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Tightening the belt

As the credit crunch takes hold, our industry career survey reveals that marketers are feeling the pinch and harbour concerns about the future

A belt buckle

"Not everything is about money, you know," is something people tend only to say when they haven't got as much as they'd like. So no doubt it will be uttered frequently in 2009 if, as various banks forecast, this credit crunch continues to loiter with intent, like a starved seagull – one false move and the chips are down. However, quite how the financiers can predict this demise so confidently, given the recent track record in pecuniary planning, is anyone's guess. Not for a while has the remark 'beware of false profits' [sic] seemed so germane.

But what of those employed by pharma? Is the economic mess borne of 2008 starting to impact on salaries, benefits packages, jobs and even confidence? According to the latest analysis undertaken in December 2008 by ICM Research for Pharmaceutical Marketing, the answer is 'yes'. There are already clear signals that despite its relative insulation from global credit inertia, pharma is indeed tightening the belt, and employees are keener to stay put in a bid to protect their careers.

In this year's industry career survey, we take a look at the changes in pay, benefits, working habits, plans and expectations of pharma marketers across the industry. Find out how your package stacks up against industry standards in these times of economic angst.

Cash and the Crunch
While the pressure is on for pharma marketers to secure their future earning potential, things are going in the right direction. Using median averages (rather than the mean, to diminish the skew effect of the extremely rich on the ordinary folk), salaries in general are up from 2007 to 2008 by £3,400 (around 6.5 per cent to £56k). Proportionally, this increase is accounted for by those at the top and bottom of the chain of command – that is to say, executives and directors received the biggest pay increases last year.

Compared with pre-credit crunch 2006–2007 figures however, there are relatively fewer 'top' pay rises – those of 6-10 per cent or more. Indeed, increases of 10+ per cent are down nearly 73 per cent in the 2007-2008 data and it seems that marketers expect this trend to play out in 2009 too; 40 per cent fewer respondents anticipated receiving a 10+ per cent increase in the next 12 months. Another sign is that relatively more people expect a rise of less than 2 per cent by 2010.

As usual, the men expect a bigger raise than the women in the 2008–009 period (average 2.4 per cent versus 2.2 per cent). However, the chaps might like to note that this survey shows how, over the past 12 months, their female colleagues received pay rises that were (on average) almost twice as large (10.5 per cent versus just 5.4 per cent for men).

In terms of pay increases, according to the figures, department heads top the 'loser leader board' with an average rise of zero per cent; quite unfortunate, given that this group had the longest working hours on average. Those at manager and group/senior manager levels received less than 2 per cent extra overall.

These three groups were the most likely to get a bonus in 2008, typically 11–15 per cent. A reflection of the disparity described above between gender/pay rise is the fact that women were more likely to receive a bonus of 16–20 per cent, while men got just 11–15 per cent. Overall, more people got a bonus in 2008 than 2007; only 7 out of 100 people got nothing extra.

Need perking up?
It might be a sign of the times, but respondents reported receiving notably fewer benefits in 2008 than in 2007: critical illness cover, mortgage assistance, flexible working, share option and saving schemes, profit-share plans, company credit cards, full or part payment of home phone bills, relocation support, secretarial support, professional association membership and sabbatical options were all down in terms of frequency last year. There seems to be a general trend for reduced availability to nearly half (48 per cent) of all benefits enquired about in the survey.

It could simply be that a different group of people responded to this year's Pharmaceutical Marketing industry career survey and this is reflected in their access to the various benefits. However, there is nothing overtly significant in the 'respondent profile' data to indicate a markedly different cohort, and therefore, perhaps the timing of the survey (uncomfortably into the credit crunch) reveals how companies are starting to reprioritise and reshape their offering to employees. Just 2 per cent of respondents received mortgage assistance from their firm last year, a 50 per cent drop on 2007.

Pension schemes and flexible working were the top two rated benefits overall. It's unsurprising, given the broad economic forecast, that pensions – non-contributory schemes in particular – are becoming much more desirable (12 per cent more respondents who don't have one would like one) and highly valued (the proportion of respondents rating it as their 'most' valued benefit is up by more than 41 per cent) compared with the boom year of 2007.  

