Life Science, Biotech and HR in the Trump Era

By Laura Doehle

Resourceful HR recently sponsored a private dinner hosted by Xconomy. The focus of the discussion, led by Xconomy’s National Biotech Editor, Alex Lash, was what lies ahead for the biotech and healthcare community with a new presidential administration in place.

During the discussion ideas were exchanged about a variety of topics including:

  • Federal funding for research: what happens if it’s cut?
  • Federal Drug Administration: what does the future of the FDA look like for pharmaceutical and medical device development, approval, and pricing?
  • Immigration: how will changes in policies affect a company’s ability to staff as well as any global partnerships?

It’s exhilarating to be in a room of scientists, entrepreneurs, executives, healthcare officials, and investors—all of whom are dedicated to the future of life science and biotech in Washington and the global community.

As an HR professional, I found myself pondering these potential changes from a people perspective. What do executives in the biotech and life science industries need to consider in terms of how the changes could impact their approach to recruiting, hiring, and managing their talent pool?

Recruiting

For organizations that rely on outside sources for funding, it’s important to consider the balance around recruiting talent now, or waiting until you understand if and how the new administration’s plans will impact your income sources (e.g., NIH or academic grants). Similarly, the potential changes with the Affordable Care Act or Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) approach to reimbursement might impact investors’ willingness to fund your organization.

What this means: Be strategic about when and how you execute your staffing strategy. Err on the side of caution—wait to secure funding and understand how investors are reacting to the current market conditions before you recruit new staff. Consider recruiting only for the most critical positions and have a long-term plan in place that can be adapted as needed based on circumstances.

Hiring

Jobs in the life science industry often require very specific skills and knowledge in order to advance an organization’s work. Those keys to innovation can’t be found in just any candidate. It’s imperative to make the right hire, but that can be difficult if the right hire is someone impacted by changing immigration policies.

“Many of these individuals also fill critical roles in the organizations that employ them, whether they are doctors, scientists, engineers, medical technicians, software developers, or any number of other highly skilled professionals,” Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer at Microsoft writes. “They are deeply valued contributors to the innovation, research and business acumen of our nation, and they serve critical roles in the successful operations of U.S. companies.”

What this means: Get clear about job requirements before you start the process. Be targeted in what skills you absolutely need and then determine if working remotely is an option should the best candidate need to go through the visa process. As immigration policies change, ensure you have an experienced immigration professional on your team to help you assess if sponsoring a visa is feasible and help you execute on that process when it is the best course of action for your organization.

Kim Thompson, partner of Fisher Phillips law firm, told SHRM Online. she anticipates that applications for visas of any foreign national will take more time, and that employers should anticipate that employees from outside the United States will face a longer wait time.

Managing


With the tension around immigration and executive orders restricting immigration, it’s important for organizations to know which employees could be impacted by changing immigration policies (i.e., who has an H-1B visa, who has a green card, who has legal permanent resident status). Even as the travel ban has been lifted, there is still uncertainty around what will happen next.

“You should encourage [employees from the affected countries] to remain in the United States and to postpone any personal travel plans outside of the United States if possible, even if they have a valid H-1B visa or green card,” Thompson told SHRM Online.

What this means: If you hire talent from other countries, or partner with organizations around the world, consider your staff members’ well-being as well as operational impact before making any work-related travel arrangements for conferences or other meetings.

While I came away from the Xconomy dinner knowing there are more questions than answers, I was encouraged that the life sciences industry is committed to working together as we navigate the changes ahead. Overall, I am confident that we will move forward together and continue to innovate in the new reality. That commitment to work together and adapt to change is also central to the work we do at Resourceful HR. We’re here to partner with and assist our clients as they navigate the changes in the Trump Era that impact their people and their business.

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