The demands of investors and the paucity of promising drugs in the industry has led to a wave of big mergers and acquisitions in the last few years. As a result the industry landscape is full of monolithic companies with worldwide headcounts approaching those of cities. But despite all this action the largest pharmaceutical company in the world still only has a 7% market share and several of the major players still haven’t been involved in any consolidations, both Roche and MSD spring to mind. It’s therefore logical to assume that further consolidation will occur in the sector, consolidation that will affect hundreds of employees. Some will always have job security, the outstanding rep or brilliant research scientist can often name their own salaries but in other areas the prevailing ethos of the acquiring or senior company in a merger may mean significant cuts. Traditional company’s employees may lose out if the acquirer is a thrusting, heavily market driven company, others may be forced to reapply for their own job, others may find the new ethos or atmosphere not to their liking. Whatever the case it is likely that if you currently work in the pharmaceutical industry at any level you will be involved in a merger process sometime during your career. The pharma industry mega-merger is a gargantuan task that can make your working situation difficult or even untenable but if you approach the process objectively it can be turned to your advantage. Here we look at the kind of issues you’ll face and how best to deal with them.
It is likely that you’ll hear rumours about a merger or acquisition long before anything official reaches you from your company. The financial press is often quick to print speculation. Recent stories have included a possible acquisition of Roche by Novartis or of Bayer by GlaxoSmithKline, and the companies implicated will not necessarily act to quash rumours if they are beneficial to the share price or anywhere close to the truth. Corporate communication at the highest level is akin to political diplomacy and you should treat both rumours and assurances with a pinch of scepticism. It is important though to be aware of where your company stands. Those with good recent quarter on quarter results and a healthy pipeline can rest assured that their companies are relatively secure. Others with declining market share, a poor pipeline, or other more lucrative arms to the business must be aware of the possibility of being involved in consolidation. It is better to treat rumours as a chance to weigh up your career options and ask yourself questions about where your career is going. More importantly you need to keep things in perspective. A merger is not the end of the world, nor does it automatically mean that you will be part of a downsizing. Approach the implications objectively, try and find out as much information from your management as you can. How likely is the merger, when will it go through and what are the implications for your department.
There are a host of possibilities but they boil down to one of two options, you will either stay at the new company after the consolidation, or you will leave. In this article we’ll take a look at the best ways to plan for either possibility, from your actions on first hearing the rumours to settling in and doing your job in an entirely new organisation.
If you decide to use the merger as an opportunity to reorient your career, or even get it back on track you’ll need to take action quickly,
1. Your top priority is getting your CV in order. Make sure it is up to date and best reflects both your attributes and the current demands of employers. What employers look for in the tone and content of a CV changes with time and it would be foolish to think that a couple of date changes would make your CV from five years before adequate. Use the internet to research CV writing tips or checkout PharmiWeb’s advice by clicking here
2. It is also useful to get some interview practice. If you are asked to reapply for your own job do so and go to the interview. This is an excellent way of getting feedback from your current manager on how you come over, they will be more than aware of your capabilities and limitations and will let you know if you’ve under or oversold yourself. PharmiWeb has more information about interview technique here
3. Find out what sort of a package is being offered for voluntary redundancies. Then weigh up what your chances are of getting new work with the right kind of income against how long the package would last, it makes no sense to leave for short term gain if it may take you several months to land an equivalent or better position.
4. Speak subtly to clients or providers that you trust, often companies that supply you with a product or service will supply several of your competitors and good salesmen or account managers make it their business to know the ins and outs of the businesses of all their clients. Subtly probing for information could provide you with the inside track on positions with other companies. Companies are especially keen to recruit people without having to resort to advertising positions because of the substantial cost of headhunting or press advertising.
5. Be aware of danger signs at work, being left out of office gossip, ignored for business trips or choice projects could all indicate that you have already been earmarked for ‘downsizing’. If you suspect something speak to your manager about it, it is vital to know where you stand at all points of the merger process.
6. If you do leave of your own volition, whether through voluntary redundancy or resignation, make sure you are thoroughly professional about the whole process. Don’t badmouth the company you are leaving or the merger partner, and try to remain empathetic with colleagues and peers who will remain to work in the new entity. Their situation is likely to be far more uncertain than yours has become and they will resent your gloating or diffidence.
