The industrial and human interactions landscape resulting from the Covid-19 epidemic may turn to be profoundly different with respect to just five months ago. As business processes are going to be completely redesigned to match the new request for social distancing and health security in the working environment, the workforce is called to be resilient and to redefine its approach to daily duties, as well. This may imply a redefinition of skills towards new, digital technologies and redeployment to new operative tasks. 

Analysts expect the transition would favour the recruitment of highly-skilled workforce, able to easily handle the new processes which will constitute the focus of rebuilding businesses on the long-term growth perspective. Several analysis have been published to draft emerging scenarios; we summarise the main points.

Trends in the pharmaceutical sector

The need to move some pharmaceutical active ingredients and intermediates production back to Western countries, as demonstrated by the supply issues emerged during the Covid-19 epidemic, may prove a leading driver to rise employment in the field on the long-term. The situation may be similar of the years ’20 of last century, after WWI and the Spanish Influenza pandemic, suggests an article by Lakshmipriya Nair on Express Pharma: this crisis ended up in a period of strong economic growth. 

Companies making vaccines and a new sales force design may represent two areas of future expansion for the pharma job market, according to Luna Corbetta from PwC: “Those that have invested in the employee experience, digitalisation and an agile operating model will be better positioned to emerge from this crisis”, she says. 

Employee engagement and capability should be the short-and mid-term focus, according to PwC Director, Anthony Waldron. While social distancing measures are key to the people back to productive plants, remote working asks for an optimisation to be reached through the use of accelerators and the empowerment of leaders and individual contributors.

R&D may become increasingly “virtual” in future, after many clinical trials were put on stop due to the Covid-19, and also the commercial sales forces are expected to move to a new digital mode of interaction with a broader set of possible customers. An example of the expected impact of Covid-19 on a pharmaceutical sales force has been drawn by McKinsey analysts (see here). 

The future may see a 30 percent-online/70 percent-offline working model to become permanent, is the suggestion. Telemedicine is another area expected to grow, as remote consulting might be the new standard for the interaction between doctors and their patients.

The Nair’s article deeply discusses the position of India as a possible future leader in pharmaceutical production, thanks to its well established generics industry. Here too, the true challenge is represented by the ability of the workforce to be receptive to changes and reskilling. An efficient supply chain management will represent a critical point for the future of many business, together with team building and leadership skills to deal with any crisis, suggests the article. 

Pharma employees would need to be highly flexible to adapt to new skills and roles required to manage smarter, automated manufacturing processes; “multi-skilled” workers may become the new standard for the sector. This transition has to be necessarily supported by intensive training; an already active example in this direction reported by Nair is the India’s Manipal Prolearn Pharma School of Excellence in Quality. R&D and IP protection may be other activities to be highly sustained by future investments, and thus requiring specialised workforce. 

The difficult road to ensure work continuity

A major challenge in last few months has been represented by the need to ensure business continuity while preserving the health and the jobs of workers. The challenge was faced greatly facilitating remote smart working, and preservation of social distancing in the industrial environment; an occurrence that might have seen many people not ready to these new modalities to approach job (see the analyses on the Accenture website).

According to McKinsey, the true challenge is not in handling remote working, but in the ability of the companies’ top management to “reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era”. At least three quarters of CFOs plan to shift at least 5 percent of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-Covid-19, says McKinsey.

Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) are called to put in place contingency plans to support these workforce shifts. According to Accenture, the traditional forecasting models are obsolete after the Covid-19, and a five step process has been suggested to achieve long-lasting workforce resilience. McKinsey too depicted a six steps process to manage the transition from the workforce perspective. 

Predict demand shifts is considered essential to optimise decision making and should be supported by the use of analytics to identify and redefine skills and expose local labor-market supply and demand, also in other industries, suggests Accenture. 

Profiles of needed skills should be created to look for unique combinations of the required skills, aptitudes and interests, also with respect to broader roles. This sort of information should be also shared in a transparent way with the internal workforce. 

In dependance with the specific needs, impacted people may be shifted within or outside the organisation making use of a resilient ecosystem to sustain continued employment opportunities. According to Accenture, this may be pursued by building strong relationships and partnerships with the external environment, including non-profit organisations and the public sector. Alternative employment models and job design options may also facilitate the finding of a new job, while safeguarding attitudes and interests of each person. Artificial intelligence can also support the definition of skill gaps within the organisation, to be object of training to change the trajectory of the careers. People should be allowed to opt in and choose their learning, is the suggestion, while favouring also adjacent skills development to broaden possibilities to cover new roles.

A shared workforce resilience is finally considered important by Accenture to foster a more collaborative and less competitive talent ecosystem. It may be pursued by allowing people to explore the new possibilities while encouraging personal growth and ongoing learning opportunities. 

The urgent need to find a new employment

The economic crisis resulting from the generalised lockdown ended up with many persons loosing their jobs, thus needing to reinvent their life in order to earn enough money to sustain their families. It might turn to be a quite difficult challenge, provided that traditional skills may not be sufficient and “appealing” to find new opportunities.

According to Accenture’s, shared workforce resilience may represent a sustainable landing point to be pursued through a coordinated action between all involved actors, including governments, companies, citizens and non-profits organisation. The think-tank has developed the People + Work Connect platform in collaboration with several CHROs, an analytics-driven initiative aimed to pool non-confidential and aggregated workforce information by categories such as location and experience. The final goal is to make easier for companies to look for the workforce they need to hire and, on the other side, to support them to sustain their no longer needed employees to find a new job, moving large pools of people from one employer to another.