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All things Pharma

Career Insights with comments from Lucy Randle, STAR Medical

Jim spoke to Pf about his lifetime career with one company.

The BIG question most of us want to know is . . . what keeps Jim at Merck after all these years?
There is something special about Merck that encourages quite a number of people to stay. My current boss was my first training manager and now, 23 years later, as Head of HR, we are working together. I have many other colleagues who have been here during much of my time at Merck. The work environment it creates has encouraged lots of well-respected colleagues to develop their careers with Merck and share the satisfaction of helping Merck grow. These sort of special relationships make for a great culture and are a feature of working for Merck.

What are your main responsibilities?
The majority of my time is spent on recruitment and, consequently, over the years, I have seen many people join the company and go on to achieve great things and, therefore, share in Merck’s on-going success. I am also involved in other areas like benchmarking, remuneration and benefits, the Company’s web site, staff feedback, and car policy.

What is your biggest challenge?
This is ensuring that Merck stays competitive in attracting new people and that the culture is one that encourages the ongoing success of both the company and the individuals within it. We conduct an annual telephone survey of a random sample of the field force to obtain their views on the climate within the company – what is going well, and what needs reviewing. We will adapt where possible in order to remain as effective and as competitive as we can and also add value to the job and to the company as a whole. It is a challenge to aim for the best possible culture in the Pharma Industry and we ask our employees for their thoughts to help us achieve this aim. Innovation is really important to the Company’s future success and we get some fantastic ideas from colleagues.

What is the sexiest part of being an HR Manager?
“I am not sure I would describe it as sexy…perhaps rewarding, often pleasurable, frequently challenging…and occasionally just crazy.” I am just high on the job . . . I love people. The reward of the HR role is playing a part in developing an environment which helps people to achieve success, whilst at the same time helping make Merck in the UK what it is today – a great company, full of great people making their contribution to a great culture!

What advice might you give someone considering a career in Human Resources?
I think the best advice I could give would be to always retain your belief in the power of people. If you stop believing in people and just how much they can achieve with trust and support, then “Cynicism Boulevard” is the next stop on the journey . . . and people will sense it.

What is it that makes people want to stay?
Why would you leave a successful company where you have enjoyed personal success, where you enjoy working with your colleagues to make a real difference and, after 23yrs, have many of my friends around me? Merck is an innovative, people-oriented company with a good reputation, great products and great people that I am proud to be part of. 2004 was the most successful year both in the UK and globally for Merck Pharmaceuticals. In 2004 and 2005, Merck was among the Financial Times Top 50 Places to Work, and was ranked 19th in the Guardian’s Top Employers Directory. These fantastic results are primarily based on the feedback of colleagues. They know what they are talking about!

Lucy Randle provides some insight into how to avoid career mistakes by thoroughly researching your potential new company’s culture:

Jim’s 23 year career history with Merck is testament to the fact that he made a very wise career choice and joined the right company with the right organisational culture for him all those years ago. Today, however, we are living in a society where frequent career changes seem to be more the norm. Candidates are increasingly comfortable moving from company to company to quickly build their skills/experiences and/or rapidly inflate their salaries. With more moves however, today’s candidates are at a greater risk of making career mistakes by joining organisations where there is little or no cultural fit. Here are some top tips to make sure you don’t fall into that trap;

  • Before accepting any job offer ask to spend a day shadowing with one or a selection of the company’s representatives. This will provide you with an insight into the organisation’s values from people who aren’t directly associated with the recruitment process.
  • Speak to NHS customers – they will be able to provide a unique insight into the company’s approach and how they do business. Always temper this with the fact that one individual is not always representative of the organisation’s culture.
  • Speak to recruitment consultancies to get their view on what the organisation is like and how well it would match your own expectations/values/principles.
  • Ask around on territory – find out why the last incumbent left the post.
  • Request that you spend more time with the manager you will be working for, perhaps in an informal setting over lunch.

    If you’re lucky like Jim and you chose the right company from the outset, you won’t need to consider any of the above, but if you’re heading for a career move, stop, think and take time to assess just how happy you will be in the new environment. Once you’ve assessed the organisation’s culture and the likelihood of a good fit, ask yourself ‘can I see myself working for this company 23 years down the line?’

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