Successful Workforce Planning in High Growth Mode

Biopharmaceuticals scaling for high growth should consider workforce planning and formulate their compensation options, culture, and the employee experience to stay aggressive.

The Life Sciences industry is expected to surpass $775 billion by 2024 at a compound annual growth rate of 9.9%, according to Global Market Insights. However, attracting and retaining talent continues to be a challenge, thus scaling for high growth requires thoughtful workforce planning that considers attracting talent, retention of your team, and mitigation of turnover that presents a risk in loss of intellectual property or setbacks in the planned growth curve.

Planning the Plan

Scaling for high growth requires thoughtful workforce planning.  Consider:

  • What compensation, benefits, and programs are sustainable for an expected headcount in years one, three, and five?
  • Which roles will experience the greatest headcount growth and how will the business compete in the market to attract talent?
  • Are individual contributors making up the largest percentage of your workforce?
  • Is your workforce balanced with a healthy “not top-heavy” leadership team?
  • Are certain roles more critical in executing initiatives for the company?

To prevent an unbalanced workforce during growth, it is imperative to have the right checks and balances in place to give a level of flexibility to hire when the demand is there. For example, consider a guideline that not more than a certain percentage of the workforce is a manager level or above, and ensure that leaders are prepared to manage a larger team as the organization grows.

Compensation Options

As the biotech grows, so should the compensation options.   The pay mix will fluctuate during growth.  Startup firms tend to place more value on cash and provide more equity to startup teams in a compensation plan, conversely, more mature firms place more value in equity and the value that comes from the mature growth stage, therefore cash bonuses are more likely than equity compensation.  For example, once a biotech launches into commercialization and begins to profit, cash incentives might take on a larger proportion of the pay mix for some employees, and long-term incentive vehicles can shift from stock options to performance bonuses. There is a natural progression is based on the biotech’s growth stage, e.g., start-up versus maturity.

While the Life Science industry is known to have much broader participation in equity than most other industries, biotech firms need to be selective in the positions eligible for various incentives once a certain size is reached.   This ensures the ability to provide employees with meaningful rewards.

Additionally, biotech companies need to differentiate compensation to attract and retain top talent. Beyond merit increases, short and long-term incentives need to be differentiated both in terms of eligibility and target goals.

Culture Alignment

Culture is considered a differentiator in attracting and retaining talent in a competitive market. 

With the abundance of websites that reveal compensation and employee reviews, prospective candidates are getting the first impression of the culture before they apply for a role. Although their impression of the culture may or may not be accurate—it requires work to protect and portray the type of culture the organization has. 

The Life Science industry, in general, has a compelling mission relative to culture-changing lives.  However, it is important to relay the mission, vision, purpose, and values internally and externally.  The alignment between brand and culture is an opportunity to attract talent organically.

Employee Experience

The employee experiences begin with the interview process, moves to onboarding, and ultimately continues.  High-growth biotech firms need to prioritize employee engagement, development, and career mapping. 


When in high growth mode, a plan is needed.  Creating roles as you scale is ideal to ensure growth is sustainable.  Attracting talent in a competitive marketplace will require that compensation, culture, and employee-centricity remain competitive.  At Precision Life Sciences we have the expertise to build and guide a successful Workforce Planning Plan.  As experts in scaling businesses, our team will align with your team.  We become your strategic partner to provide expertise, talent acquisition, and logistics support for the timeframe you need to scale your organization to meet your objectives. 

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