Putting “purpose” back in pharma

got-purpose-400-x-400KEY TAKEAWAY: Firms that focus on sales and profits instead of the “meaning story” – fuel employee disengagement.  Pharma needs to aim to have a positive impact on patients’ lives through our products and provide services that are in alignment with company value statements.

Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” People need their lives and effort – and their work – to matter.  This is true in pharma because the products we market improve patients’ lives.

The Road of Your Life

Working at firms that lack purpose grinds employees down, making their jobs disheartening and unpleasant. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Most white-collar employees regard their jobs as demoralizing and can’t attach any significance to their work. [/inlinetweet]

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Fully 51% of employees don’t feel engaged with their jobs; another “17% actively disengage.”[/inlinetweet] Their disconnection is a symptom of a lack of meaning in the workplace. This emptiness springs from companies putting profits foremost. At firms where money counts and purpose means nothing, the “money story” dominates, not the “meaning story.” Money is seldom an effective employee motivator. “You can’t spreadsheet your way to passion.”[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] Corporate leaders who view their employees as commoditized line items will quickly learn that those workers regard their organizations only as a source of a paycheck, not as a source of pride[/inlinetweet].


It’s extremely important that pharma companies have someone who is “the voice of the customer/patient” and that their stories are shared throughout the organization.  While I was at Lily we used to have US meetings to listen to how our products impacted the lives of patients as told by the patients themselves.  It not only put a voice and face together, it made all of us think about what was really important.

CEO’s need to emphasize the voices of our audience beyond company vision statements in the lobby.  Everything we do has to be about patients not just Wall Street and spreadsheets.