Pharma:
What’s your x-factor?

PHARMA: 
WHAT’S YOUR X-FACTOR?

Pharma: What’s your x-factor?

What is it about your organization that attracts new talent to help you stay in the lead? Businesses in Life Science are increasingly challenged to rethink traditional business models and reinvent themselves while new technologies emerge and vast amounts of data change the general perception of health.


Attracting and retaining new generations such as millennials (born between 1983 and 1994) and their younger cousins, gen Z, (born between 1995 and 2002) can very well be your route to staying competitive.

But do you have what it takes? What’s the x-factor that makes them choose you over others? And why should they care about your industry at all?


In this article Søren-Ulrik Rolsted Fangholm, Head of Atrium and Director, Marketing & Business Development, DLI Market Intelligence, gives a Life Science perspective on millenials and gen Zs based on his many years in the sector – and provides you with 6 pieces of advice:

Where are the opportunities and challenges? And how can the industry welcome the new generations wisely by meeting them on their terms?

The following 6 questions stem from Part 1 of this article, Are you ready for the new work force?, in which we deduct key findings about Millennials and Gen Z’s based on Deloittes recent Global Millenial Survey:


  1. Does your company have a stated purpose that goes beyond market value, growth and profit?
  2. Is your purpose clearly communicated, integrated in your business culture and backed up with meaningful action?
  3. Does management lead by example and serve as agents for positive change?
  4. Is feed-back integrated in your culture, and how is it given and received?
  5. Are your purpose and values strong enough to attract millennials and gen z – and are your financial rewards and opportunities for growth strong enough to retain them?
  6. How do you prepare yourself and your work force for Industry 4.0?

You need to find the answers for your own organization – but Søren-Ulrik’s perspectives will kick-start your journey:


(1) Does your company have a stated purpose that goes beyond market value, growth and profit?

Millenials and gen Zs are purpose driven. They buy from, engage with and work for businesses that value a meaningful purpose higher than strictly running a solid business. In Life Science this can be translated to wanting to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

Businesses in Life Science will therefore gain much by not only treating patients but applying their research and knowledge in efforts to help people stay healthy and prevent or eradicate diseases. If millennials and gen Zs don’t see sustainability and social responsibility reflected in your stated purpose, then don’t count them in.

Advice 1: Focus on people and health rather than on patients and diseases.


(2) Is your purpose clearly communicated, integrated in your business culture and backed up with meaningful action?

Staying attractive as a company by offering job security, company car and high status still attract some but millenials tend to rate you differently than previous generations. They value working for a company they can vouch for. To them safety equals knowing that the stated purpose is what sets the direction for all decisions and is reflected in the culture as well as in external communication and the media.

Advice 2: Millenials are allergic to “corporate bullshit.” They want bold action and clearly communicated results they can trust.


(3) Does management lead by example and serve as agents for positive change?

Younger generations don’t necessarily respect authorities. They respect action and leadership. Having grown up with social media and being used to following and un-following people and comnpanies, they are quick at detecting fake facades and pretense. Authenticity and transparency are highly valued, and managers in Life Science should make it a priority to cultivate these qualities to earn trust.

Following the traditional career path is still a valid way to build a career in Life Science, but becoming a leader requires managers to also serve as agents for positive change and to act with a high level of integrity. Having more at stake at a personal level and identifying to such a degree with the corporation can be a stretch for some.

Advice 3: Earn trust by cultivating authenticity and transparency in your leadership


(4) Is feed-back integrated in your culture, and how is it given and received?

Millenials and gen Zs are known to appreciate instant feed-back. Many existing processes around appraisal and feed-back run in cycles of yearly meetings and performance evaluations. For the younger generations that is far from enough and therefore both your appraisal systems and management style would benefit from being adjusted.

Characterized by lengthy processes, Life Science is not prone to intuitively enter into this dynamic loop of constant feed-back, but neglecting the fact that feed-back is an important motivation factor for these generations would be a huge mistake. Instead, understand, respect and meet their needs. Working with feed-back in a focused manner and on a recurring basis may very well be a differentiator and an important tool for talent retention and development.

Advice 4: Implement processes for feedback on a recurring basis as part of your management routines.


(5) Are your purpose and values strong enough to attract millennials and gen Z - and are your financial rewards and opportunities for growth strong enough to retain them?

As stated earlier, a clear and fully integrated purpose that speaks to a higher cause is important. Management that follows through and lives that purpose is also an important qualifier. Financial rewards still matter but even more so, offering opportunities for development and growth should be a priority. And you may very well have to reconsider your perspective on talent retention:

Younger generations think of their career as a string of interesting projects, and they don’t necessarily follow the traditional, designated trail laid out for them in your company. Retention is not “simply” keeping talent locked in your system but can also be a matter of keeping them close and inviting them back in when they are ready after having gained new perspectives and knowledge elsewhere.

Life Science more than any other industry is known to keep their cards close to the chest – it is embedded in the mindset of the managers and business systems responsible for developing and commercializing products ahead of competition. This tendency may have to shift shape with the work force being more mobile – and less patient.

Advice 5:Talent networking, co-creation and joined efforts across companies and industries may be one element in staying attractive in the long term.


(6) How do you prepare yourself and your work force for Industry 4.0?

In essence, Industry 4.0 is the trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies and processes by applying new technology. In Life Science we haven’t experienced the digital revolution fully yet. Integrating data, working with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning still needs to be taken to much higher levels within business models.

There are multiple approaches the pharma industry can take. Two examples are:

  • Adjust sales processes by applying new technologies and a digital mindset in approaching opportunities, since access to HPCs is increasingly limited.
  • Integrate AI and data science to a much higher degree in R&D and throughout the business to reduce length of product development and thus achieve a faster time to market.

Long development cycles and approaches to evidence may very well be disrupted from the inside or at least supplemented with new ways of working with data models and Real World Evidence. There is an increasing need for competences such as data scientists and health economists as well as a new approach to business.

The younger generations may be the ones to lead this digital revolution, but the industry has to make room for them. Engage with students and passionate people from other industries to nurture an open mind and establish a framework for experimenting with new technologies and exploring alternative approaches to health. Internally, taking a strong lead on new technologies, offering continued education and assuring a nurturing environment for innovative thinking and working with new technologies will also take your organization’s journey towards Industry 4.0 one step further.

Advice 6: Establish a free-thinking environment and provide opportunities for continued learning.



Part 1: Millenials and gen Zs are coming. Are you ready for the new work force?

Across industries, businesses are facing identical challenges when it comes to welcoming new generations and spanning generational gaps. Attracting the right employees is a critical differentiator for your business. Do you know what younger generations expect from their work life? Are you prepared to meet their requirements?


Read Part 1 of this article: “Are you ready for the new work force?”.

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