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Skate where the puck is going to be: Coming to terms with the top three issues facing Life Sciences today

Posted by Ian Wilcox

Ian Wilcox

As human resources and operations leaders from around the world gather in Boston for the annual Hanson Wade Life Sciences Leadership Forum, I see three pressing issues that will pose major challenges to the industry over the coming years. The first two – dealing with the impact of M&A and globalization – are familiar, but more complex than ever. The last is newer on the scene: the role of predictive analytics in targeting and developing talent.

Impact of M&A

Not only does the M&A trend continue; we are also seeing many new gyrations. Whether it’s the trading of divisions seen last year between Novartis and GSK, or Shire’s ambitious bid to acquire Baxalta, we see a mix of new formations that break old models.

The challenges for leaders are enormous. How do they blend different cultures so as to preserve and enhance the value these deals promise? How do they find the synergies driving these transactions without jeopardizing the successful R&D and manufacturing that together represent the lifeblood of successful life science companies?

In this sometimes turbulent and always changing environment, leaders, in the words of my countryman Wayne Gretzky, must “skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

So when companies focused on rare diseases join with companies in multiple disease spaces, or when leaders from organizations with fewer than 10,000 employees are suddenly running 30,000+-employee companies, they cannot be flat-footed in their approach to operations and talent management. Leaders must have the right organizational structure to maximize investor value, integrate the value chain, and use the appropriate analytic tools to stay ahead of complexity. (More on that last point in a moment.)

Globalization

Next, whether due to M&A or simply the expansion of patient and supply chain markets, globalization continues to be a top challenge for life sciences companies. For one thing, many companies still don’t know how to scale in Asia or sub-Saharan African, where large markets await and expanded production is destined to occur. Issues like how to ensure quality through a very diverse supply chain remain a top priority. And on the market side, companies can no longer afford to make one market, even if it is the US or Europe, their complete focus. Growth demands a global view.

Predictive Analytics

Finally, we see a trend migrating to life sciences from industries like tech: predictive analytics. Organizations like Google have long been using complex algorithms to project whether candidates are a good fit, whether they will stay, and how far they will go. We are moving beyond basic assessments and reviews into nuanced annual 360’s, pre-screening, preferences, video analysis, and customer simulations. This approach to deep analytics will help the industry get much better at betting on who will succeed and who won’t. Like it or not, predictive analytics are coming – and can in fact help position your organization for success. HR and operations leaders need to gain expertise in this area.

Life sciences leaders and companies must stay attuned to the impact of these issues in the coming months and years. Those who, like Gretzky, move their organizations to “where the industry is going” tomorrow—not where it is today—will surely score the most goals over the years ahead.

 

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