COMPETING ON TALENT: THE HUMAN RESOURCES SYSTEM
As the primary source of value creation has shifted in most major industries over the past 20 years from tangible assets to
knowledge and innovation, companies have come to recognize that they are ultimately competing on the basis of talent. Nowhere
is that truer than in biotech, where people are critically important because their unique skills—in manufacturing, development,
scale-up, technology transfer, and regulatory strategy—create much of the value. For example, not many people know how to
make stem-cell products or nucleotide-based products. Biotech requires not merely workers, but craftspeople who can make vaccines,
combination products, therapeutic proteins, and cell and tissue products. In fact, having the right people can make the difference
between a threefold return on investment and a tenfold return.
The human resources (HR) system therefore stands at the critical intersection of strategy and execution. The HR function must
of course still fulfill its transactional functions: payroll, benefits, and the like. But now more than ever it must take
the lead in developing a human capital strategy that is tied to the company's business model and the science. That means that
the chief human resources officer (CHRO)—a new C-level position rapidly spreading across industries—must be granted a seat
at the top leadership table. It should be noted, however, that finding strategically minded HR executives with biotech experience
can be difficult, but it is worth the trouble to ensure that you have the HR system that talent-based competition requires
and a leader who is empowered to make it work.
The systems, from strategy to human resources, however, are only part of the story. They are the structure—the anatomy, so
to speak—of the living company. Those systems must also be infused with life through the critical processes that create a
genuinely vital company. Those life-giving processes are the functions—the physiology of the company—that are the subject
of the next article in this series.
Tunnell staffers J. Summer Rogers and Shih Yu Chang contributed to this article.
Carmen Medina, MPH, was a principal at Tunnell Consulting at the time this article was written; King of Prussia, PA, 610.337.0820, firstname.lastname@example.org
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