How will hiring contingent workers in a GMP-regulated environment impact your organisation today?

The gig economy has gained in popularity today as the workforce continues to embrace the benefits of short-term stints. From greater flexibility to greater freedom, it is no surprise that contingent workers here in Singapore are already making up one-third of the workforce.

Within the pharma industry, this trend is proving to be a pervasive change. Pharmas are driven by cost-saving strategies to sustain its profit-making model. Given the nature of periodic project launches and investment in innovation, drug manufacturers in particular are turning to contingent workers. This is because hiring contingent workers helps to fill gaps in production and companies can save on costs by only hiring contingent workers when the need arises.

However, there are still considerations to be made when hiring contingent workers due to the pharma industry’s highly regulated environment.

Impact of regulations on the pharma manufacturing space

Taking into account that the pharma industry is highly regulated, compliance is of utmost priority when it comes to manufacturing drugs and vaccines. With the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations, manufacturers need to constantly ensure that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. GMP regulations are designed to minimise the risks involved in any pharma production.

GMP regulations are minimum requirements that companies must meet when developing and executing procedures throughout the pharma manufacturing process .

This includes:

  • Ensuring employees’ hygienic practices
  • Creating conducive work environments
  • Ensuring record-keeping is accurate
  • Handling returns and overages to specifications
  • Testing of in-process and finished products

Pharmas need to be aware of such strict compliance and adherence that come with hiring contingent workers. While permanent staff will also need to adhere to regulations, the concern is shifted more towards contingent workers who are sometimes not provided with adequate training due to the short term nature of their work.

The general concern for pharmas therefore remain – how do pharmas make sure that they are resource-ready for production, whilst guaranteeing that quality and compliance are not compromised in the process?

We note below key pointers that your company can take note of when it comes to hiring contingent workers in the pharma manufacturing space.

What are potential challenges that manufacturing companies may encounter?

  • Lack of training and higher costs

Contingent labour is generally an option for any operation in the manufacturing process that has a relatively short ramp-up or learning period, and where demand for this resource is not always steady. However, because of the short term duration and temporary nature of the contingent worker’s tenure, many companies do not provide adequate product training, especially prior to their start dates.

As a result, it becomes a financial trade-off as training to ensure regulatory compliance will increase labour cost. While all manufacturers are expected to be up-to-date with safety regulations, without proper safety training during onboarding, contingent employees can become a liability if they are injured on a worksite.

Thus, adopting a contingent hiring plan will require thorough evaluation. It is also dependent highly on your organisation’s ability to invest in foundational training to ensure that short-term costs.

However, there are opportunities that can help mitigate such challenges. We further set these out below:

  • Closing production and manufacturing gaps by investing in training initiatives

It’s not uncommon for businesses to find that their headcount shifts rapidly in response to market conditions and restructuring. For pharma manufacturing, workloads can also fluctuate significantly and contingent employees can help combat unexpected customer demands. Thus, contingent workers provide the perfect opportunity to address the organisation’s needs on an ongoing basis, rather than committing to permanent employees. In order to ensure that contingent workers perform up to speed with your permanent employees, training need to be catered to them as well.

For example, the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) in Singapore conducts short GMP-related courses for all pharmaceutical manufacturing specialists. Experts with real credibility and experience aim to bring GMP-related examples and real life stories. Training conducted is also designed to reach all learning styles and preferences.

The Singapore government has also been proactive in implementing schemes to address the talent shortage in the manufacturing industry. One of these initiatives is the Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) to help more than 1,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) switch careers or upskill with relevant knowledge such as data analytics.

  • Significant cost savings with greater innovation

A static workforce, made up of employees that have been with the company for years, can often lead to a lack of creativity and “inside the box” thinking. As a result, it is encouraged to have new faces that bring new ideas to the team. Within the manufacturing space where production and product lifecycle processes can be quite routine-based, having contingent workers join the team may bring about new strategies that could improve productivity.

Ultimately, pharmas that can leverage on the gig economy in ways that benefit the organisation will reap benefits. This new employment paradigm will allow companies to manage the variable demands and capabilities at different stages of the drug development lifecycle.

How can you use contingent workers to your benefit?

Utilising contingent workers is a way for companies to leverage on their specialised knowledge gained from previous assignments working on research and development projects.

On average, seniors in the business who are highly specialised within the pharma-manufacturing space, typically possess 7 to 10 years of experience. However, an individual should possess at least three years of GMP-related experience in order to be shortlisted to work in a pharmaceutical plant. Pharmas are also open to taking interns and provide them with a hands-on industrial experience on a short term basis.

How can Real Life Sciences help with your contingent hiring strategy?

At Real Life Sciences, our recruitment specialists can advise you on the right contingent hiring strategy that will best suit your organisation’s needs and attract a wider pool of quality candidates with the required skills.

Please connect with us on Linkedin or drop us an email at [email protected] if you like to find out more about current opportunities.


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