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How Hiring Contractors Can Improve Your Life Sciences Function

14 September 2021

By Jay Freeman

How Hiring Contractors Can Improve Your Life Sciences Function

With the ever-changing landscape of the workforce, the traditional 40-hours a week, full-time worker can now be joined by part-time workers, agency temps, independent contractors, contract company workers, and the self-employed.

Hiring contractors has proven popular in the Life Sciences sector for a range of reasons, from the flexibility it offers in comparison to permanent employment, to the myriad of transferable skills that contractors can bring to the table.

There is also the cost-efficiency factor to consider, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, with many Life Sciences businesses opting to hire contractors due to affordability and the ability to hire specifically for special projects not carried out on a day-to-day basis (therefore, not requiring a full-time permanent employee).

How can hiring contractors improve your Life Sciences function?

Adapting to the ‘new normal’

When detailing a plan for leaders moving forward in Life Sciences, McKinsey cited the importance for leaders to re-evaluate whether they need different capabilities to keep up with the new ways of working.

This includes identifying and filling talent gaps by upskilling, reskilling, hiring, and contracting.

For many Life Sciences businesses, the prospect of hiring contractors in this regard may be more appealing simply on the basis that it can be less strenuous to fit into a reimagined operating model for the future.

Retaining top talent can be difficult, particularly at a time when many employees and potential candidates are reconsidering their priorities for job roles after a period of uncertainty.

There is such a large talent pool of industry experts that are now available on a freelance basis, that when combined with the new flexibility of remote working, can save a Life Sciences business time and money.

The largest appeal to Life Sciences organisations moving through the pandemic, however, is that contractors can be available as and when the business needs them, rather than attempting to hire permanent employees in an extremely competitive jobs market.


Generally speaking, even though an employer may pay more to a contractor per hour than they would a traditional employee, it is still cheaper in the long-term when adding in other factors.

Hiring permanent employees comes with a host of additional expenses, such as health insurance, paid leave, retirement benefits and more – all of which can considerably increase the total payroll and expenses between 20-50% per year.

Other costs such as providing office space, administrative requirements, new equipment and travel allowances are also removed from the equation when hiring contractors, which are hardly small expenses for businesses looking to recover after a period of crisis.

Specialist knowledge and skill sets

We’ve spoken previously about the skills gap in life sciences, discussing how job demand is high in the sector, with efforts to recruit becoming exceedingly difficult due to the shortage of necessary, critical skills.

From digitalisation pushing the need for engineering, digital, and computational skills, to statistical literacy and leadership skills, the Life Sciences sector has a high demand for skill sets that can be hard and time-consuming to recruit for when looking to hire permanent employees. 

Contractors, however, are valued for their specialised skill sets.

Part of the reason why contractors can have such valuable experience and skill sets is because over a period of a few years, a contractor may have worked on four or five projects, which can diversify their skillset in the long-term.

Additionally, this ability to build upon a skill set through multiple projects also helps a contractor to work at a fast pace and has the added benefit of continued exposure to diverse working environments and a varied client base.

All in all, a contractor can offer a varied portfolio of skills and experience, with the advantage of having adaptability due to working in a variety of settings – extremely valuable to employers looking to fill skill gaps efficiently and effectively.

Flexibility and assurance

The process of hiring or letting go of permanent employees can be time-consuming and is a legally fraught process, particularly when it comes to lay-offs or firing, though these may not be as common of an issue as hiring.

One of the common annoyances that employers in Life Sciences encounter is the need to fill a vacancy quickly in order to maintain efficiency, only to be met with the difficulty of finding the ideal candidate with the necessary skills when there are so many vacancies across the sector competing for the same skill sets.

Hiring a contractor enables you to have the contractor when you need them most, with the potential to increase the workload where necessary, for a fixed period of time.

This can be considerably less stressful and time-consuming, as a contractor can simply be hired for what they specialise in for an agreed period, without the usual pitfalls of the traditional hiring and onboarding process.

It can even benefit existing employees

It’s not only employers that benefit from hiring contractors, but existing employees.

Permanent staff will usually have a number of obligations and core business activities that take up the bulk of their time. 

Hiring contractors has the potential to ease the workload of current staff, and can even be utilised for temporary cover in the event of sickness, sabbaticals, or maternity leave.

The business can keep functioning as normal without any additional strain for the employer or the employees, particularly during specific peaks and troughs.

In conclusion

For employers, hiring a contractor can provide the flexibility, skillset, and experience that can be harder and more expensive to find through a permanent employee.

With the competitiveness of the jobs market in Life Sciences, it can be critical for a life sciences business to fill gaps quickly and efficiently, which contractors are ideally placed to do with minimal disruption.

There has been frequent discussion about the rush to meet the demand of the increased number of job roles in Life Sciences, which are not always easily filled by permanent staff – for businesses looking to stay innovative and adaptable in the most cost-efficient way possible, hiring contractors might be the competitive advantage they’ve been looking for.

If you’re looking for highly skilled candidates for your Life Sciences organisation, the Panda team can help.
Find out more here.

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