The future of pharma depends on its employees

MINUTE READ: Big pharma should take a good, hard look at small biotech companies and try to better understand how they succeed and are able to make strategic decisions faster without multi-levels of bureaucracy.

This week a person with whom I have the highest level of respect because of her emotional and marketing intelligence landed a position with a small biotech company as Global Marketing Director. The company is lucky to have hired her. She will be a real asset to their business goals.

I have seen as a consultant, the constant movement of employees from one company to another or out of the industry. Some are pursuing more money or bigger titles, but far too many are leaving because their careers within the company have reached a brick wall.

Here are some troubling employee retention statistics:

  • 65% of employees think they can find a better position elsewhere. 
  • Employee retention rates hit a record low in March 2020.
  • By 2030, low retention will, on average, cost the US $430 billion annually
  • Good retention can maximize company profits up to 4 times.
  • 87% of HR experts consider employee retention among the highest priorities.
  • 20% of turnover happens in the first 45 days of work at a new company.

Some companies have learned that they are only as good as the people who work for them, yet pharma seems to care less when good people leave. How an organization treats its workforce is mirrored in how those employees treat the customers. In that regard, employee experience is critical to the bottom line and an organization’s ability to remain profitable far into the future. It is fair to assume how employees are treated has tangible effects on the viability of an organization.

When all employees experience the same amount of respect from leaders, stronger, more meaningful relationships have space to grow in the future. Unfortunately, 31% of employees wish their managers communicated with them more frequently, according to Officevibe’s State of Employee Engagement report. Another 57% wouldn’t recommend their companies as a good place of employment.

Someone I know very well left BMS, where she climbed the ladder quickly as a leader of MLS teams because she was not valued for her experience and knowledge. When she applied for a position within the company that was perfect for her, she was told: “she didn’t have enough time in the organization.” She eventually quit, and not one manager reached out to try and retain her.

Within any industry, there are always going to be job hoppers. Some within pharma has worked at so many jobs their resume reads like a list of pharma companies. These people tend to want titles of importance and come across as someone who would politically fit within a company.

Other people leave because, after their product comes off patent, they are told “find a new job within the organization”. This isn’t a good way to nurture and retain talent.

I’m wondering how the people who developed the vaccine for Covid-19 feel when they read that almost 75% of the supply has not been used as yet while their companies remain silent? Why hasn’t Pfizer offered some help in vaccine distribution? Do they feel their job is done with the development of the vaccine?

I feel that the top ten pharma companies are soon going to be facing a crisis. I do not doubt that eventually, Congress will act to bring down rising healthcare costs, and that effect could be profound on big pharma. Will they be able to adjust to the new era of healthcare that’s on the horizon, or will they cut costs via massive layoffs?

The title-seeking job hoppers will always be a pharma side-effect, but who within the big matrix organizations are really trying to change the way they do business every day? Will they be ready to accept the challenges and react with speed and quality, or will the emphasis continue on sales and profits? That question will define the industry in the years to come.