Indeed, companies seem to be offering more such schemes, perhaps in place of larger bonuses; in 2008, an extra one in 10 people got a non-con pension. It's also top on the list of what people 'want, but don't yet have', along with flexible working, private health and mortgage assistance. That said, the shine seems to have gone off private health, which was rated only as the fourth most valued perk – down from second place in 2007.

Finally, BlackBerries made a surprise appearance as a star in the benefits list. A fifth more respondents got one in 2008 than had one in 2007, while the number of people who don't yet have one (but want one) is up by 75 per cent; remarkably, five participants even rated their BlackBerry as their 'top perk'.

Salaries, 2007 and 2008

. 2007 2008
Executive £32,000 £40,000
Manager £48,000 £49,000
Group/snr manager £56,000 £57,000
Dept. head £66,000 £66,000
Director £81,000 £90,000
TOTAL £53,000 £56,000
Male £55,000 £58,000
Female £48,000 £53,000


Pharma: the place to be
The world's your oyster, they say, and pharma is perceived as a pretty good mollusc for many of its personnel. Optimism within the sector is up overall, though the spread of positive sentiment has shifted slightly from 2007. That is, in 2008 a smaller proportion of people felt 'very optimistic' about working in pharma, but relatively more felt 'quite' optimistic.

Respondents whose optimism was rated as 'not very' fell from 12 per cent to 10 per cent, while the five people who in 2007 said they were 'not at all' optimistic about pharma's prospects either became so depressed that they couldn't be bothered to fill in this year's form, or else reformed their negative outlook into something more positive. For whichever reasons, no 2008 survey respondents were entirely devoid of hopefulness for their employer and the industry as a whole. Overall, almost nine in every 10 respondents said they felt positive about the future.

Looking at the long-term view, 10 per cent still plan to pursue a career outside the pharma industry at some point. These unconverted workers aside however, the survey reveals a general trend towards greater commitment to the sector: the amount of respondents planning to stay in pharma for their entire career increased, while the level of 'don't knows' dropped.

It could be that workers are seeing more clearly the advantages of sticking by their current (as well as prospective) employer(s) in pharma through credit crunch-shaped goggles. Or, it could just be a better all-round dedication to the job.  

Speaking of which, one-third of all respondents to the 2008 survey said they 'intend' to gain further qualifications to improve their in-job performance and potential for promotion. This was also true for 33 per cent of 2007's participants, but less than 10 per cent actually did anything about it in 2008. Given the fact that more people now expect to work longer to reach retirement, perhaps they feel there's plenty of opportunity to come in the future.

The proportion of respondents who in 2007 said they hoped to retire at 45–54 years fell by more than 35 per cent in 2008, while an increased number now expect to keep working, unable to retire before 60. The latter group represents some 60 per cent of all respondents, though the most significant change is a 29.4 per cent rise in the number of people expecting to retire aged 65–69 (this is later in life than many people hoped for in 2007). What is the same as 2007, however, is the fact that five people expect to retire before the age of 45.

Something this year's survey shows clearly is that more people are thinking more carefully about their futures, with one-third more respondents 'concerned' about their current pension provision. As it stands today in early 2009, more than one in every two respondents share this concern.

New habits
So how are these issues and broader perceptions of the credit crunch affecting the way pharma marketers structure their work? The short answer is that people are working harder and longer, but also slightly differently from recent years.

Fewer people (by around 10 per cent) are working 8–9 hours per day (40–45 hours per week) while the proportion working 10–11 hours per day (50–55 hours per week) has risen by the same amount. So more people are working longer.

Men seem to be working relatively more too, while women are working less, according to this latest data. Female readers may wish to contend these findings, however the facts as borne out by the December 2008 figures show that men extended their working day by an average of six minutes in 2008 (versus 2007) while women cut theirs by around 12 minutes per day. 

