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Transforming the Talent Function in Pharmaceutical Companies

Talent scouting and a talent data platform go hand in hand to empower pharma companies with the best internal and external talent to fill roles.

Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally relied on third-party talent recruiters to help fill new and vacant roles. According to McKinsey research, only 40% of pharma companies know which skills are needed now. That number drops to 25% when trying to determine which skills will be needed in 10 years. 

If companies don’t know which skills are needed, how can they effectively relay what they’re looking for to third-party recruiters? 

The shift to talent scouting

Facing a paradox of developing tomorrow’s innovations and hiring top talent, today’s pharma and bioengineering companies are cutting the third-party cord and transitioning to in-house headhunting, or talent scouting. Because pharma companies now compete with tech companies and startups for some of the same talent — such as software developers, programming managers, data scientists, functional safety engineers, and technologists — scouting offers promise.

The McKinsey research defines scouting as “determining the skills required to achieve the future vision and identifying the gaps between demand and supply.” Each talent scout is responsible for three areas: developing pipeline, direct searching/headhunting and keeping abreast of market insight. 

“Scouting in business development terms is really about understanding the minutiae of a market, spotting opportunities at early stages to partner with, or acquiring new therapies and technologies,” explains an Ardent Executive Search article. 

“Today’s pharma industry demands that business development professionals continually scout other industries and nontraditional players when seeking disruptive technologies that could be used to aid product innovation, expansion and revenue growth,” the article adds.

A case study

A few years ago, AstraZeneca took a hard look at how much it was paying third-party recruiters for its 10,000 annual new hires. The company decided to overhaul its talent acquisition process and move recruiting efforts in-house, optimize its human resources services and make a concerted effort to ensure an engaging candidate experience. This included embracing talent scouting.

“We need to look beyond just cost and think about what it takes to build longer-term pipelines of business-critical talent,” explains Maggie Spong, vice president of talent at AstraZeneca. “For us, hiring the right people, in the right place, at the time, at the right cost is key.”

Marrying talent scouting and data

Talent data platforms are also designed to help organizations hire the right people in the right place at the right time and cost. These platforms pool talent data in a centralized database, eliminating silos. They employ automation to pinpoint the right candidates at the right time with the right message. 

Just as artificial intelligence helps sports teams scout elite players, it can help talent scouts recruit best-fit employees with predictive workforce planning, intelligent recruiter workflows and personalized candidate journeys. 

By mapping hundreds of live data points — such as skills, experience and jobs — to each candidate record, talent data platforms enable personalized candidate experiences, which can make all the difference in a candidate’s willingness to join the company.  

A talent data platform can help talent scouts build their critical talent pipelines of both internal and external candidates and meet their key performance indicators. Since talent scouts are tasked with showing a return on investment (ROI), a talent data platform can help them realize that ROI sooner than they might otherwise. 

From reactive to proactive talent acquisition

AstraZeneca’s move to talent scouting took the company from a reactive talent acquisition approach to proactive. A talent data platform can do the same thing. Transitioning from solving yesterday’s challenges to embracing strategy, technology and processes that enable swift hiring and pipelining of talent drives business value.
A talent data platform can help pharma companies adopt a more agile approach that will enable added flexibility with supply chains, R&D, sales and marketing. The critical piece to strategic talent planning is understanding the relational talent data — the combination of capability, interest, and intent. 

“Scouting is not just about the numbers,” notes AstraZeneca in an overview of the Talent Scout Model presentation. “Other benefits of the model include enhanced candidate experience, ongoing development of relationships, enterprise visibility of critical talent, reduced time to hire and retention of insights and information.” The same is true of a talent data platform.

“Pharmaceutical companies that are able to identify and leverage best practices from other industries will gain significant advantages over their competitors, and that means adopting an out-of-the-box-style of thinking when it comes to recruiting,” notes a report by executive search firm Stanton Chase.

The key to continued success in pharma “lies in identifying candidates who are truly agile and insightful, and who thrive in a culture of innovation and collaboration,” Stanton Chase adds. Empowering talent scouts with a talent data platform sets them — and the business — up for success. 

Learn how Beamery helps pharma and biotech companies bolster talent scouting.