Are you missing out on skills? Embracing the gig economy

IKerry Bambrick-Sattar SECn the last blog, I wrote I discussed the balance of bringing in new talent, how to approach their development in a way that increases their competence in the role, giving confidence and adding value to your customers, but also allowing them a blended programme offering continuous, professional development.

Today I want to focus on this concept of the ‘gig economy’, because it’s a fascinating topic that I think is certainly very pertinent to today’s life sciences market.

Pharmaceutical companies, CRO’s, CMO’s and Biotech’s continue to invest heavily in technology to enable them to accelerate the time it takes to bring drugs to the market. They continue to use technology innovatively to enable them to connect with patients, collate data to support clinical trials and research, deliver on drug efficacy, as well as understand patient compliance, however, they should also be future proofing themselves and ensuring that they are harnessing the skills needed for operating future technology. Furthermore, we need to be mindful of how technology will play a part in how the industry will engage and attract the skills of tomorrow.

That’s where the gig economy comes in. The types of jobs and the skills needed will always evolve. That’s the nature of the jobs market and the pharmaceutical industry needs to be able to adapt to this.  As organisations consider the career pathways of the next generation I think it’s fair to say we won’t be drawing any straight lines between the roles of now with the roles of 20 years’ time. Likewise, the career pathway we try to draw may look more like a set of alternative routes with the occasional bridge. Year on year evidence shows us people are becoming self-employed and engaging in the agile “gig” market.

Our organisations’ HR departments are still battling one of the top three CEO’s issues:

  • The challenge of a lack of skills – now we need to add how to navigate the landscape changes of less full time workers
  • Bringing in the necessary skills through contingent labour – as people opt for self-employment
  • Freelance work – working remotely with virtual teams around the globe to complete projects or deliver services.

Bidding for projects is not a new concept, there are also several digital work platforms that have been successfully operating for many years now, and their growth will be significant but it’s not a built-in process for many companies and even fewer companies have it as part of their talent management strategy.

You could define the gig economy as a virtual shopping mall for services. It has taken some bad press in recent months with MPs in the Work and Pensions Select Committee calling for an end to ‘bogus self-employment’ practices in its latest report on self-employment. But the gig economy it is but it is set to stay and currently there are five million people,15% of the labour force in the UK that are now self-employed. The government proposals to increase NI is already seeing the tax short fall brought about by a rise in self -employed individuals, but with an equal access to the new state pension, this gives some indication that this way of working is set to rise with the tax system adjusting accordingly.

This shift in the way people work is not just isolated to the UK though. In April 2017, The Committee on Labour and Social Affairs made changes to the Germany Employee Leasing Act, stipulating that temporary workers may only be used for 18 months at a client company in the future (unless a collective agreement governs a longer duration of use). They should also receive the same wages as the permanent staff after nine months. Temporary employment in France grew by 8.2% in March compared to last year, according to data from Prism’Emploi, the French association of employment agencies, and temporary employment grew in middle management and professionals (11.8%) while skilled workers grew by 10.9%. This is a global shift in the way a generation of people think and how they interact with the world of work.

So, what does the employment landscape look like for the future? Well, quite simply, individuals are looking for flexibility in how, where and who they work with. They what to take accountability and self-direct their pay, holidays and being involved in work that interests them. Every business needs to take this in to account and needs to ask itself questions about how it is going to attract the best people and evolve in the gig economy landscape.

You could do worse than add the gig economy to your board agenda, start considering how your internal talent acquisition team or HR team will operate in a way that gives you access to skills your organisation could be missing out on in the future if you are not set up to accommodate these innovative approaches to careers. Understanding the skills needed now and for the future will help in the process for what your company needs to action in the short, medium and long term. How you might be supporting that early talent you have invested in another decade and how you engage with them now on career planning can influence how you access their knowledge and skills in the future.

Equally important is to be able to demonstrate your ability as an organisation to tap into this talent but ensure you are responsible in your approach to reward, individuals wellbeing and not to be avoiding employer responsibilities when it comes to social welfare and taxation.

At SEC We’ve been working with contingent labour for over 30 years. Our contracting care programmes allow individuals to dictate their working hours, projects of interest and we as a company realise the importance of how we need to change what we do to support our freelance base in accessing our client’s opportunities. As we embrace the gig economy, we understand the need for talent brokerage through digital platforms, smart phones becoming smarter, apps and modern technology we don’t even know about yet.

In our next blog, we will look at how artificial intelligence will further change the working landscape and its impact on the people element of life sciences industry.

For more information on your talent management strategy give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7255 6600.