Pharma Focus America


Srinivasan V, Consultant / Advisor, Pharma Business / Enterprise

Many pharma companies have been suffering silently from shortage of suitable candidates to fill up vacancies in the field, and also of high attrition rate, leading to terrible but avoidable loss of business due to vacancies. In this article, let’s discuss about various avenues available for sourcing of candidates, ways to retain them, and also how to enable them to contribute their best to the organisations.

Visit the science, and pharmacy colleges in the vicinity where the vacancies exist, talk to the Placement Cell, and then finalise a date which is convenient both for the final year students who are awaiting results, and also for the Human Resource (HR) teams and the line managers concerned. The HR Department and the line managers concerned should prepare well for the campus interview, which should include introduction about the organisation, its promoters, its other businesses, if any, product profile, what exactly is the job requirement, career growth in the job for consistent performers, salary range for the job, scope for earning incentives, answers to questions if any from the students, etc. through a powerful power point presentation. Language of presentation should be ideally English, local language, and also Hindi. This is because now-a-days students from North come to South, and students from South go to the North to pursue studies of their choice. When I went for such a campus interview recently to a pharmacy college in Chennai, I used both English and Hindi, in addition to the local language (Tamil), which was appreciated by the principal and the students as well, because many of the students were from North, and they were quite comfortable listening to the presentation in Hindi. Such a professional presentation will make a good impact on the young minds and quite a number of them may show interest in the job. The organisation as well as the College must ensure that the occasion should not be simply used as a platform to collect resumes from students without any discussion and presentation.

In addition, we can also collect the mobile numbers of students of last year who had passed out, and get in touch with them to see if they are still available and are interested in our job.

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Select popular newspapers — English as well as local language — which are the best in terms of circulation in places closer to where we have vacancies, and advertisements can be released on ideal dates and place in the newspapers. For example, if you decide to release the ad in Times of India, then Wednesday is the ideal day to release the ad in the specific pages meant for job advertisements. If the vacancies are in the state of Rajasthan, then one can prefer Rajasthan Patrika for Hindi (a local newspaper with a wide reach) and Times of India for English. Besides these, one can also release the same ad in any reputed neighbourhood (local) weeklies which have a wide coverage in specific localities.

The ad can be brief, but should contain vital information about the organisation, the job, ideal qualifications, skill sets required, range of compensation, career growth possibilities for consistent performers, etc.

Field force like medical reps, area/district managers, normally keep their retailers and stockists informed if they are looking around for a change. Therefore it will also help if we seek their assistance in filling up of vacancies. Besides they also act as reference givers for selected candidates with local work experience. If they help the companies in getting good candidates, they also get rewarded through better business, and therefore, better earnings.

Line managers can seek help from their friends in other companies, and also from their own team members for suitable candidates to fill up vacancies. While waiting in the Clinics, they can also pick up conversations with medical reps of other companies to see if any of the mare looking for a change. Medical reps in the team can chip in with their help like if any of their batch mates are still looking around for a job who may be suitable for the job, or any of their relatives or friends with necessary qualifications and skill sets are available for the job, etc. Employees can be rewarded for suitable candidates referred by them and were selected.

HR along with the line managers concerned can organise ‘walk-ins’ to fill up vacancies. Release an ad as discussed above on the ideal day and call for ‘walk ins’ in a decent hotel in the town on a holiday so that the candidates don’t have to take leave from work, therefore better response to the Ad.

Help of manpower suppliers/recruiters can be availed where and when necessary. Ads can also be released on reputed ‘online’ platforms such as Ads can be released on ‘social media’ apps like Whatsapp, Linkedin, etc. Companies can also participate in job fairs if conducted in places where we have vacancies.

Normally resumes/applications for jobs are received by many companies through post, e-mail, online, etc. However, these are not taken seriously or discarded often. If such applications are organised and kept properly, in times of need, these can be a source for candidates.

Interviews must be conducted in a professional manner by evaluating candidates on important parameters like education (science/pharmacy graduates), experience in similar lines for a few years, whether they enjoy talking to people (outgoing) or are reserved, communication (detailing) skills, feedback from references, etc. and then the right candidates are selected. Now-a-days HR people in some companies also go through the social media pages if any of selected candidates before finalising. Once the selection is made, the selection/offer letter confirming the selection, position, headquarters, details of compensation, date of joining duty, etc. should be issued to the selected candidates, and their signatures obtained in the duplicate copy as a token of having accepted the offer. The line manager concerned should confirm to the HR at the head office if the selected candidates have reported for work at the as per the offer letter issued.

Your responsibility doesn’t end after having selected the candidates .You need to nurture them properly, to ensure that each candidate contributes to the organisation to the best of their potential. Detailed class room training, covering topics such as pharma industry, job responsibilities, career growth for consistent performers, etiquettes, product knowledge (indications for each product, the right customer(s), composition, etc. must be covered in detail. At the end of the training programme, those who have done well and come upto the standards of the organisation only are finally cleared. No compromise should be made to accommodate below par candidates to somehow fill up vacancies which may be damaging in the long run.

Once the detailed training is over, then the line managers concerned should take care of On the Job Training for their team members regularly and nurture them properly. They should act as their guide, mentor, and developer, thus earning their respect. Once in a while people from Head Office like product/brand manager, national sales manager, etc. can also join them so that the candidates can learn many things for improvement.

The line managers need to sit with candidates who are struggling to hit the numbers, identify reasons for the same product-wise,explain action plan to correct the same, and ensure that it is implemented by the candidates properly while working in the field, thus they are able to overcome the problems and hit the numbers consistently. Such line managers will be highly regarded by their team members, and they may not leave the team that easily even if lured by attractive offers. A few candidates may struggle initially for a few months before settling down. If their working habits are good, and primary and secondary sales are growing gradually, even though falling short of the numbers, it is worth giving them a few months’ time and guide them to hit the numbers soon, rather than rushing to dump them in the dustbin. However, you should not waste time and resources with people whose work ethics are questionable, and are hard to change for positive and productive.

Disbursement of salary, incentives, reimbursement of expenses, confirmation or otherwise of employees, yearly increments, samples, promotional inputs, etc. on time will help in keeping the employees morale high, and also in retaining them.

It is the responsibility of the organisation to take care of consistent performers by giving them good increments, attractive incentives linked to performance, promotions for higher responsibilities, sharing their success stories in the in-house magazines/publications thus appreciating them for the job well done.

If any one leaves the organisation, exit interviews must be conducted in all sincerity without any cover-up, and action taken where necessary so that others do not leave for the same reason again. If ex-employees complete the necessary formalities, their full and final accounts should be settled promptly.

If the things discussed above get implemented in an organisation regularly in all sincerity, I am sure human resources will be very happy to work with in such organisations, and will not like to leave them that easily. No vacancies in the field means no sales lost due to vacancies. People will be very happy to join and work with such organisations. It is a win-win situation for both.

--Issue 33--

Author Bio

Srinivasan V

Srinivasan V has over 35 years of rich experience in Pharma Industry in HR, Sales Administration, and Training functions. He was conferred with the award “The Transformational Leader for Pharma Industry”. He has to his credit over 500 published articles in India and abroad. Author of the book “Reach For the Stars” which is like a Bible for aspiring and already working Medical Representatives.

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