It's an interesting finding. When extrapolated, it could be argued that, over an entire year, men spend nearly an extra week and a half at work than women. What's certain, however, is that the way both sexes choose to work is changing. They're starting slightly later in the day and working later into the evening: fewer respondents start before 8am or 9am, versus 2006 and 2007, while the number starting between 9am and 10am rose by nearly a third.

Also, in 2007 every respondent claimed to be hard at it – or at least hanging around the water cooler talking – by 10am, whereas in 2008 a notable number of workers were able to start post-10am on a regular basis. This 'start later–work later' ethos is reflected too by the evidence that fewer people are able to go home 'on time' (5–6pm), and 25 per cent more stay beyond 8pm.

People seem to make a clear decision as to whether they're staying on for 'just a bit longer', perhaps to get something finished, or else committing to a 'proper late one' in the office (beyond 8pm and into the night). However, it's clear from the data that if people have already stayed on for a while but there's still a chance of leaving soon enough to catch Spooks, they'll bolt for the door. In other words, very few people stay 'quite late' – say, until 7.50pm – preferring either to stay 'a bit' (say until 7pm) or 'a lot' (until 9pm) late.

Away from home
Working away from home is also on the up for many in pharma. The 2008 survey shows that most respondents spend an average of four nights per month away from home on business; something that 90 per cent of people now have to do at some point. The proportion that never works away from home fell by nearly 20 per cent in 2008, while those required to spend anywhere from three days to a whole week away per month rose by the same amount.

Taking work home in the evenings and on weekends is on the rise too. Compared with 2007, more people took work home last year 'always' or 'often' and fewer people got away with 'never' doing it; 80 per cent of respondents did it at least once. A significant finding is that double the number of people went into the office at weekends 'always' or 'often' compared with the year before, though it remains a not very common occurrence.

Holiday – both entitlement and use – remains largely unchanged from previous years. However, overall, people managed to squeeze in an extra couple of days off last year; perhaps a consequence of their longer hours and extra-curricular work patterns. This would beg the question that if harder work leads to more days off recovering, what is the net gain in productivity?

Experience and careers
Where's it all going and why bother? Aren't marketers just cogs in a giant engine that lines the pockets of the main shareholders with gold leaf? Isn't the greasy pole of promotion little more than a big dipstick, or does passion, intellect and commitment to patients, medicines and prescribers mean that those working in all areas of healthcare and medical communications deserve every reward for what they achieve?

That's a rhetorical question, of course: respondents to PM's survey in 2007 were motivated and aspirational and the even better news is that nothing changed in 2008. Fear over the current economic tumult, however, is showing in people's tendencies when formulating and acting on career plans. As the environment in and around industry becomes increasingly changeable, it's evident that people and companies try to counter this with stability.

There were nearly 30 per cent fewer 'new' employees in pharma last year than in 2007, with more staying put in the warm bosom of their existing employer. Not only are more people staying put at companies for longer (for up to 10 years) but the same is true for specific roles: there's been a 20 per cent rise in the number of workers holding on tight to their positions for 3–10 years, rather than changing jobs and employers in the hope of accelerated progression.

In addition, it seems the economic scenario has led people to work on their employability. Proportionally more respondents in 2008 than 2007 made efforts to update their CV within the previous 12 months, as evidenced by a 25 per cent drop in personnel leaving their CV untouched for 3–4 years, coupled with a 33 per cent drop in those ignoring it for up to six years.

In terms of career planning, the number of workers with 'no definite plan' fell, while there was a dramatic increase (up 50 per cent) in the proportion of respondents now in possession of a 10-year plan. However, just 9 per cent thought this far ahead when considering future roles and earnings.

So while change and instability happens around people, the evidence suggests that they react by actively designing greater immediate stability into their working lives as well as their mid-term futures; nearly seven in every 10 respondents expect to be with their existing employer by 2013. In line with the increased risk of redundancies and job losses in the UK, pharma's employees seem, in general, to be readying themselves for tougher times.

Confidence through travel
A great way to make yourself more employable in pharmaceutical marketing – and this is borne out every year by the survey data – is to gain knowledge and experience of international markets. Some 80 per cent of 2008's respondents classed European or other international work experience as at least 'important' and possibly 'essential', while the number of people believing it to be 'irrelevant' fell by two-thirds.

