In it for the Long Haul

PhM's 2015 Reader Survey finds Pharma's professionals satisfied with their careers and leery of corporate "change" related to acquisitions, restructuring and cost control.

By Steven Kuehn, Editor in Chief

Although there are likely few professionals out there who aren’t growing a tad fatigued at the constant come-ons for survey respondents, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s readers continue to take the opportunity to lend their voice to the conversation that is the Pharma industry today. Each year since the magazine began publishing in 2003, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing has queried its readership to get a sense of how they are feeling about their chosen profession, and to better understand who they are as people, not to mention where salary levels are at — something everyone is at least a bit curious about.

 

Response to this year’s study was slightly lower than last year’s with 334 total responses. Generally that worked out to more than 300 responses to every one of the 27 questions we posed because readers were not required to answer every question.

Let’s take a look at the demographic profile revealed by PhM’s responding readers. By in large, most were predominately male (79 percent of 302 responses), a majority ranging in age from 30 to 54 and older with the majority a bachelor’s or master’s degree in either chemistry, chemical engineering or pharmaceutics and the remainder with engineering degrees or specialties like biology or biochemistry. Most fill operational roles (52 percent of 307 responses) across manufacturing, quality assessment, plant engineering and R&D categories. Most respondents have staff to supervise, with the remainder occupying “individual contributor” roles including business development, QA/QM roles, technical services, training, sales, regulatory affairs and more. By in large, and that includes about a third of responding women have been working in the industry for more than 20 years (42 percent) with next largest chunk (30 percent) delivering their blood, sweat and tears to Pharma from 11 to 20 years. 

Responding readers represented the panoply that is the Pharma industry, with 21 percent from Big Pharma, 18 percent from small and mid-sized specialty pharmaceutical manufacturers, 16 percent from Generic Pharma and 11 percent from Contract Pharma. Biopharma manufacturers followed with 8 percent. The remainder, including consultancies, vendor/solution providers and all others, account for about 28 percent of the total pie.

Salaries reflect the seniority with most (46 percent of 306 respondents) making salaries between $100,000 to more than $200,000. For others, 21 percent have salaries ranging from $80,000 to $100,000, the rest claiming annual salaries ranging from less than $40,000 to $80,000. More than three quarters of respondents said they received a raise last year, 80 percent reported receiving a 3-5 percent bump in salary.

Can Get Some Satisfaction

It’s not a stretch to think that more money tends to make employees happy, and responses to “Please rate your overall level of job satisfaction,” did not surprise with 53 percent of 333 total responses rating their satisfaction as High (43 percent) or Very High (10 percent). However, most reading this would likely agree that in this industry, satisfaction is not solely predicated on one’s salary; is there a man or woman out there in Pharma who doesn’t garner great satisfaction from being part of an industry that’s primary mission is to save lives and make people healthier?

Okay, well, 20 percent did indicate that Salary and Benefits were most important to job satisfaction, but 30 percent say they receive satisfaction from the Challenging Work. Job Security and Opportunity for Advancement garnered about 30 percent of responses, followed by Appreciation. Some, interestingly noted Low-stress Environment (!) and a couple of folks mentioned they derived satisfaction from Enjoyable Colleagues, and wasn’t that nice of them? Regardless, about 10 percent rate their satisfaction as Poor or Very Poor, with the rest chilling with a relatively non-committal Okay, which seems about the right distribution across any commercial enterprise. 

 
With job satisfaction running pretty high, one might think that Job Security would be less of a concern, and judging by this year’s responses to “Are you more, or less concerned about your job security than last year?” it seems to be true with more responding they are less concerned (52 percent v. 48 percent), pretty much a swap from last year when 55 percent indicated they were more concerned with job security. For those who say they are more concerned, about 42 percent of them cited “internal cost-cutting measures” as the primary cause of their job anxiety. Close behind and certainly not exactly news to most is the fact that 22 percent cited “External financial pressure on my company due to expiring patents, or circumstances surrounding failed product development or regulatory approval,” as impinging in their sense of job security. Possible Plant Closings (17 percent) and Possible Outsourcing of my Position (13 percent) presented job stress to respondents as well. Finally 8 percent chose “The diminishing relevance of my skills due to changing technologies and industry focuses,” which all of Pharma’s employees, especially those in operational roles, should consider warding against to assure career ascent rather than descent.

Respondents mentioned “Challenging work environment” as a source of satisfaction, and when queried about “What were the biggest challenges you had to face in the past year,” it’s not clear that “Increased workload due to organizational challenges,” is what they had in mind. Nevertheless, nearly 64 percent cited this hurdle as the one that needed jumping most last year. Others were challenged by a new product introduction (31 percent), a new role (24 percent), a new plant or business unit expansion (24 percent) and Lean, Six Sigma or other Operational Excellence initiatives (17 percent) as challenging them professionally. In the “other” category, readers cited “changing IS systems,” “regulatory challenges,” “leadership changes,” and “integration with a new company,” among the many challenges they face in pursuit of their company’s business goals.

The Biggest Challenge of Them All

If there is a primary challenge to any professional making a living in the Pharma industry it’s staying relevant and valuable to the industry and the organization that signs your paycheck. New systems, new solutions, new processes enabled by emerging technologies, new regulations, new … whatever … will never not be a part of one’s Pharma career, especially those managing processes and production capacity. Certainly, keeping up with the pace of change and ongoing technical advances is stressful. Fortunately, judging by the responses, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s readers seem confident they’re up to the task. “How would you rate the suitability of your skills to manage current responsibilities?” Sixty percent of 320 respondents indicated “My skills and background are well-suited to my current duties.” Some are asked to do things outside their skill set (24 percent) but feel they are generally able to execute them without specific training.

Respondents that chose “The diminishing relevance of my skills due to changing technologies and industry focuses” as a source of job security stress have every right to be anxious because this speaks to the core tenets of one’s career and the path one chooses to follow professionally. However bolstering skills to prevent such “diminished relevance” is not entirely incumbent on the employee and Pharma, at least to Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s readers, is aware of this too. When asked “does your company offer access to a formalized program of training to support business or operational excellence goals?” 53 percent said yes, and that is truly a good thing considering current market and competitive forces Pharma’s professionals are facing.  

 

It’s pretty clear that Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s readers are feeling confident and secure, and perhaps more ready than most to stand tall and meet the industry’s challenges head on. In response to “How have market and competitive forces affected your company recently?” 44 percent selected “major business unit or operations restructuring,” a kind of organizational change that can vex even the most “together” companies and drive the mortals within to drink or even worse. Others chose “new facilities, capabilities in emerging global markets” to describe how market forces are affecting them, but while challenging, the pursuit of business opportunities tends to have a more positive connotation. But chasing new markets and creating and recreating an organization to be more competitive and more resilient to global market forces are still top of mind in 2015 with 33 percent noting that mergers and acquisitions are affecting their organizations right now. Other current events include the closing of underperforming assets (17 percent) and seeking more supply chain partners. These reflect broad trends most in the industry can relate to.

What are the take-aways from this year’s study? It’s apparent that our readers are industry veterans, confident they’ll be able to face current and future issues with hard-won operational experience and the ability to keep themselves relevant when it comes to their skills and abilities. They’re in it for the long haul and it shows.