The New Customer: Your Workforce

Pharmaceutical companies create consumer loyalty by promising to improve quality of life. The same approach is becoming adapted as one of the most effective workforce talent management strategies.

“Firms that do not align employee and firm needs increase the likelihood that employees will leave and leave less talented employees behind to finish the job.” –  Chason Hecht, President, Retensa

The greatest impact on the cost of doing business in the past 20 years has been employee turnover.  Losing top talent to the competition has pushed firms to dramatically restructure their hiring, on-boarding, and knowledge-sharing processes.  Most organizations are still struggling with what to provide to their employees to build loyalty.  In the 1980’s, employees looked for performance pay.  In the 1990’s, employees looked for job security.  Employees need change as society changes yet there has always been one common theme:  employees are always looking for something more out of their job.  Halfway through this decade, employees clearly want quality of work life.

At first glance, the term “quality of work life” may seem unclear.  But if you look closer, you may realize you already have the answer.  Improving the quality of life is a fundamental principle of the most successful pharmaceutical companies of our time.  In fact, customers’ “quality of life” is in the mission statements of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.  When thinking of retention, it is this same mission that transcends to your employees’ quality of work life.   When you think about improving the quality of life for your customers, what do you picture?  Someone who lives optimally, achieves their goals and reaches their full potential?  Now envision your employees in those terms.  Are your employees reaching their full potential?

From the job posting to the exit interview, there are a finite number of points of contact in the employee-firm relationship.  It is important to recognize that your company only has these points of contact to build a productive relationship with an employee. Not making this connection leaves the employee-firm relationship to chance where they may, or may not, be engaged by what they do and inspired by who they work for.  Employee turnover occurs over a series of breakdowns in the employee-firm relationship at these points of contact.  Fortunately there are hundreds, and so a company has ample opportunity to make up where they may have fallen behind.  With this new perspective the employee-firm relationship has new meaning, clear opportunities and unyielding strength.

Quality of work life is one key to unlocking the door to employee retention.  By improving the quality of work life, employee’s needs, wants, and expectations are aligned with the company’s. Firms that do not align employee and firm needs increase the likelihood that employees will leave and leave less talented employees behind to finish the job.

In the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry, jobs have become more stressful and complicated.  Although the pharmaceutical industry has lower turnover rates compared to other industries, the cost of turnover is much greater.  With strict regulations and rigid timelines, a research specialist’s resignation leaves your company with a delay in product development and a loss of talent to competitors.  Additionally, when a pharmaceutical representative leaves, they take the company’s relationship capital with them.  These stringent regulations leave employee actions vulnerable to repercussions from their boss, the government, and sometimes even the media making retaining talented employees invaluable.  In order to retain your employees and combat turnover a proactive strategy is critical.    We cannot tell you what to do because every pharmaceutical firm is unique, but we can tell you how to do it.

The following is a guide on how to understand and capitalize on your employee-firm relationship.  First, we will begin by discussing the potential causes and signs of turnover.  Next, we will focus on key opportunities to build loyalty, then gathering feedback and finally, the forming of solutions. You might already address some of these issues, or you might have attempted to address these issues but did so without achieving results.  Regardless,  it is important to keep in mind that every time an employee leaves, estimated costs to your company can range from 50% – 300% of their annual salary to replace them.

Recruit to Retain: How the Hiring Process Can be Your Most Effective Retention Strategy

Hiring the right person for the job is crucial to retention strategy. Here’s what you need to know before, during and after the interview.

“Unlike mutual funds, one of the best indicators of future performance is past performance.” – Chason Hecht, President, Retensa

Would you hire all of your employees again? Unfortunately, a lot of business owners would say no. Hiring right the first time is one of your most important tasks, and the last thing you want to do is hire the wrong person – or hire the right one who winds up leaving for a better job.

Step One: Getting Started

To begin the hiring process, you need to ask yourself two basic questions: “What does someone need to be successful in this position?” and “What type of person do I work well with?” The first question becomes the job description with clearly defined knowledge, skills, and abilities. The second question is how you are going to distinguish everyone who thinks they have the first. Ensuring they fit with your company, especially a small firm with a distinct culture, is just as important as their background. For example, someone who works for a large firm may have the experience required, but they also need to be able to thrive with fewer resources and handle more tasks—or they will not last.

Step Two: Attracting Qualified People

If your budget prevents you from using executive search firms (which ask for 20 to 25 percent of first year’s salary), employee referrals are usually the best source of candidates (except retail positions where collusion can increase theft). Otherwise, you are left with job boards, and not all job boards were created equal. When deciding where to post a job, it is important to remember the larger job boards tend to attract entry and mid-career candidates. Niche websites and trade associations attract specialized and more senior-level applicants.

Step Three: Screening the Resume

When screening resumes, employers tend to “sort people out,” but resumes should be used to sort people in. Unless they have the job skills and experience you need, they should not be contacted. Many managers rush to fill a vacant position. It is important to move quickly to look for candidates but do not hire out of desperation. If you do, you may turn around in three months and wonder why you hired them.

Step Four: Conduct a Phone Interview First

Armed with at least 10 resumes, it is time to start phone screening. Remember that many candidates exaggerate or withhold details on resumes, so calling is the most powerful antidote you have. It will save you much effort, before you describe the position, and before they come in for an interview, to ask:

  • What is the perfect job for you right now?
  • What don’t you want to be doing?
  • Why are you looking for a job? What don’t you like about where you are?
  • What do you do well? What are you not as good at?
  • What is the salary range you need to be comfortable?

If you see a fit, begin to connect their future to your company. Give them a sentence about the firm and where you are headed. Then, provide details about the position, responsibilities, sample projects, resources, and ask, “Does this sound like something you’re looking for?” Their reply is the first indicator of how long they will last and may help you avoid someone who is “shopping around”.

Step Five: Make the Interview Count

Now you know whether to invest in an interview, estimate 1 hour per candidate, and for all but entry-level jobs, at least one other person should interview them as well. When you do, stick to the 90/10 rule; the interviewee talks 90% of the time and you speak the other 10%. Anyone can fit canned answers into your questions. So do not hesitate to say, “Tell me more about that.” and “Would you do that differently today?” to delve deeper into the lessons they’ve learned.

Unlike mutual funds, one of the best indicators of future performance is past performance. This is why behavioral interviews, which reflect on past work experience, are so insightful. It is harder for a candidate to embellish decisions and details that already occurred. Situational interviews show how a candidate will deal with situations in the future. Both are very effective. The behavioral version would be “Give me an example of how you motivated a team to overcome a challenge.” The situational version is “How would you motivate a team of five to overcome a challenge?” Link the hurdles this position will face to three or four of these kinds of questions.

Step Six: Making the Offer

At some point in the interview, your gut will tell you this one is a contender. Now describe what this opportunity provides. Tell them why people like working there, why they stay, and paint an accurate picture of the work so they have realistic expectations. To find out where you stand, ask the candidate “If we do make you an offer, is there anything that would keep you from accepting?” Unaccepted offers delay the process and potentially cause other good people to be lost. If they bring something up, you can address it. If they are confident that they want this position, you have a green light.

Good employees need to know that this is the place for them. The best employees are not the ones who want a job but rather want this one.   There are extra steps involved in hiring right. Discuss the candidate’s pros and cons with people you trust, because retention starts with recruiting, making sure they fit is worth it. It will take 3 to 6 weeks, but imagine how much time you will save never having to rehire anyone again.