Frustrated employees are voluntarily quitting their jobs at the highest level in almost three years as confidence they will find another stabilizes, even with unemployment at about 9 percent for more than two years. Almost 2 million Americans quit their jobs in May, a 35 percent rise from the lowest level in January 2010, according to the Department of Labor. With more big brand name drugs due to come off patent soon and the uncertainty around future budget cuts, it’s reasonable to think more layoffs are coming to Biopharma companies. And the exodus of talented marketing people could very well continue hampering marketing efforts even more.

Over the last two years I have been somewhat alarmed by the exit of talented people from healthcare marketing. Some are leaving because they have had enough of colleagues protecting their territories at the expense of good patient-centric marketing. Others are leaving because there just isn’t a good opportunity for marketing in a sales-driven environment.

What can we do to ensure that we retain talented people? The first thing is to ensure that people who are good marketers stay within marketing. Some companies rotate people in jobs every 2-3 years to give them more experience. That, I believe, is shortsighted. If someone is good at what they do and has provided great results, then they should stay where they are so they can continue to provide great results. The key is to give that person a challenge and the recognition they deserve. Give them an incentive to stay.

Then there is the challenge of working within the matrix organization that so many big pharma companies use today. The problem here is that The Matrix rewards people for how well they get along with others, and not for how well they do their jobs. People who look out for customers and patients, people who are willing to take risks, should be treasured for trying to bring change at a time when most pharma companies must change if they are to survive.

Senior executives have to be more astute at recognizing talent and doing whatever they can to retain and recruit talented marketers. Marketing is going to play an increasing role in healthcare choices in a world of empowered patients. And marketing is going to have to evolve to reach these ultimate decision makers.

More importantly the pharma organizations are going to have to go through an evolution to increase speed of implementation. This means that more people are going to have to be held accountable for what they do— and don’t do. But in the Internet era, processes must be designed around adding value to patients and consumers.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.

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