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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Generation Z

The motivational drivers for this generation and the generation to come

For agencies, their product is their people and the consulting skills they can provide for their clients. Recruitment and retention of talent is, therefore, top of every agency’s priorities. This is also a priority for the pharma industry as it wants its agency to have the best people working on its business. When good relationships, brand knowledge and continuity are key, surely nothing can be more annoying for a pharma executive than to have a constantly changing agency team. Which again means keeping its best staff and stable teams is critical for agency success. But this all presents significant challenges. The success of the healthcare communications sector has seen an ever-increasing demand for staff, but like any profession, to become an experienced practitioner takes time, so the talent pool is limited. Our new graduate intake this year will not become our experienced senior practitioners for five years, if not longer.

The mid-level challenge

Being a very specialist sector, it is also not so easy for somebody to jump into a mid-level role from outside the sector. Keeping those skilled practitioners that we have at mid-level is critical, or we face a ‘leaky bucket’ scenario. Therefore it is key for recruitment and retention of talent to have a good insight into what brings people into our sector, what motivates them to stay and what drives them to leave either their organisation or even the sector. To take on this insight challenge the HCA, supported by Madano, initiated a survey of member agencies at all levels.

Motivating Millennials

Many of the sector’s mid-level practitioners would be classified as Millennials. Categorised as associating job satisfaction with openness of information, a strong connection with supervisors, immediate feedback, rapid promotion and a balanced personal and professional life, it has also been suggested this generation’s expectations are too great. As a consequence, frequent job moves are common. In response, the sector has focused on areas such as flexible working, with some agencies even implementing four-day working weeks, but also increasing salaries and perhaps over-promoting to keep team members on board or to reduce turnover. The survey results certainly highlight the challenges employers face motivating their mid-level team members compared to more senior colleagues. In the more senior groups, remuneration is the most common motivator for retention. However, for our mid-levels this lined up equally alongside flexible working, career development opportunities, work/life balance and their maintained passion for science, as motivational drivers. This suggests we need to be good at meeting all these expectations equally to ensure we motivate and retain our mid-level talent – potentially a much larger challenge. These insights certainly justify the sector’s drive towards more flexible working and the increasing salary levels. However, the latter then creates further challenges for agencies who are at the same time being squeezed more and more on price by their clients. As we move forward, how we reconcile the need and benefit for all stakeholders of keeping the best talent in our sector, against the need for cost reduction, is something that requires more open and transparent discussion.

In terms of what factors might drive practitioners away from the sector, the primary reason for all respondents would be a lack of good work/life balance, which is important to note for ensuring stable teams overall.

What might be surprising for some, when you consider the expected millennial profile, is that a sense of purpose/making a difference did not rate highly as a motivator. However, this might be because the very fact they are working in the healthcare sector gives them that sense of purpose.

Now think Generation Z

In terms of recruiting our talent for the future, our mindset again needs to change. Members of Generation Z are a different breed. The characteristics for Gen Z in the workplace are in part influenced by the fact they grew up in the great recession and, as a result, are less confident in the economy. They are therefore expected to be more career driven, seeing advancement as the way to greater financial reward. They are also technology natives.

They will be more inclined to stay with a company for longer if they believe they are being taken seriously and their career is being developed. So, training and mentoring will be important. Apprenticeships, internships and learning experiences should also resonate well with Gen Z. They are more entrepreneurial, so relating their work to their support of the business will help to motivate them. Despite their virtual world fluency, they will much rather have genuine conversations and connections with their more senior work colleagues or clients.

Being more attuned to diversity in the workplace and an organisation’s social responsibility, these are the factors that will influence how Millennials will judge and select potential employers.

The Healthcare Communications Association has launched a new microsite providing information about careers in healthcare communications that aims to interest new talent to join our successful and growing healthcare communications sector.

Mike Dixon is CEO of the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) and a communications consultant

1st May 2020

From: Marketing


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