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All things Pharma

Turn back time – A decade of the Pf Survey

 Pf’s Iain Bate looks back at ten years of one of the most significant pieces of work in the UK medical sales industry.

With 2011 now upon us, the New Year will not only bring with it a host of failed resolutions but will also mark the tenth year of the Pf Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey. A lot can happen in a decade.

The Noughties kicked off with the mega-merger of Glaxo and SmithKline Beecham in a $74 billion deal that sparked a tidal wave of M&A activity throughout the decade. In fact, the GSK tie-up was one of only 41 deals in 2000 – by the end of 2009 a further 1,344 had taken place. Among the biggest were Pfizer’s acquisitions of Pharmacia ($56 billion in 2002) and Wyeth ($68 billion in 2009). Merck and Co’s acquisition of Schering-Plough (2009), Sanofi’s purchase of Aventis (2004) and Bayer’s 2006 buy-out of Schering were other notable M&A highlights that changed the face of global pharma – and, as a result, the mood among the medical sales professionals responding to the Pf survey.

As the pharmaceutical industry now approaches another decade of uncertainty with job cuts set to take their toll in the opening few years and pricing pressures from all four corners of the globe, a look back at the results from previous years highlights some interesting changes and reoccurring patterns.

The survey offers the UK medical sales industry a confidential voice where employees can air their views honestly on the aspects of their job which matter the most to them. Managed by Dr Brad Payne of Conker Statistics – a fellow of the Royal Statistics Society – the survey provides a benchmark of field force remuneration, motivation, satisfaction, perception and recruitment. The results are used on a personal level for Pf readers to benchmark their own positions and work related details against their peers. Also, from an organisational perspective, companies have used the data, and continue to do so, to help develop working environments within their sales teams and improve on areas of concern or suggestions on policies.

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Money matters

Where salary is concerned money has always made the world go around for respondents in the annual temperature check on the industry. Back in Pf’s first survey in 2001, the median salaries of the 1,213 respondents was £28,245, with the top earner taking home slightly more than £72k and the lowest receiving £13,000. Salary has consistently been voted the number one motivational factor (see figure 1) over the decade and wages have steadily increased over the ten year period.

Nearly 1,500 responses were received in the 2006 survey with the median salary rising to £35,400, the minimum increasing to £15.5k and the maximum wage at £76,000. The median salary continued to rise in the 2009 results to £40,000. However, the gap between the minimum and maximum salary was bigger than ever. The lowest wage dropped down to a similar figure recorded in 2001 at slightly over £13,000, but the maximum pay cheque totalled more than ever at £120k.

Although money is the main motivational factor throughout the history of the survey it isn’t always the most satisfying aspect for respondents. Despite a median figure of almost £30,000 in 2001, respondents said it was only their bonuses and share scheme which brought a greater sense of dissatisfaction than their annual salary. The trend continued in 2006. But as the recession took its strangle hold on the country towards the end of the Noughties, respondents became more satisfied with their salary, despite the minimum annual wage returning to a similar total it was nearly ten years ago.

Main motivators

There have been a number of different motivating and satisfying factors for respondents over the ten year period. As pharma companies have changed strategies, reduced workforces and swapped responsibilities it’s interesting to see how the various factors have also changed with the times. Personal development is no longer seen as important as it was in 2001. Most recently, work-life balance makes the top five motivational factors as companies do more than ever to ensure the moral amongst their workforce is maintained in these challenging times.

Bonuses, which was one of the main motivational factors in 2001, quickly disappeared from the list as the totals awarded to staff reduced or disappeared altogether. In fact, bonuses regularly featured as one of the most dissatisfying aspects for respondents.

Employees admitted they craved a pat on the back and the recognition of their success at hitting sales figures or exceeding expectations in 2001 and 2006. However, more recently employees would much rather maintain their job security instead of using a compliment to strive them on during their working week.

Two of the mainstay satisfaction factors over the last decade have been belief in present products and relationship with manager. Although the motivation to sell certain products and help people as a result may have gone in the 2009 survey, the innovation, development and efficacy of products produced and manufactured within the industry still brings a level of pride and satisfaction to the majority of respondents. Also, employees are appreciating the new methods of management which have been introduced recently – which has also seen company culture enter the top five motivational factors alongside autonomy and additional responsibilities in the most recent satisfaction ratings.

First impressions

One of the most eagerly awaited outcomes of the survey is the perceived Employer of Choice. Asking respondents to choose the medical sales company who they perceive to be the most desirable to work for it has been Boehringer Ingelheim and Roche that have dominated the top two spots since 2006.

The pair have cemented their position in recent years but it was a different story as the decade began. A year after GlaxoSmithKline was formed through the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham in 2000, it was quickly voted the most desirable company to work for (see figure 2) with pharma giant Pfizer in second place and Merck Sharp & Dohme – now known as MSD in the UK – in third. But as the decade progressed, all three would be conspicuous by their absence. Despite Boehringer Ingelheim taking all the plaudits for being the top rated company for the past three years – something Drew Owenson, Managing Director, puts down to “treating all of our employees as individuals, listening to their new ideas and giving as much support as possible to enable them to be successful” – it’s Eli Lilly which has maintained its reputation within the industry by being selected in the top three companies since 2003.

Changing roles

As pharma has adapted to be commercially and financially attractive to customers through the last decade the various strategies which have been introduced by companies has also been reflected in the survey (see figure 3). The number of respondents who said they were in a Primary Care role dropped from more than one in five in 2002 to 11% in 2009. Over the same period the amount of people in Primary and Secondary Care positions also fell from 55% to 39%. As more companies adopted a Key Account Management approach the number of positions increased to one in ten in last year’s survey. One position which has stayed stable is that of the First-line Manager which has constantly been on or around the 10% mark.

One of the most significant changes in the Survey has been the number of experienced members of staff which are no longer in the industry. Whether through retirement or redundancy the percentage of respondents with more than eight years’ experience was 41% in 2002. The number peaked in 2008 when two-thirds said they had a number of years’ experience in pharma. However, as companies heavily reduced their workforces as a result of the recession the number of experienced staff members fell to just 13% a year later – an all time low.

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What next?

The 2011 survey, based on UK sales professionals’ perception of the industry in 2010, is released this month with responses welcomed until April. The results will be published and analysed in July’s issue of Pf. Taking a maximum of just 15 minutes of your time, for each completed survey form 25p will be donated to a registered charity. Further information can be found online at www.pharmafield.co.uk/survey. Don’t delay, have your say in 2011!

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