A sense of ownership for pharma employees?

sense of ownershipPOST SUMMARY: Since 2009, the pharmaceutical industry, has announced more than 156,000 job cuts in the U.S. alone, according to Challenger Gray & Christmas.  In Western countries, pharmaceutical jobs are high-paying; the average salary of a U.S. pharmaceutical scientist in 2013 was $141,500, according to an American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists survey.  Sales positions have been particularly hard hit, due to patents expiring on top-selling drugs, and physician restrictions on seeing sales reps. ZS Associates, a sales and marketing consultant, estimates the industry’s U.S. sales force has fallen by 40% from its peak of more than 100,000 in 2006. So what can be done to attract and retain talented people?

According to the Wall Street Journal “some have found it hard going. Scott Nass, 49 years old, lost his job as an account manager for Roche Holding AG in Nutley, N.J., in 2009, when Roche gained full ownership of Genentech Inc. After a two-year stint helping Princeton University raise money to support academic research, Mr. Nass is now a substitute high-school teacher and looking for full-time work. Mr. Nass said he finds it hard to get back into the health-care business. “I am quite bitter. It’s been a painful process and I am disillusioned as to how decisions are made in the industry,” he said.Others have remained in the industry—often finding work in smaller drug companies or in contract research organizations, which conduct clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies.”


Paul Rogers was a 16-year veteran at AstraZeneca about five years ago when he finished an assignment to cut about half the positions from a 180-person, U.S.-based marketing unit—including his own job. He was able to find a job at Shire PLC’s U.S. unit before being recruited two years ago to Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, a small Cambridge, Mass., pharmaceutical company, where he is vice president of marketing.

While he’d been happy at his old job, “I learned that there is life outside of AstraZeneca,” Mr. Rogers, 50, said. At Ironwood, which launched its first and so far only product—the irritable bowel syndrome drug Linzess—16 months ago, he finds “a great sense of ownership,” he said.

“At big pharma, you struggle to have that feeling of being an owner and not just an employee,” he said.

An owner?  What a great concept.

There are people reading this post who understand that their days are filled with back to back meetings while their workloads pile up because there isn’t a sense of “ownership”, just matrix management where months of meetings are needed for even the smallest of decisions.  While there needs to be a system of checks and balances within the industry the challenge is to ensure that any process doesn’t limit the sense of ownership.  Imagine the pride and hard work that comes with a sense of ownership!


As for the bitter employees one has to wonder about the “employees left behind”.  When I was at Lilly during layoffs the people left behind felt as though the relationship with their employer had changed dramatically.  Decisions weren’t always made for the benefit of the customer, but rather, for the benefit of one’s job. I’m not sure any organization can survive that.


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