Are you taking advantage of the Gig Economy?

It offers flexibility, specialized skills and more

With the rise of the U.S. gig economy, more and more companies are taking advantage of the resources outside of their own doors And the life sciences industry is at the forefront.

According to a recent survey by Experts OnTap, 77% of life science leaders leverage external consulting expertise at least once every year. According to Tania De Decker of Randstad, “The life sciences industry is renowned for its rapid hiring practices. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally approves a new medication, therapy or nanodevice, HR departments at pharma and biotech firms must swiftly launch recruitment campaigns – typically aimed at full-time professionals – to scale up operations to get the product out to market as quickly as possible. However, with the growth of the gig economy, gig workers are quickly emerging as a better way to quickly assemble a cost-effective, agile workforce for this changing sector. It’s not surprising with the high employment rate and the current candidate driven marketplace companies are turning to the “alternative workforce” to bring in talent in more flexible and on-demand manner. In another Randstad report, “more than any other sector, life sciences and healthcare employers (85%) say talent scarcity is one of their business leaders’ greatest concerns.”

According to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 83% of the SHRM members polled said their organization uses external workers. Last year’s Morgan Stanley report, “The Gig Economy Goes Global,” indicated that the freelance work force has grown three times faster than the overall workforce, which represents 35% of the total U.S. working population. Estimates suggest that within ten years, freelance workers may represent more than 50% of the U.S. working population. Agility, access to targeted skills sets and labor cost management were the top benefits.

Research conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Society for Human Resources and SAP in 2019 (“Want Your Business to Thrive? Cultivate Your External Talent”) concurs: flexibility, access to specialized talent and the need to accomplish specific projects were the three most commonly cited reasons for using external workers. (Figure 1)

a chart Figure 1


This aligns strongly with the research recently published by HR People + Strategy (HRPS), a Society for Human Resource Management affiliate. (Figure 2)

Focusing on the biotech, pharma and medical device sectors in particular, Experts OnTap’s recent study indicates that 90% of life science leaders that tap the gig do soto gain access to specific expertise. (Figure 3)

With on-demand consulting on the rise, life science leaders are engaging experts to both augment knowledge and add temporary bandwidth to their teams. (Figure 4)

If you do leverage the gig economy, here are top 7 things to think through to make sure you get the best value and protect yourself:

a chart Realized Benefits to Hiring Independent Workers
  • Direct Hit – When engaging a subject matter expert, finding someone who has “been there and done that” is crucial. In the Experts OnTap survey, over 65% of leaders reported benefiting from external consultants who help set strategy and avoid pitfalls.
  • Select for what you don’t know – An additional key value area highlighted by life science leaders was providing input and a second set of eyes to key business decisions. Leverage the gig economy to support decisions with experts for short periods with unique industry knowledge.
  • Confidentiality – When structuring the engagement, make sure to address confidentiality and nondisclosure.
  • Ownership – In a similar vein, ensuring IP and ownership is another critical engagement factor.
  • Flexibility – One of the main appeals of tapping into the gig economy is the flexibility. The best way to leverage that is to engage with an hourly rate so you can adjust your needs up or down.
  • Best Practices – An advantage of engaging with outside expertise is to bring in best practices, which are easily assessed by considering the quality of the prior companies where they have been associated.
  • Right Role and Work Style – One last quick check: make sure the person you are bringing in knows the role you want them to plan and that their work style aligns with the team.

The gig economy is here and can provide a key competitive advantage to medical device, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies. Whether for expertise or added resource to get a project over the finish line, keep it as a tool in your toolbox.

a chart Experts on Tap On-Demand Consulting Study
a chart Experts on Tap On-Demand Consulting Study

Kristen Sharron Albright – SVP, Commercial Development at Xalud Therapeutics, Inc.

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