Strategic LifeSciHub Talent Pool Best Practices
Despite the term “Talent Pool” becoming common, it is a new and revolutionary concept that has yet to be widely adopted to its fullest potential in life sciences. A thoughtful, strategic implementation of a Talent Pool can solve myriad expertise gaps, increase quality, efficiency, save budget, and enhance the work experience for everyone involved. This paper outlines the key components of a “Talent Pool” as observed and developed by LifeSciHub, a community of independent small businesses (of 1) experts who comprise the on-demand “Talent Pool”.
“Taskify” the work.
There is a quiet revolution happening in the (still fairly empty) halls of life sciences organizations. Project teams are starting to learn the difference between work being defined by a “role” vs. “task”. The term “Taskify” was coined by Paul Estes, former Microsoft and creator of Microsoft’s internal “gig economy” platform, Paul wrote the book Gig Mindset, and describes this paradigm shift in detail.
Consider a recent challenge LifeSciHub observed at “MerzerPfeneca Pharmaceuticals” (real use case, anonymized top 20 global pharmaceutical company). The Senior Director of Early Stage Pharmacovigilance said “we have a gap of 20 hours a week for development first line case processing, and 10 hours a week for our home grown safety system support.”
The traditional HR pathway requires those tasks to be aggregated into a role as described by a job description. Another 10 hours a week of some other task would have to be added to the job description as well to justify the 40 hours. Then the perfect candidate who meets all those criteria must be found, who, hopefully, is currently looking for a new job.
With a Talent Pool, it is no longer necessary to lump work together into 40 hour workweeks. In fact, the drug sponsor can access extremely specialized talent, and therefore higher quality, by taskifying.
A small phase 2 stage biotech start up required help in their CMC (chemistry, manufacturing and controls) group who had responsibility for supplying all the clinical trial sites with trial drug. This is a critical task that has major impact on the clinical trial. It is possible to train a new resource to conduct this task, but doing so, and allowing for the inevitable lessons learned of new skill development, can jeopardize the clinical trial, which is a massive investment on the part of the drug sponsor.
In this case, the drug sponsor didn’t need a full time person, they were only running one trial. They needed great experience but only 25% of an FTE, for a period of 2 years. A small business in the LifeSciHub community has been working with that drug sponsor for over 2 years. Per the Sr. VP of Supply Chain & Operations, “Patrick is absolutely fantastic. I don’t know what we would have done without him these last couple of years.”
Once again, it was far better to utilize an expert who does nothing but clinical trial supply, and has over 15 years experience with that particular task, than attempt to solve this expertise via the traditional human resources pathway by trying to find a way to justify a 40 hour workweek/FTE, which oftentimes is not only extremely difficult, resource availability wise, but budgetarily.
Drug development has an enormous number of tasks all across the expertise spectrum. These tasks are usually long term in nature, measured in years, not weeks or months. They often do not fit in perfect 40 hour a week boxes and in fact, attempting to force them into that shape is a tremendous, unrealized drain on the organization.
The good news is, there are abundant, highly specialized experts available for “Task Work”! The ever-growing LifeSciHub community of small businesses (of 1) is proof of that!
Develop a Roster
For any given task the ideal Talent Pool is comprised of 5 experts you’ve met, interviewed, are comfortable with, and confident can get the task done with extremely high quality. In the LifeSciHub Community, it is possible to “contract” 5 experts without having any work for them at all. These 5 experts all have their own clients. They are not dependent on any one drug sponsor for their income stream. Their utility rates vary. 3 might be fully occupied, one might have just ended a project, and the other might be able to liberate 10 hours a week to start, and slowly add more by adjusting their other work loads, if that’s needed.
This is the true purpose of a “Talent Pool”- to rely on the power of an excellent crowd, rather than scramble in vain for the perfect resource while the project, timelines, and maybe clinical trial or drug approval submission suffers delays.
Your Roster can come and go!
Drug Development is permanently unpredictable. A lot of work comes in bursts. Almost every department head in a pharmaceutical company knows how painful these shifting sands can be. Ideally, a Talent Pool is with you for years, coming and going as needed. If contracting is a snap, and, with LifeSciHub, it is, it’s easy to assign work, cancel work, change your mind. Independent Experts are extremely flexible- far more flexible than human resources, because they manage their own income stream, and they have other clients besides you.
There is a trade off: the CMO of a small immunotherapy company utilized a clinical contracts expert to help with the CRO selection and contracting process on a critical Phase 3 study. The project expected to be 80 hours over the course of two months. The CMO, an MD who spent 20 years as Head of a hospital unit, 3 years in drug development, was concerned when the Clinical Contracts Expert couldn’t take an immediate call. She had asked to call him back later that day at a specific time. To him, that was unreasonable. Unfortunately, he was the one being unreasonable, expecting a non FTE to be as “captured” as an FTE.
A critical aspect of a Talent Pool is that it allows trust to build over long term, easy, and mutually productive relationships.
