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.

Mentoring in the New Economy

Employee mentoring is beneficial to every employee’s career development, but some pitfalls have arisen.

“Accustomed to being the center of attention, boomers are having trouble passing the baton. Gen-Xers question whether older people have much to teach them” – Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2003

There can often be much uncertainty in the more senior generations about job security. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Moving on: Don’t trust anyone under 30; Boomers struggle with their new role as mentor,” many older workers and their junior counterparts are having difficulty forming rewarding mentoring bonds. Experienced workers fear that if the economy stagnates, their protégés will be knowledgeable enough to assume their positions (and less tenured employees are paid lower salaries too). If organizations do not emphasize that mentoring junior employees is part of their responsibilities, many will choose to avoid this mutually beneficial tool.

Though the current crop of seasoned workers may fear becoming obsolete, the next generation needs to benefit from their experiences to have a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s goals. After boomers retire, Generations X and Y will be left to fill the void. Unless an organization recognizes the relationship between successful mentoring and long-term growth, recruiting costs for qualified replacements will soar. In high performing firms, productive mentoring relationships help the organization to identify and retain future leaders.

New Employee Mentoring Methods

An employee mentoring program that does not train experienced workers how to mentor protégés will probably be doomed. The role of mentor differs from that of a management role by focusing on empowering, guiding, and listening rather than hands-on problem solving. Additionally, mentoring relationships that pair females and minorities with experienced male executives are proven to provide firms with seasoned and diverse senior-level employees in the future. The mentoring relationship, carefully selected, should focus on career-development, morale and continuous learning that includes technical and leadership behaviors that will bolster your company’s retention rates. Mentors are in the unique position to shape their protégés’ attitudes and perceptions toward the organization. Modeling appropriate behavior to protégés (such as how to manage clients) and explaining how their work impacts the organization’s accomplishments. Illustrating how specific knowledge, skills, and abilities, acquired during their tenure at the organization, benefits their careers.