By weighing up your options early in the merger process you can use the opportunity to further your career outside the company. With a handsome pay off and a new career or change of direction in the offing you can avoid the uncertainty faced by many of your colleagues and move on before the real confusion of integrating two different companies begins.
If you’ve decided to stay put and further your career in the new entity there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of firstly surviving the merger, and secondly progressing your career from it.
1. The most important aspect to this process is to have a strategy, both for your long-term goals and for short-term job survival. As a safety net you should look to have savings you can easily access of around three times your monthly salary, this gives you the financial security to approach change confidently.
2. While rumours and confusion are all around you it is useful to begin surreptitiously networking, strengthening work-related friendships and internal relationships with people in other areas of the business. This can be best achieved with judicious use of knowledge about the merger, keep abreast of the financial press and announcements on the company intranet. By becoming an authority on what is going on and why, people will naturally turn to you for opinions and advice. Also look to find out as much as you can about the other company, start with their website and use the online archives of newspapers to learn about their history and ethos. Continue this process throughout the merger, always being helpful and aware of openings and new positions for others. By referring colleagues in this way you’ll be in a far better position to receive their help when you need it. It is vital though that you retain your professional integrity in all this, never bad mouth the acquiring company, it’s products or staff, injudicious comments have a way of coming back to haunt you.
3. Make sure you are very aware of the company line when you are speaking to clients, prospects or journalists that may call. Speculate as little as you can and assume a confident air about both your own position and the prospects for the new entity. During these confusing times your peers will be looking for reassurance and by portraying a sense of calm, confidence you’ll assume a positive leadership role as the kind of reliable and confident person the new company will be looking for.
4. Remember that though things may be changing, many aspects of the company and your role will remain the same. Professionalism and efficiency will always be demanded by employers, regardless of the company’s ‘Mission Statement’. Try to do your job as well as possible throughout the transitional phases of the merger, adhering to the rules and processes of your present company but with an eye to what aspects of your working processes might change in the new entity. After the merger has taken place don’t dwell on how things were done in the old company, look to adopt the new style as quickly as possible. You may still consider yourself to be a Company A person but that doesn’t mean you can’t use that thought to bring the best aspects of how things used to be done in Company A to the new way of working.
5. Try to remain tactful with your peers, empathising with those who fear redundancy or who have been laid off, however make sure you keep the professional outlook referred to in point 2. Regardless of how vociferously your laid off colleagues might complain, don’t join in. Instead look to encourage them in looking for alternatives (maybe mentioning positions you’ve discovered during your back up job search)
6. Try to avoid becoming stressed by the uncertainty that surrounds the merger, eating well and aerobic exercise are both great ways of keeping your stress levels down, deep breathing and meditation can also help in the short term. For more information about stress and how to avoid it see the two part PharmiWeb article by clicking here
7. Keep in mind the fact that you can always find other employment, don’t tolerate a working environment that you hate simply because you’ve decided to stay, flexibility is an essential attribute for the 21st century employee. If you stay confident and proactive you’ll be able to cope with anything that emerges.
8. Keep an eye on the job market. There are now a host of online job boards to add to the traditional sources of newspapers and trade magazines. Try looking on PharmiWeb or InPharm for what positions are available and suited to you. By being abreast of what’s in demand you’ll have a head start if the unthinkable happens and you are let go after deciding to stay.
The Merger or Acquisition process can be an intimidating and confusing one so it’s vital to keep your wits about you. Making the first decision about whether to stay or go, not only puts you one step ahead of The Clash, but also means you are already being proactive and are in a much better position to react to the changes that are inevitable. Keeping your confidence and your awareness of what is going on behind the scenes will make you a valuable resource to others in the company and also give you leverage if you are forced to reapply for your own or another position in the company. Above all being professional, doing your assigned work to the best of your ability and refusing to indulge in idle speculation or gossip will mean that you aren’t doing your prospects or reputation any harm. The pharmaceutical industry is an incredibly incestuous affair and if the wave of mergers continues barrelling along you can guarantee that you’ll be re-meeting old colleagues somewhere along the line, whether it be in Bristol Myers Roche Novartis Squibb, or GlaxoZeneca. Good Luck!