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Grounding Pharma’s Job Hoppers


Words by Michaila Byrne


If rumours of a brand conducting its business unethically or treating employees poorly begin to spread, it’s not uncommon for large swathes of consumers to take their search elsewhere. As evident from the decline of Victoria Secret sales, as well as the precipitating scandals of Nestlé, luxury of choice in today’s climate only emboldens this. With growing numbers of options presenting themselves on the job platter in an increasingly competitive market, it’s unsurprising that new pharmaceutical recruits are job hopping in record high numbers.


Understandably, the prospect of obliging a generation with high expectations and demands is hardly something employers are leaping at. A respectable choice perhaps, if it were not also for the looming reality that job seekers are applying this selective shopping mindset to prospective employers; showing loyalty to those that share their values and equally discriminating against ones that don’t. In this respect, change has become more of a necessity than simply a discretionary option.


“From an employee perspective, people do a lot more due diligence and research behind organisations on things like GlassDoor. It is important as well from a commercial standpoint and obviously for company reputation… that you’ve invested heavily in your online presence,” explains Todd Wigmore, Director, Global Client Services, ProClinical. “When companies have a bad reputation, it makes our jobs quite challenging.”


The upcoming cohort of pharma recruits have been dealt a tech-dependent, customisable world that places a premium on cultural openness, fluidity, and mutually beneficial transactions. Additionally, a considerable 54% of Generation-Z expect to remain in their first job for <2 years, as well as hold a whopping 15–20 jobs in their lifetime. Pharma are faced with the challenge of no longer simply recruiting, but recruiting and retaining. Pharma must invest time and energy into building an appealing company culture or else face the daunting prospect of replacing the majority of their workforce every few years.


So, how can pharma incentivise and retain recruits? On the surface, it would appear intuitive that showing recognition through financial merits is desirable. However, changing expectations subvert this and imply that money alone is an insufficient incentive for loyalty. Value expressed through ‘non-cash reward and recognition’ programmes is increasingly a prudent measure, reflecting a culture that cares about more than just output, and the effects are well-documented.


Zach Stamp, Executive Director, EPM Scientific, comments “Organisations that strategically use benefits as a tool for recruiting and retaining talent report greater company performance (58%) and increased effectiveness in recruitment (19%) and retention (28%) compared with organisations that did not (34%, 8%, and 11%, respectively).” Evidently, it pays dividends to nurture environments in which people are inclined or motivated to focus on behaviours non-core to their job description.


From an employee perspective, people do a lot more due diligence and research behind organisations on things like GlassDoor

For a generation raised embracing multiculturalism, equal opportunities surrounding racial and gender equality are standard. Additionally, increased awareness over environmental issues is a generational characteristic, with 93% of people under the age of 25 confirming that a company’s impact on society would inform their decision to accept or decline a position. Therein lies the expectation that companies should be transparent, fulfilling criteria that hold them publicly accountable.


Underlying these initiatives is the expectation and desire for flexibility. Employers have a chance to oil up the stiff, traditional models. Naturally, face-to-face interaction conserves a communicative and collaborative culture. However, progression in tech has opened the possibility for people to perform duties remotely and this slackening of reigns can foster a degree of trust that organically gives way to commitment.


“The employment benefits have definitely changed over the years… to make sure that they [pharma companies] are aligned with what other companies are doing. In wanting to attract the right people, they have got to tailor their packages and the incentive plans that they offer,” says Wigmore.


Sanofi scores highly on reputability, with their website outlining steps to reduce animal testing and introduce integrity audits. Acknowledging the life-changing milestone of having a child – newborn, adopted, or fostered – and offering support through paid parental leave communicates that balance and well-being feed into job performance. This equally applies to making necessary time-off allowances to caregivers.


“In the wake of the Brexit vote… UK firms have been forced to re-evaluate their overall offering to win the war for talent in a tighter pool; and importantly retain the employees they already have,” says Stamp. ‘‘Other European organisations have a unique opportunity to capitalise on the current situation and gain a competitive advantage, therefore have also had to make their workplaces more attractive to potential employees.”


People want to be issued with more than just a bullet point description of their role. They want to visualise themselves proudly operating in the workspace and sample an understanding and flavour of the work and company culture. Through actively addressing and reconceiving their approach to work environments, pharma can better hold onto good people, nurture employer–employee relationships, and begin cultivating the future leaders of the industry.