Learn to Love Scopes of Work (SOW) more than Job Descriptions
They say that within a few months of taking a job the original job description is inaccurate- due to shifting department needs, unexpected priorities, and other factors. A recent survey indicated that 60% of respondents thought at least a quarter if not half of their company’s roles had proper job descriptions, and 68% said the job description process could be better.
The beauty of an SOW is that it is extremely clear what is expected to be done and in what timeframe. A well written SOW is also precise in the Key Performance Indicators of quality. This allows tracking, metrics and ROI more often, and on a far more granular scale than a job description, which is traditionally only reviewed once a year.
LifeSciHub NPS Score (Net Performance Score)
A very common mistake is for hiring managers to continue to, when working with non FTEs, think in terms of roles and traditional HR. We have seen this expressed many different ways, such as not having a formal review process. In a way, many hiring managers are unconsciously waiting for the annual performance review, because that such a core tool for managing their full time employees.
LifeSciHub has adapted Bain & Co’s Net Promotor Score concept to be a monthly Net Performance Score. This is a very light touch, agile tracker of Task performance. In the decades of collective independent practice experience the LifeSciHub community of small business experts has amassed, we have found that there are two key metrics that cause the most problems with projects. They are:
- · Issues with Scope
- · Issues with Communication
On a monthly basis the LifeSciHub platform surveys each party, the independent expert and they hiring manager, with just the 2 questions, which takes less than one minute to reply. The results of each are transparently reported to all parties on LifeSciHub.com. Green= all is well, Amber= something’s off, Red= escalation required, something is falling short of expectation.
In this model, we are actually looking for “amber”. We want issues to be raised so that they can be resolved quickly and keep the work moving fast and at the highest quality standards. Some projects are green throughout, but the wise approach is to prepare for the issues that will inevitably arise. Problems, inefficiency, and costs mount when issues fester.
Billable Hours, Time Tracking and Metrics, Oh My!
At many organizations, Full Time Employees don’t need to record their hours, so perhaps not familiar with the clarity and power that comes from time tracking. It seems like another thing to monitor, one they don’t have to do with their FTEs. Consider a recent frustration raised by a Director of Regulatory Affairs at Synexevia (anonymized large CRO): “I have a ton of contractors from all different organizations. Frankly, I have a very hard time knowing what any of them are doing at a given time. We have work tool for internal resources but it’s not fit for purpose for the outside contractors.”
Having a single view of all non FTE work is critical for the frazzled budget holder. Ideally that view shows the tasks, scope per task, hours expert and task, timelines, and hours/budget decrements. LifeSciHub enables this visibility not just for expert small businesses you find through LifeSciHub, but ideally for all your non FTEs.
The magic happens when you know exactly how much time and budget it takes to get all non-FTE work done, at any given time. The feeling available to the department head is one of control, confidence, and agency.
Enjoy the Flexibility to Hire Fast, Fire Fast
In traditional Human Resources, hiring is a massive decision fraught with risk and consequence. The demand for specific expertise is so high, as are the project timelines. Putting a low quality resource into a critical project (and all projects are critical in drug development) can negatively impact timelines and cause costly delays. It is common in life sciences R&D for job candidates to interview with more than 10 people in a department. Then, making a change once a human resource is hired is also fraught with risk, whether that be shifting the employee to another department, or having to terminate.
The “On-Demand” nature of the Talent pool is already a much lighter lift than the decision to bring on a full time employee. Even for critical, high-risk tasks, it is just one task, and is temporary (even if long term). The weight of permanence of an FTE is absent, allowing for greater choice and flexibility.
Sometimes independent experts do require a commitment to hours. LifeSciHub sometimes hears, “I won’t take this project unless I know I’m going to get 20 hours per week for the next six months. I will free up that time but it’s up to them to keep me that busy.” We also see other arrangements, such as the case with a biostatistician, Bob, for a small biotech. Originally expected to be 1200 hours over the course of 2 years, about half way through the drug sponsor decided they needed a different approach to biostatistics. The strategy was fundamental, and an MD on the Board particularly wanted to go in a different, more creative direction. Bob understood. He actually wasn’t entirely comfortable with the direction the Board wanted to go, not because it was unethical or any nefarious reason, simply because he felt he didn’t have that particular type of expertise to deliver. He was happy to end the contract at 680 hours instead of force the drug sponsor to fulfill the rest under tense and unhappy circumstances.
Traditional human resources are the primary means of organizations getting work done. HR has given industry nearly 100 years of excellence and productivity. However evolution is a relentless force we all have to adapt to. The only thing predictable is change itself. The On-Demand Talent Pool will never be a replacement for traditional HR, nor does it aspire to be. But it is a new tool in the organization’s toolbox for getting certain types of critical work done with the greatest quality, flexibility, and cost savings. That being said, a LifeSciHub Talent Pool is an entire ecosystem of small businesses, and can not operate within the same exact parameters of HR systems, processes, and laws designed for employees.