SI Review: September 2012


Expert’s Corner

Pharma Staffing

Surviving a complex European environment

By Dani Cassar

The European pharmaceutical industry, in particular, faces many challenges as it navigates a period of economic uncertainty and legislative change. At the same time there are many pressures on the pharma market. The industry has always relied on the flexibility and skills of its contingent workforce to meet its needs. But today companies are questioning the true benefits of the traditional contingent worker model thanks to the Agency Workers Regulation and other cost implications.

The Environment. Since 2011, many pharma companies have lost patent protection on their blockbuster drugs, opening up opportunities for generic drug manufacturers. The industry is now planning and focusing on large market therapeutic areas where returns are potentially greater and are less likely to be challenged by generic drug manufacturers. Pharma companies have an ever-increasing pressure to produce more innovations and strong new drug pipelines with tight budgets and timelines. Operational cutbacks and lack of resources continue to challenge their ability to ramp up quickly. So how can they staff their new projects without having to look to alternative, expensive outsourced methods of resourcing?

Further challenging their budgets is the European Union’s Agency Worker’s Regulation — the most significant legislative change to the contingent workforce market in recent years. The regulation has forced end users to challenge how they use temporary labor and ascertain the effects of cost and change to their business, while adhering to the new regulations. Add to that the effects of the global economic downturn, austerity measures and the economic effects of ongoing patent expiry of block buster drugs, and you’ll see the issues that staffing agencies have to deal with when trying to convince pharma clients to engage temporary workers for laboratory testing and clinical trials.

But there are things that staffing agencies can do to make it easier for the pharma client to use a flexible resource pool. Smart staffing agencies can provide alternative solutions to the more costly, full-service outsourcing provided by the traditional contract research organizations.

Figure out Costs. Resourcing organizations supporting clients with high reliance on temporary workers spent months preparing for the new legislation and adapting external and internal operating procedures in anticipation of the AWR. This has ultimately increased overheads and over time will affect the cost of temporary workforce to the users. With parity of pay and benefits now a legal requirement, staffing agencies will need to work with their pharma clients to understand the true cost of contingent workers.

Give Recruiters the Right Tools. With many more job seekers in the market, the recruitment and retention of key skills has become a more labor intensive process for clients. With online applications now the most effective way of finding a job, the recruiter’s role has become extremely complex, particularly when recruiting for specialist niche skills.

With client budgets and timelines tight, it is imperative that agency recruiters get it right first time, a moretime consuming activity in a candidate-swamped environment. Recruiters need to use smart tools that reduce the cost to hire ultimately for the client.

Providing Solutions. Given the turbulent times that pharma companies are facing, they want to be able to rely on their suppliers to provide skilled, flexible resources at reasonable costs. Alternative solutions, such as on-site functional outsourcing is an option many pharma clients are considering and/or switching, giving them:

  • Dedicated, flexible staff that are retained on site, but supervised by the staffing agency, mitigating any co-employment/implied employment risks.
  • Client staff time freed up to focus on core activities.
  • Intellectual property retained on site, providing complete visibility and instant access to information.
  • Usage of client standard operating procedures, ensuring quality and supply.
  • Usage of client’s capital investment (laboratories), achieving significant return on investment.
  • Delivery based on outputs, rather than time and materials — never going over budget.

The successful staffing agencies in this arena will be the ones that develop solutions to meet the clients’ unique needs.

Dani Cassar is national account director for SRG. She can be reached at


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