The general consensus is the decision by the pharma industry to be full remote, hybrid or full office is being driven by COVID-19. Yes, this has caused an evolving experience and attitude by employers but improved technology and the globalization of the industry have played a part. Of course, the candidate-driven job market and the great resignation are also having an impact.
Improved cybersecurity, faster computers, larger screens and stable network environments have all made working from home viable. The ability to digitally sign documents and share large files without scanning or printing has improved efficiency as well as contributing to the ease of off-site work. The use of Zoom and similar tools where all attendees to a meeting are visual are credited with making virtual meetings almost as good as in-person. Brian McNamara, GSK Consumer Healthcare CEO, in a McKinsey report said, “The positives: incredible efficiency. Meetings are clearer and shorter. We’re much more focused on decision making and have streamlined our processes to work faster.” McNamara went on to say that he feels they have surprisingly become more connected, even with leadership teams more physically separated, increasing their ability to better work collaboratively.
Candidate Driven Job Market
Pharma companies are reckoning with retaining staff during a hiring boom which the life science industry hasn’t seen in twenty years. Trade group MassBio said Massachusetts is seeing 50% growth that will create demand for 40,000 new jobs! Companies are looking for incentives to keep employees. Some have tried cash bonuses but incentive programs tied to performance goals are gaining traction. Firms are asking employees what their career aspirations are and then putting into place training and mentoring plans to help them achieve their goals. Novartis CEO, Vas Narasimham, implemented a Choice with Responsibility Program in July of 2020 with the aim to “create a future working model that optimized both personal and business performance.” It shifted their flexible working policy from being manager-approved to manager-informed and mandated continual check-in with employees by managers.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO, told SHRM he believes that inviting more flexibility into the pharma industry is key in making employees happier and more productive as well as being more likely to retain them. Reducing time lost by commuting promotes a healthier work/life balance and give companies access to a talent pool not bound to their geographic area or even the ability to work within the 9-5 work day. This larger pool of candidates could improve the ability to create a more diverse work force, another important initiative of the pharma industry.
Redefining what normal looks post-pandemic is an important process for the pharma industry. Supporting employees working full remote, hybrid and full office interjects more flexibility into the industry making careers in pharma more accessible and sustainable.