International experience is now a must-have on any good CV in pharma, regardless of hierarchical position within a company or the broader industry. But how does this stack up against what people actually have on their forms at present? Well, more people than ever before in the history of the survey have either European (nearly half of all respondents), other international (nearly one-third of respondents) experience – or both (46 per cent). Around six in 10 intend to gain this experience in the future where opportunity allows, as the number employed in UK-only roles continues to diminish year-on-year.

As a valued source of information on international pharma issues, the internet still leads (used by 80 per cent of respondents) but has reached a plateau since 2006. The use of specialist trade press, such as Pharmaceutical Marketing Europe magazine, is up 11 per cent. Newspapers have become more popular too.

Planning a career, 2008

Planning a career, 2008


Cars: no vorsprung for Audi
For those into their wheels, it's (relatively) gripping to watch the BMW–Audi battle for top company car continue to play out. The marques have been living with each other at the head of the pharma marketing leaderboard for several consecutive years. Two years ago Audi was king, then BMW kicked it from the top spot in 2007.

In 2008, BMW managed to extend that advantage so that now almost one in three respondents who get a company car drive around with a blue and white propeller badge on their fob. Audi comfortably holds the number two spot, accounting for 22 per cent of all respondents' company wagons. This could all change however: when it comes to 'what I'd like to drive', the survey shows that more people that drive Beemers today (30 per cent) would like to drive an Audi tomorrow (31 per cent).

Further down the list, ousting Mercedes from the nummer drei position, another German make, Volkswagon, takes third spot with 9 per cent of the total vote. With Merc now in fourth, Ford takes fifth (popularity is up, probably thanks to the acclaimed new Mondeo) with Mini, Toyota, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and Volvo sharing the rest of the top 10 positions equally. Just two respondents drive a Saab, while the French car-makers Peugeot and Renault languish at the bottom of the table.

Most people can influence what company car they receive, though it seems employers are making a proportionally larger part of the decision; there was less freewill in the deal for company car drivers last year versus 2007, which may have been driven by new tax and CO2-related penalties. The typical company car driver in the survey is a male, 42-year-old manager earning £50–59k, though nearly every other respondent gets a paid-for chariot.

More men than women who don't get a company car get company car-related benefits (81 per cent versus 59 per cent). It's good news all round however, as the data shows that the number of respondent receiving at least £8k from their employer to put towards a car rose by 50 per cent.

About the respondents
Respondents to the 2008 Pharmaceutical Marketing industry career survey, as ever, work across the broad spectrum of disciplines within marketing in pharma. Of the 484 respondents, most are male marketing managers aged 30-39 working at an ethical pharmaceutical company. Interestingly, there has been a five per cent increase in the number of male respondents versus a 5 per cent decrease in the number of female respondents in 2008.

In addition, there has been an  increase in the number of directors, department heads and group/senior managers filling in the survey this year and a fall in the number of managers and executives when compared to 2007.

As outlined in Experience and Careers, marketers are not in the habit of jumping ship to another company in the sector, with 51 per cent staying at one company for five years. However, depsite the desire to stay at the same company and often in the same role (41 per cent for 1-3 years and 19 per cent for 3-6 years), marketers are keen to keep their CVs up to date: 67 per cent of respondents update their résumé every 12 months.

Perhaps workplace stability fosters such loyalty: some 57 per cent of respondents revealed that in the course of their career to date they had not experienced either a merger or acquisition, or redundancy – let's hope that with regard to the latter, this remains true over the coming year.

Some 62 per cent of respondents plan to stay in the pharmceutical/healthcare sector for the remainder of their career – this represents a 5 per cent increase on 2007. This is not surprising given that 67 per cent ( a 6 per cent increase on 2007) are quite optimistic about the future of the industry. Given that pharma has traditionally escaped relatively unscathed in previous recessions, this is unlikely to be a shock to anyone either.


The 2008 industry career survey was sponsored by Zenopa

Zenopa advertisement

22nd January 2009


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