Staff retention problems for pharma firms

11 May 2005

Human resources (HR) professionals working within pharmaceutical companies are finding staff retention a major issue, according a new survey.

The study of 274 HR professionals in a range of industries throughout Ireland, commissioned by Sigmar Recruitment, found the pharmaceutical sector experiencing the highest turnover rate (50pc), closely followed by financial/professional services (41.1pc) and IT/technical/engineering (40.9pc). Additionally, together with managers operating in financial/professional services, pharmaceutical HR managers noted that a lack of specific skills was a significant barrier to timely and successful recruitment (40pc).

Commenting on these findings, Adrian McGennis, director of Sigmar Recruitment, said: “Naturally, you tend to find that staff retention is an issue for sectors that are doing well and this is no exception in the pharmaceutical field. Competition for skilled employees is strong, a fact reinforced by the news that pharmaceutical HR managers also find lack of skills a significant recruitment barrier.”

On the positive side, pharmaceutical companies scored highly with regard to company loyalty, with 88pc of respondents stating they believed their employees had a strong sense of loyalty to the company.

The survey, which was carried out by SPSS Ireland, was conducted via the internet using a sample of 3,000 Irish-based organisations. Each respondent had a HR/recruitment function within their organisation and the sample group included the pharmaceutical, financial, service, FMCG, construction, IT/technical/engineering and manufacturing industries.

When broken down by sector, all respondents stated that salary/pay package was the main factor inducing employee loyalty. However it emerged that, more than any other industry, the pharmaceutical sector views new training as a key incentive method, with more than 52pc of companies stating this as their preferred motivational process. But while many pharmaceutical companies value training, more than 77pc of them were not able to calculate the return on investment from this training.

It also emerged that the pharmaceutical sector is the main sector using psychometric testing, with 77.8pc of respondents stating that it was relevant in their organisation. This was followed by financial/professional services with 59.6pc.

The pharmaceutical sector emerged as the least stressful industry to work in, with the pharmaceutical sector taking steps to decrease stress levels through open communication policies, flexitime and employee leisure/entertainment facilities.

“It came as no surprise to us that pharmaceutical companies scored highest when it came to establishing stress-free working environments,” said Sharon Healy, pharmaceutical recruitment consultant with Sigmar. “We work with many pharmaceutical clients who view this as a priority and initiate schemes such as employee flexitime, open communications policies and even games rooms, gyms and therapy centres onsite to decrease stress levels within their organisation.”

On the negative side, bullying was seen as a problem by 11.1pc of respondents within the pharmaceutical industry, the highest of any sector polled.

The study concluded that the pharmaceutical sector exhibits all the positive and negative features of any buoyant and successful industry. While staff retention, return on investment from training and bullying are concerns, these issues are symptomatic of many large successful organisations, where it can be difficult to give employees individual attention.

By Brian Skelly