A New Beginning for the Industry?

Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s “Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey” reveals that the industry might be experiencing some type of a rebirth based on new ways of doing business. Efficiency, flexibility and a love for what you do are key elements to combat cost reductions and other challenges taking place.

By Bill Swichtenberg, Senior Editor

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Instead of feel-good stories on blockbuster drug discoveries and soaring stock prices, last year the pharmaceutical industry was burdened with failed trials, disputed drug information and patent expirations. For those with jobs in the industry, the buzzwords became outsourcing, acquisition and layoffs.

Faced with lower revenue growth, companies have focused on cutting costs in various ways. Very few pharmaceutical companies have been spared from projected job cuts. Pfizer is eliminating 10 percent of its workforce or 10,000 jobs. Merck is dispensing with 7,000 jobs, AstraZeneca cut 7,600 positions and Wyeth will reduce its workforce by 4 to 6%. Even biotech firm Amgen announced layoffs of between 2,200 and 2,600 people. Change is taking place in the industry.

“In the past, a job in pharma offered a secure future,” said one respondent to Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey. “Don’t count on that anymore.” Is it time to bail on the industry and take your job skills elsewhere? Not according to many of the 404 readers who responded to the survey. However, it might be a good time to take a personal inventory of your attributes,motivations and back-up plans. “Think about what you want to do in five years and evaluate where you want to be within the pharma industry,” was the advice from one industry member. “When the fun goes, leave quickly rather than stay and become bitter,” said another.

Survival and Rebirth

The good news is that it has taken longer for the pharmaceutical industry to get to this point than many other industries. “The industry is now where the auto and other industries have been for over 10 years,” one respondent observed. “The change is going to hurt, but the industry is still going to be a place where we make products that save lives. It will still be a great place to work, just different.” People are not yet panicking over their careers, but are being more cautious. Job security concerns were expressed by 56% of this year’s respondents, compared with 43% last year. “Pharma is currently facing uncertainty,” said one. “It is evolving and possibly mutating. Individuals must be flexible, tenacious and thick-skinned.”

However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its “Career Guide to Industries, 2008-2009 Edition” with the startling projection that not only would 2007 be a record high for U.S. pharma employment, but the 10-year projection is for 23.7% growth. Not everyone is buying into these projections, however. “Mergers and acquisitions, downsizing and outsourcing do not paint a rosy picture for the pharma industry and job holders,” said one respondent.

Typical Survey Taker

While respondents to our survey come from many different backgrounds, the typical taker is male, between 37 and 45 years old; has a bachelor’s degree and has been in the pharmaceutical manufacturing field for 11 to 20 years. He works in quality assessment and control or manufacturing and operations and supervises 1-10 people. He has been with his present employer for 6-10 years and is not (88%) a licensed Professional Engineer.

The typical respondent makes between $100,000 and $150,000 per year while working between 40 and 49 hours per week. However, many complained of an unreasonable workload, difficult timelines and high stress. While receiving three weeks vacation sounds nice on paper, only 51% were able to take all of their vacation time last year. Job reviews are primarily of the traditional variety done by managers, but more and more employees are also being peer-reviewed and undergoing a 360-degree review process.

In this method, feedback comes from subordinates, peers and managers, as well as a self-assessment, and in some cases, external sources such as customers and suppliers. Most survey takers have received a salary increase of 1 to 6% in the last year. More than 73% of our survey respondents received a bonus last year. Generally, these bonuses are linked to the company’s performance against some type of metric. Metrics used include: sales and net income growth, efficiency, productivity, cost reductions and earnings per share.

The individual’s, team’s or group’s outstanding performance or goal expectations can be taken into consideration as well. Benefits provided to the majority of workers include medical insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, disability, a 401K savings plan, a pension plan and education reimbursement. Stock options were also cited as a benefit by 46% in the survey. Flexible working hours were viewed as a way some companies are trying to balance work and personal life challenges. “Individual managers can provide a lot of flexibility in your work schedule, provided that you are a good performer and deliver the required results,” said one respondent. However, another noted, “In order to be promoted to higher level positions, the ‘give’ is in your personal life.”

Job Approval

It seems that most of those taking the survey were basically satisfied with their job. Where 5% had a “very high” level of satisfaction, most workers had a “high” level (43%) or an “OK” (43%) view of their job. “It is a great industry/profession. There are very dedicated people willing to share their knowledge to those with a desire to learn,” said one respondent.

This satisfaction is linked to the challenging work (41%) that the pharma industry provides. Salary and benefits (18%) and opportunity for advancement (16%) also play a part.

Learning to Fly

It is a good thing that respondents like challenges, because the work is becoming even more difficult as a result of the economic pressures facing the industry. For 47%, hiring freezes have been put into effect. “Do more with less,” was the battle cry of one respondent. Layoffs have been seen by 40%, while limited promotions and raises have been experienced by 35%.

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