BioPharm International's 5th Annual Empolyment Survey

How did biopharmaceutical professionals fare during a year of hiring freezes, high anxiety, and increased workload? Our survey finds out.
Jan 01, 2011
Volume 24, Issue 1

Chitra Sethi
Rewind to five years ago: A start-up biotech on the block with an innovative drug in Phase 3 clinical trials is hiring. If a recruiter approached you for the job, you might have at least given it a shot, considering that even if the start-up fails, you would be able to find another job quickly. Fast forward to the present: A new biotech company in your town is hiring. Your company has had two rounds of layoffs, and even though your workload has doubled, you aren't interested in moving. "We are doing more with less but people are either taking no risk or taking longer to keep the risk the same," says a Boston-based biopharmaceutical manufacturing professional from a big biotech.

These sentiments are reflected in the responses to BioPharm International's fifth annual salary survey, which shows that biopharmaceutical professionals are working harder than they did last year with fewer resources, which has resulted in increased workload and higher stress levels.


The economic crisis had a big impact on the biopharmaceutical job market by tightening up the availability of capital, eliminating jobs, and eroding companies completely. More than 50,000 pharmaceutical jobs were lost in 2010. In addition to the economic forces that affected all industries, the pharmaceutical industry faced additional challenges from drug recalls, patent expirations, and dwindling pipelines, which have resulted in more mergers and acquisitions (M&As).

A California-based CMC professional says that M&As accentuate the reduced activity of research. "Lack of products reduces revenues and sales, and therefore, investment in R&D and that leads to reduction in resources," he says. He adds that the number of people per project has decreased in his company, there are hiring controls, and the company is replacing personnel selectively.

Figure 1. If your company merged, was acquired, or downsized, was it tied to the economic downturn?
More than half (63%) of our respondents have been through a merger, acquisition, or downsizing within the last two years (Figure 1), although over half of them (61%) said it had no significant effect on them. The rest said their job responsibilities changed (30%) as a result of a merger or downsizing activity, while the remainder chose to leave their companies voluntarily (9%).

There are fewer people to work on projects, agrees the biopharmaceutical professional from Boston. "Our revenue was lower than expected this year, therefore the company would not have hired enough people dedicated to certain projects." His company recently eliminated a couple layers of management, so there are now fewer people to manage more people. He has seen a similar trend in other companies. "Companies are trying to get rid of redundancies so managerial levels are being skipped. For example, earlier, a senior manager had 2–3 reports but now those middle managers have been removed, and the same person now has 7–8 reports," he adds.

Similarly, a QA professional at a big pharma company in New Jersey says that there has been an internal reorganization at her company. "Our San Diego facility has been closed, and we are in the process of consolidating a few others," she says. Her company also has cut a number of its internal programs.

"We have to do everything extremely lean—not only lean manufacturing but also lean development," says the biopharmaceutical professional from Boston. "Last year, we looked at how to work smarter and leverage new technology to do the same or more work with less people." This lean approach has become a new baseline because there are now additional cost pressures that lead to downsizing, he adds.

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