A Year of Uncertainty: Results of Our 2007 Job and Salary Survey

Most pharmaceutical industry professionals are relatively happy with their careers, but many long for more challenge, training and growth opportunities, according to our survey.

By Agnes Shanley, Editor in Chief

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This year started off with news that Pfizer would lay off 10% of its global workforce, including individuals in manufacturing, R&D and marketing. This type of headline is nothing new to the drug industry, but news of layoffs and rumors of future mergers (for example, between BMS and Sanofi Aventis) is always accompanied by shock waves.

However, 57% of the 425 respondents to our 2007 Job Satisfaction and Salary Survey say they aren’t worried about job security (Graph 1, below). “I’m not concerned about job security, but not because my job is secure,” writes one. “There is no job security, so being concerned about it doesn’t change that fact.”

Salary Survey: Graph 1: Job Security

Concerns about outsourcing and downsizing were a recurring theme in the survey results. “With the changes in the economy and pressures on the market, I see further reductions and outsourcing to India and China, which will become more pronounced if drug price controls are put in place by the U.S. government, and these controls will stifle R&D and production,” writes one pessimist.

Another respondent puts it bluntly: “We are all ‘at will’ employees and can be terminated at any time with minimal warning or notification, even for political reasons.” The new ground rules have had an impact on loyalty, both to the company and the employee. As one respondent observes, “People don’t feel that they will spend a long time at any one company, so they feel no loyalty and feel that the company has none for them.”

Respondents to our survey come from widely divergent backgrounds, but our typical respondent is between 37 and 45 years old; has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology or chemical engineering; works in manufacturing and operations; and has been in the industry for 11 to 20 years.

He (77% of respondents were men) has been with his current employer for three to five years. He works in an operating unit with 100 to 500 employees and supervises between one and 10 people.

Salary Survey: Graph 2: Annual Salary

His performance reviews are generally of the traditional, annual, manager-led variety, although a number of respondents say that their organizations are experimenting with alternatives such as peer and 360-degree reviews. In addition to the usual annual and semiannual reviews, one respondent says that senior management at his organization conducts an additional talent review of key individuals. Another says that his site’s managers calibrate each individual’s performance against others at the facility. “It turns into a popularity contest, instead of strictly judging performance based on goals accomplished,” he writes.

Survey results suggest that at many pharmaceutical companies today, incentive pay is clearly linked to achieving goals relating to key performance indicators (KPIs). Only two of the respondents described their bonuses last year as “holiday” bonuses. The rest agree that incentives were, instead, based on concrete improvements in the company’s financial performance or merited by an individual’s, team’s or
group’s outstanding performance.

Salary Survey: Graph 3: Hours Worked

The typical survey respondent earns between $100,000 and $150,000 per year (Graph 2, above) and works between 40 and 44 hours a week (Graph 3, above). He received his last salary increase less than one year ago, which augmented his paycheck by an additional 1 to 6% (Graph 4A, below), as well as a bonus based on improved customer service or cost reduction (Graph 4B, below).

Salary Survey: Graph 4A: Increase

Salary Survey: Graph 4B: Bonus

He receives three weeks of vacation (Graph 5A, below), although he may not have taken all of that time off last year (Graph 5B, below). “The level of vacation time I’ve accrued is actually a burden, forcing me to weigh the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy against getting the job done,” says one respondent.

He also receives benefits — not only the standard medical, life and dental, but also disability, 401K, pension plan, education reimbursement, stock options, flex time and paid parental leave.

Salary Survey: Graph 5A: Vacation time

Salary Survey: Graph 5B: Time taken

Respondents’ employers appear to be divided on “work/family” balance issues, but most respondents note that their companies offer some options to help ease the challenge. Flexible schedules and the ability to carve out time to care for children and elderly parents was a recurring theme.

However, taking advantage of these benefits can be problematic at some companies. As one respondent writes, “I took a five-month leave under the FMLA. When I returned, I found that my job responsibilities had been reduced, and that I was reporting to an interim supervisor who had very little knowledge of what we were doing.”

Joe Pharma

Our pharmaceutical manufacturing everyman is either somewhat or very happy with his position. While roughly 9% of respondents appear to be elated about their jobs, 41% describe themselves as very satisfied, and 42% are just “OK” (Graph 6, below). One professional sums up the feelings of several of his colleagues: “I love what I do, but have not been given the opportunity to have a real impact on improvement here.” Says another, “Pharma is, amazing as this sounds, more political than technical.”

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