The changing pharma workforce post-COVID

There’s no denying the COVID-19 has changed the world, but what will the pharma workforce look like post-COVID?

Graham Hawthorn
Managing Director, CHASE

It is too early to tell for sure what permanent changes will result from COVID-19, but, for field-based sales staff wanting to stay relevant post-COVID, being able to communicate effectively with customers in person, by video platform or by phone will certainly be key.

Healthcare professionals will be doing many more remote consultations with patients, and some will want this to apply to their industry interactions too. To be successful, this will require sales teams to understand that one size does not fit all. Being able to flex approach and adapt to each type of interaction will be crucial.

Secondly, since lockdown began, we have witnessed a significant increase in applicants looking to get into pharma. One of the main reasons for this is the industry gaining a higher positive media profile driven by the race to find a coronavirus vaccine. If this interest is sustained post-COVID, it will mean that more talented pharmacists, nurses, graduates etc, will be hired which will raise the industry talent bar even higher.

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Andy Anderson
Director, Evolve Selection

Since the onset of COVID-19, the sales and marketing aspect of pharmaceuticals and healthcare have changed dramatically and have seen significant impact in terms of being able to engage with NHS customers due to obvious restriction on the ability to interact face-to-face. It’s still early days in many respects with pharma and healthcare companies still trying to understand when and how they will be able to reengage fully with the customers both at primary and secondary care level.

Whilst most recruitment was initially put on hold due to COVID-19, we have had many conversations with clients and industry to assess how the future will look from a commercial customer engagement perspective. It’s clear that most organisations are, at least in the short-term, considering a shift towards a full virtual engagement model, but most commonly a hybrid model of face-to-face and virtual engagements. The impact of this means recruiting companies will likely be looking to assess virtual engagement skillsets alongside the traditional face-to-face customer skillsets previously required. We have worked closely with clients at these early stages to understand exactly what these models will look like moving forward. They may indeed vary from market to market according to the needs of the customer and their ability to engage with industry.

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Mark Ward
Operations Director, Star

If the NHS witnessed ‘10 years of change in one week’ then pharma had to evolve to remain both relevant and accessible to its customers. There will be a place for face-to-face engagement when time and safety permit, but it won’t be the only channel. Industry has, to varying degrees of success, been utilising multiple channels, but now it’s an essential part of the strategy.

We have supported and driven rapid remote enablement of multiple teams across multiple disciplines, delivered digital skills courses, enhanced our digital in-call quality offering, supported clients to increase skills quickly, and engaged organisations on brand value propositions to help ensure digital capability can be put to best use with NHS clinicians. The end user experience has been positive, the NHS has wanted to keep communication channels, and slowly but respectfully, the ‘doors’ are beginning to open.

Most pleasing is the way representatives have embraced the new way of working. A desire to practice, a determination to remain compliant, and an understanding that this new world presents the only way to continue communicating with NHS customers. Customer-facing individuals are also commenting how productive a day can be.

The desire to learn new skills, and the tools and training that support these, means the future looks bright for the industry and those who engage with it.

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This article was originally published in Pharmafield.