Layoffs, check. Now, on to hiring--and talent's scarce

Pharma execs say they're plagued by another shortage. But in this case, it's not a scarce product. It's scarce talent. More than half of pharma's top executives say it's more difficult to recruit the right people these days, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It may seem an ironic contrapunto to the industry's thousands upon thousands of layoffs over the past several years. Some companies are still in the process of shedding jobs. And it's true that some gaps are self-inflicted. "Companies with decades-long legacies have lost their edge due to repeated layoffs," the report states, "wearing down the morale of scientific staff."

But it's also a too-many-of-this, too-little-of-that problem. New hiring demands stem from changes in the industry. Pharma doesn't need more sales reps. But it does need more regulatory specialists, to contend with new rules and regulations. Because of an increasing emphasis on patient outcomes--and cost reduction, under U.S. healthcare reform--the industry needs people with experience in bioinformatics and health economics. As R&D becomes more collaborative, people skilled in developing and managing outside partnerships are key.

The PwC report also makes a case for putting more oomph into human resources. Right now, only about half of human resources execs said their companies' leadership sees HR as a strategic function. And as PwC sees it, making the most of collaborative work and external partnerships requires HR to be involved in shaping partnerships and developing an appropriate "talent strategy."

Top management should enlist HR in devising more up-to-date incentive plans--including new financial rewards such as internal milestone payments and profit-sharing, as well as "soft" incentives like sabbaticals. As PwC's Michael Mentesana says, "Real R&D transformation will not be complete until the R&D culture itself is rebooted, and unless HR, R&D and senior management work together from the beginning."

- read highlights from the PwC report

Special Report: The top 10 pharma layoffs of 2012

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