Why millennials don’t like working in pharma

IN SUMMARY: Millennials are the biggest demographic in the workforce but a career working in pharma is not high on their list. Pharma’s own culture continues to drive people away and allowing employees to wear jeans is not going to lead to a flood of resumes for open positions or keep them engaged.

As a consultant who deeply integrates with clients, I have had the opportunity to really listen to clients vent about their jobs within pharma. I have learned that listening is sometimes the best medicine for frustrated people. Much to my displeasure a lot of very good, talented, people who came into the industry with high expectations have left or are seeking other jobs because the culture within pharma is too draining. Here are the top frustrations:

1ne: It takes too lone to get anything done. Even simple ideas require a lot of time in meetings and PowerPoints to move forward and when they do they often don’t reflect original ideas.

2wo: Promotions are based more on politics than talent. Making an employee, who is very well qualified for a promotion, jump through hoops to get the promotion drains people. I have seen some people demonstrate, through their work, that they are well qualified for promotion have to do things like deliver a PowerPoint to a cross-functional team along with other candidates.

3hree: The repeated attention to high drug prices. The negative stories are taking their toll on employee morale. There was a time when people were proud to wear shirts or jackets with company logos but because of the perception that big pharma is greedy that time is in the past.

4our: Shrinking benefits. A company that I work with in Cambridge gave increased employee salaries 3-5% based on reviews. The problem is that their health insurance has increased more than that. During one late night conference, people said that their company should be able to help control health insurance costs.

5ive: Open offices. Let’s be clear: people HATE open offices and open offices limit production yet big pharma seems addicted to them. Millennials especially hate open offices.

Most people working in pharma understand that their products save lives but at the same time if enough people tell you “you’re greedy” you begin to believe it. Any company that doesn’t recruit and retain good people is doomed. Pharma needs to focus on the culture as much as new products in order to meet the challenges of the new work environment.