Hakuna matata: pharma’s philosophy?

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Why have employees kept a belief in company culture despite major structural reforms to sales forces?

 If you cast your mind back to the mid-1990s you’ll probably recall tapping along to a song sang on screen by a warthog and a meerkat in one of the most memorable scenes in The Lion King. The moral of hakuna matata was that regardless of your surroundings you have to make the best of them. The same could be said for key account managers working within in today’s medical sales sector.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the way pharmaceutical companies conduct internal operations has changed and continues to evolve. The same could be said of their philosophies. A few years ago – in an era of feet on the ground before the patent cliff – pharma companies could rightfully claim holy values, visions, beliefs and habits. However, after widespread job cuts where thousands of people have lost their jobs can the same still be said?

It seems the answer may be a resounding ‘yes’ – and that’s coming from employees! Respondents to the Pf Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey again highlighted the importance of company culture after it was voted the fifth highest motivating factor for more than 1,200 people working in the medical sales industry. However, its fifth placed ranking shows there’s still room for improvement.

Employees working for contract sales organisations placed less emphasis on company culture than those employed on a permanent basis within the pharmaceutical industry. Interestingly, it was younger respondents who felt more motivated than older colleagues. Respondents aged less than 25 voted company culture as their main motivating factor whilst at work. But those aged 54 or over said it was only the seventh most important factor to them.

But what have the sweeping job cuts done to satisfaction levels? Overall, 59% of respondents claimed to be satisfied with their company culture with slightly more than a fifth (22%) claiming to have concerns. Women (61%) were slightly more satisfied then men (57%), with a higher proportion of males (26%) saying they were disillusioned with existing policies. Despite ranking company culture as only the seventh most motivating factor, those aged between 25 and 34 were the most satisfied of respondents with 68% saying they were happy. But those aged 54 and over said they were the least satisfied with 27% voicing their opposition.

Leading the way
The importance of company culture has long been recognised. It forms the environment in which people judge the appropriateness of their behaviour and their actions. A positive company culture – one which staff ‘buy in to’ – will influence how individuals work on a daily basis and reflects their motivation and performance.

As the pharmaceutical industry strives to be more transparent the emphasis placed on company culture has increased. The importance of leadership where company culture is concerned cannot be underestimated. The leadership structure of an organisation almost drip feeds the principles it wishes to be known for. However, overall success usually results from effective leadership, an engaged workforce and good lines of communication between the two.

Yet open conversations only play a minor part in establishing and developing company culture. There has to a commitment by managers and their own leaders to act in a way which they would expect from those at the lowest run of the ladder. Training and competence, compliance with procedures and organisational learning also make up essential values.

While it’s not easy to establish and maintain company principles it’s even more difficult to change and introduce new methods. A cultural change can take several years to introduce. Humans are creatures of habit and employees are no different. Teaching old dogs new tricks really is a time consuming process – regardless of how much investment there may be.

Choosing the one
The website learnmanagement2.com says there are four main types of company culture. The first, usually found within small or medium sized organisations is power culture. Here, control is a key element. Decisions within a business are usually centralised around one key individual. That person usually has control over decisions and the power to enforce them. This allows efficient decision making. However, this method does have its problems. A lack of consultation between other members of staff can lead to a feeling of being undervalued and a lack of motivation. A high turnover of staff is also associated with this type of company culture.

Then there’s role culture – possibly the most common and logical in organisations across the globe. Here, businesses are split into divisions or groups where individuals are assigned particular roles and responsibilities. This has the benefit of specialisation where bosses can rely on individual skill sets and employees to highlight their worth to a company through performance measures.  

Task culture sees a team-based approach assigned to a particular project. Popular in today’s business society, task culture offers benefits both to staff and their employers. Individuals feel motivated when tasks are completed or achieved and a sense of value after being selected for projects by senior management. NASA is one high-profile organisation which promotes task culture through its missions into space.

Finally, there’s personal culture. This is more commonly found in charities or non-profit organisations. In this instance a focus is placed on the organisation without any thought for personal progress or gain.

Changing principles
Research has shown that the most successful companies all have a strong culture – whatever it may be. The two are interlinked. But it’s not a question of luck either bringing the two together. The CIPD says that evidence has shown that organisational success is dependent on having the “right mix” of human resources in place. Also, there must be an ability, motivation and opportunity for staff to support cultural ideologies. Firstly, companies must recruit the correct people with the ability to understand and promote set values. Managers must then ensure that staff are effectively motivated in the workplace and to provide them with the right opportunities to use their skills in well-designed roles. 

It’s in the initial stages of recruitment where company culture CAN be defined and discussed between employees and their bosses. During induction days it’s rare for company culture to be discussed, let alone a handbook given out. However, during the interview process, bosses can get the chance to assess whether those sitting in front of them will be able to meet and enhance set beliefs.

So there you have it. If you want to improve your levels of company culture it’s important to find an organisation with the same philosophy as yourself. If you can find a company whose values match your own you’ll soon be tapping along again to hakuna matata – it’s a problem free philosophy!