Don’t Panic, It’s Not All That Bad!

Following a recent comparison survey conducted by CK Clinical, which researched the attitudes of jobseekers in the pharmaceutical industry in January compared to that of July 2009, it seems respondents generally feel the wider economy is on the mend. However, at grassroots level, employees in the pharmaceutical industry are starting to feel the bite of the recession.

CK Clinical surveyed 5000 people on its internal database had had been job seeking some time within the last 5 years. The respondents of the survey were from the fields of clinical research, pharmacovigilance, data management, medicine, medical affairs and medical information.

The survey was carried out electronically via survey software provided by Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com), with just fewer than 5% of respondents logging in to complete the short survey.

The Wider Economy

6 months on, it seems that respondents are now more positive about the wider economy, with results indicating that in July more people perceived that the economy was further along the road to recovery than they did in January. However, this contrasts to reports by The Guardian newspaper, which predicts that we will not see the economy return to previous levels until 2012.

Stage of the Wider UK Economy

The Pharmaceutical Industry Economy

Many people believe that the Pharmaceutical industry is somewhat immune to the effects of the economic crisis. After all, people need healthcare regardless of what is happening in the economy. In fact, back in January 2008 the CEO of Eli Lilly, Sidney Taurel, stated, “The pharmaceutical industry is not that affected by business cycles, and so I believe this financial and possible economic crisis isn’t going to affect significantly our company or the industry.” This is backed up by findings from a survey conducted by the International Business Council in July 2009, who found that the economy of the pharmaceutical industry is considered to be the strongest in the world.

CK Clinical’s survey findings provide support for this at grassroots level. When asked about the state of the jobs market in the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Medical Devices industries, it seems the consensus is that the status quo has been maintained, with a slight increase of 1.1% between January and July of respondents who believe the job market is steady. Therefore, it seems that in the past 6 months nothing has changed, a reassuring insight.

State of the UK Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Medical Devices Job Market

CK Clinical has found further complimentary evidence to support this finding. When conducting analysis of job opportunities in the first and third quarter of 2009, it appears that there has been little change in the number of opportunities available through CK Clinical. Therefore, it seems that is that whilst the mood of jobseekers is less optimistic, the reality of the situation is that the jobs market within the clinical marketplace has remained consistently good.

Change plans

In terms of plans to change jobs, there was a marked increase of 13.9% in the amount of people who planned to remain at their current jobs between January and July 2009.

Change Plans for Respondents in the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Medical Devices Industries

However, the number of people planning to change jobs in 2009 is still high, at 36.10% in July. One explanation for this could be the knock on effects of the economic downturn on employee morale and job security.

Typically, due to the resilient nature of the pharmaceutical industry, job security is generally regarded to be high. However, CK Clinical’s survey results do indicate that over the past 6 months, the mood of respondents has dampened, leading people to feel less secure in their current roles.

Job Security of Those Working in the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Medical Devices Industries

With employees feeling stressed and disheartened by the recession, are these negative feelings being extended to respondents perceptions of their employers? CK Clinical’s survey found that respondents perception of their current employer’s performance has decreased by 18% between January and July 2009. With 42.50% of respondents in July reporting that their current employer’s performance to be worse now than it was this time last year.

Performance of Current Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology of Medical Devices Company

The reality of the situation is that the big pharmaceutical companies are robust and cash-rich. This means companies within the industry are generally in the best position to ride out the economic meltdown, through aggressive growth and promising job creation. Therefore employees perception that the market is depressed is just that; a perception.

Nevertheless, the dented morale of employees indicated in the survey should trigger warning bells to employers. However, it seems that some employers tend to see through rose –tinted glasses. A recent survey conducted by Monster.com and the Human Capital Institute, found that employers are vastly overrating the morale of their employees. 84% of those surveyed suggested that they believed their workforce was content simply having a job during the recession, while in reality, only 58% of workers felt this way. In support of this, HCI Research Fellow, Katherine Jones stated, “Today’s employers feel that employees are loyal due to the recession, but the reality is, they’re not. Because of this, there is a strong likelihood that when the economy turns for the better, employers could find themselves with valued employees jumping ship. This places pressure on them to put retention measures in place now.”

This highlights the very need for employers to listen to and understand the current attitudes of their employees. Employers must appreciate the importance of communicating the positives of the company to employees. In turbulent times such as these, it has never been more important to ensure the high morale of staff through clear and supportive leadership.

Motivation

Interestingly, whilst the prospect of career progression and promotion remain the primary motivator for respondents to change jobs, the pull of pursuing a good work-life balance has taken more precedence with an increase of 8.4% between January to July 2009.

Motivation Behind People in the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Medical Devices Industry Changing Jobs

The recession has lead to jobs being lost on a daily basis, placing more pressure on remaining employees in the Pharmaceutical industry to work harder than ever before. As a result there are more demands on employees time, and their work-life balance has taken a knock. In fact, the CIPD report that 1 in 5 workers take work home almost every day. However, some employers may be surprised to hear that those companies that foster a good work-life balance for employees could enjoy a 20% boost to earnings, according to a study conducted by Morgan and Redwood. Therefore, by enabling employees to achieve a better balance between their work and personal lives, this could act as a buffer for companies against the effects of the economic recession.

Summary

CK Clinical’s comparative survey has highlighted some interesting results. 6 months on from CK Clinical’s initial survey it seems the effects of the recession are starting to bite. Whilst the perception of the state of the wider economy has improved, morale of the workforce has been undeniably dampened.

These findings present practical implications for both employers and employees alike. In these turbulent times, employers need to ensure they are harnessing the talent within their companies, by improving morale and thus increasing the productivity of their workforce. Remember to embrace change; after all, recession can sometimes be the best time to innovate.

Employees who are unhappy at work should bear in mind that staying put in a job simply for fear of being made redundant, could do more harm to your career than good. Seeking new opportunities could in fact bring you unexpected economic success and contentment. However, do make sure you have a concrete game plan before you ditch that job!

Jonathan Hart-Smith is the Managing Director of CK Clinical (https://ckclinical.co.uk/). CK Clinical is a specialist recruitment company serving the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical devices sector. Contact Jonathan at jhartsmith@ckclinical.co.uk.

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