at least accelerating, their path to market.

Adding breadth and depth to their pool of talent allows companies to access scalable solutions and diverse skill sets, and it creates a competitive advantage in a high-demand area to help them reach the milestones necessary for approval.

3. Market volatility continues to pressure life science organizations

Contract talent? In this economy?


With the questionable state of the economy and industry instability from decreasing investment in early clinical trials, we expect to see contract hiring become more and more common throughout the industry.

During times of volatility or even just times of change – such as during M&A activity – it is both beneficial and not out of the ordinary to bring in contractors to streamline processes and help with transitions.

The primary benefit of this strategy is clear: contract staffing adds key members to your staff while limiting your liability in areas like unemployment, worker’s compensation, and other benefits like severance. Also, while contract talent is generally a short-term solution, it can lower overhead and offer higher productivity through reduced training. In times of uncertainty, that can be exactly what you need.

After all, volatility is often short-lived, so short-term solutions make a lot of sense for companies trying to traverse these periods of uncertainty. Bringing in temporary consultants on an interim basis allows you to benefit from the knowledge of an SME while keeping your headcount, your costs, and your exposure to risk low.

Find the right answers with the right talent

At Mix Talent, we have been helping life science companies since 2018 to recruit, assess, optimize, scale, and develop their talent.

In order to address the specific needs related to economic volatility and competition for talent, we recently launched Mix CTO, which provides rapid access to top talent to help life sciences organizations remain flexible and competitive. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to learn more!

About the Author

Mishka Symonette

Practice Leader

Mishka has over 20 years of experience building flexible resourcing solutions for life sciences clients and is responsible for managing Mix’s delivery teams across early phase, drug discovery, clinical development, clinical operations, and medical affairs functions. In addition, Mishka oversees the operational delivery of contract and staff augmentation services.

Prior to joining Mix Talent, she served as the Sr. Vice President of Joule overseeing the Clinical resourcing segment. Before Joule, Mishka spent 20 years at Syneos Health supporting the global strategic delivery of talent solutions primarily focused on staff augmentation models. She has designed, deployed, and managed flexible resourcing teams across the globe specifically within the US, EMEA, and APAC.

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