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All things Pharma

Small is beautiful


The 2006 Pf Survey revealed some interesting facts about how things are changing within the pharmaceutical industry. In a series of three articles based on the survey, Pf’s Assistant Editor Diana Spencer will look at how small to medium-sized pharma companies are coming out on top. The next two articles will look at the reasons for SMEs’ increasing desirability among sales professionals. But let’s start by dispelling some popular myths . . .

Pf’s 2006 Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey was answered by 1,507 respondents, the overwhelming majority of which were primary and secondary care representatives and hospital specialists. The anonymous respondents answered questions about what motivates them, what they are satisfied and dissatisfied with, and how they perceive other companies in terms of their desirability to work for.

Myth #1: Everybody wants to work for one of the top 5 companies

Each year, the survey asks respondents to rank the pharmaceutical companies on how desirable they think they are to work for, excluding their own company. A comparison of the last five surveys demonstrates some changing trends. In 2001 a company’s desirability seemed to be defined by its UK sales turnover – everybody did want to work for the big corporations. 2006’s results show quite a different ranking, however, with some of the biggest companies being pushed out of the top 10 to make room for medium-sized companies.
In particular, Schering-Plough, Lundbeck and Organon achieved a significantly higher ranking than in previous years, with Schering-Plough making the top five. Another medium-sized company that has successfully moved up the rankings year on year is Merck Pharmaceuticals, which over recent years has consistently achieved a Top 20 position and featured at its highest-ever position of 12th in the 2006 survey.

2006 Employer of Choice





2Boehringer Ingelheim12=Bristol-Myers Squibb
3=Eli Lilly12=Merck Pharmaceuticals
6=Janssen-Cilag15=Leo Pharma
6=Schering Healthcare15=Organon
8=Proctor & Gamble18=Servier
10Novartis18=Abbott Laboratories

Other rankings are also favouring the small/medium companies. Schering- Plough UK qualified this year as one of the top 50 UK ‘Best Places to Work’, the only pharmaceutical company to make the list. Solvay, a company that didn’t feature in our top 20, are the only pharmaceutical company to make the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For list in both 2005 and 2006, and this year were accredited with 2 stars indicating they are rated an ‘excellent’ company to work for.
John Metcalf, Human Resources Director at Solvay, commented on their commitment to staff satisfaction: “We are delighted to have maintained our ‘Best Companies’ status and improved our rating. Particular strengths that were highlighted were team spirit, supportive managers and staff development and training. We’re determined to build on our success to further improve the experience of working at Solvay.”
Merck also achieved a Top 20 placement in the Guardian-sponsored Britain’s Top Employers Directory in 2005, their first year of entering.
Pf asked HR Manager, Jim Golby, why companies like Merck Pharmaceuticals value their sales team so highly: “All too often, employers fail to listen. We have kept asking, kept listening and, most crucially of all, we have done something about it. The loyalty of our sales professionals proves that we are now reaping the rewards. Our teams have returned some outstanding performances and are renowned for going the extra mile with customers. That only happens when a team is truly motivated, feels appreciated and wants to make a difference.”
Our survey says: The way that this year’s survey respondents have scored companies demonstrates a real shift in the focus of the industry. Size of sales turnover is no longer the deciding factor when it comes to where you want to work, as small to medium-sized companies have an increasingly strong appeal.
But what has motivated this change of attitude? Is it that representatives’ motivations have changed? Perhaps a closer look at myth number 2 can help to explain.

Myth #2: Bigger companies offer better remuneration

Are medical sales staff motivated by their pay cheque? 90% of the survey respondents voted salary to be their top motivation. Factors that would normally be considered the benefits of working for a smaller company, such as good company culture and recognition of success, were still in the top five priorities but featured further down. If an enviable salary is the most important thing, then you need to work for a company with one of the largest turnovers – don’t you?
Well, apparently not. A comparison of representatives’ salaries showed the average salary for one of the big pharma companies (those with annual sales turnover well into the £100 million bracket) to be just 3.3% higher than the industry average. Not the dramatic difference you might expect. Even more interestingly, the average wage increase for representatives working for a small/medium company was 19.4% higher than for those working for one of the major companies, demonstrating that smaller companies are continuing to redress the balance in this area.
The table below shows a comparison of ‘top five’ pharma and small/medium companies with regard to how the respondents feel about the motivational factors that were voted to be the most important. When asked whether they felt positively or negatively about those aspects of their company, a significantly higher number of respondents from smaller companies gave a positive response. Perhaps the most striking fact in the data below is that people working for a small/medium company are considerably happier with their company culture, something that speaks volumes about their personal satisfaction with the company.

Comparison of motivational factors


Top 5 pharma

Small/medium companies

 % positive% negative% positive% negative
Company culture43337010
Company culture51206510
Car policy38405919
Recognition for success42335022
Relationship with manager6317.57510

Interestingly, when respondents were asked how they felt about their overall remuneration package, those from small/medium companies expressed equal satisfaction to the rest of the industry.
Perhaps another surprise result is the fact that more representatives from smaller companies were happy with their car policy. Solvay is one company that has had a good reaction to a change to its car policy, as John Metcalf explains: “Following feedback from our sales teams, we now allow all employees to opt out of the car policy, so this is particularly attractive to people who want to upgrade significantly.”
Our survey says: You don’t need to sacrifice personal recognition for your achievements in order to receive financial recognition, or need to sacrifice great company culture for a great company car. Representatives working for small to medium companies are enjoying great relationships with management, a fantastic company culture, real autonomy, recognition and accountability – and all this without having to settle for an inferior remuneration package.

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