What Life Sciences Employers Should Know About Talent in the Gig Economy

An increasing number of skilled workers are becoming free agents.

January 04, 2017

After a temporary decline in hiring activity in 2014, the life sciences industry is once again expanding rapidly. According to the 2016 Life Science Workforce Trends Report by The Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes (CSBI), the number of job postings rose from 67,196 in 2014 to 92,354 in 2015—an increase of more than 25,000. The report also notes that there’s an ongoing need for knowledge-based employees. Of the 73,000 job postings that required a degree, 64 percent listed a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement, and 15 percent required a graduate or professional degree.

An increasing number of skilled workers are becoming free agents

It’s interesting to note that a growing number of highly skilled, knowledge-based workers are choosing to be free agents rather than pursuing regular fulltime employment. As Kevin Duffy points out in his Lab Manager article “Hiring Practices in Life Sciences Shift in Response to Changing Workforce,” life sciences free agents are motivated by more than just generous compensation and growth opportunities. They also want challenging work, collaborative work environments, and the opportunity to do meaningful work that contributes positively to society. Furthermore, they want autonomy over their career paths and the freedom to choose their projects depending on what they feel will benefit them most at any given time in their career. For example, a free agent with a young family might want to do more remote work until his or her children are in school, while a mid-career free agent could be continuously on the lookout for cutting-edge, high-profile cases that will propel him or her to the top of the profession.

Life sciences employers can benefit from incorporating free agents into their talent strategies

Experts predict that by 2020, 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will consist of free agents. What’s more: 90 percent of companies will use free agents for highly skilled work. Clearly, life sciences employers that want top talent need to incorporate free agents—including freelancers, independent contractors, and SOW labor—into their talent acquisition strategy

While this might seem like a departure from the conventional way of doing things for some companies, the truth is that it can be extremely beneficial for life sciences employers. Especially when you consider the cyclical nature of work in many areas of the industry, utilizing free agents can provide employers with a contingent workforce of highly skilled talent that’s agile both in regard to skills and size. This allows employers to hire for specific skill sets at precisely the right time and only for as long as they need them—eliminating the costly alternatives of either keeping on workers with skills the company doesn’t need on an ongoing basis or laying off fulltime workers.

Forward-thinking life sciences employers can benefit significantly from the gig economy—so long as they know where to find and engage the talent they require. And by incorporating free agents into their overall business strategy, they can create an agile workforce that delivers the talent they need when they need them.

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