Could a different approach to head office teams drive better efficiency?
The size of pharmaceutical sales forces has fallen dramatically in recent years. Once, the size of its sales-force was symbolic of the strength of a Pharma company. While GP drug education and brand choice were the domain of the medical sales representative a decade ago, those who remain are now account managers, working with physicians to educate them increasingly about speciality medicine to include rare diseases. Along with the advent of digital technologies, this change has shaped the way representatives and doctors interact, limiting the amount of time physicians spend with reps, and changing the way they receive data. The numbers of pharmaceutical representatives in Europe and the USA has been slowly declining and will continue to do so as the industry launches more specialty drugs targeting small patient populations.
Smaller Pharma sales forces should mean smaller management teams
Naturally, with any growing company, an expanding sales-force leads to a bigger head office team. This rationale should be applied as sales forces shrink too, so a smaller sales-force could result in a smaller head office support structure. This is a significant opportunity for Pharma companies to reduce costs and indeed some have already done so. Nevertheless, many still support large HR, Regulatory, Medical and Pharmacovigilance teams to name just a few. For companies wishing to survive in this political and economic environment, a more strategic approach to structuring head office support functions should also be considered.
Permanent or interim talent?
Despite seeming the obvious solution, retaining permanent staff may not be the best way to staff head office teams, even smaller ones. Similarly, investing in talent to address short-term or urgent demands is not always economic or achievable. For many situations, highly skilled Interim Managers may be the way forward.
Traditionally, Interim talent has been used to fill the void while full-time employees are absent (e.g. maternity, sabbaticals of long-term sickness absence), or to bridge the gap between one employee leaving and another starting. More strategically however, the right Interim Manager may hold significant value in helping a firm manage a period of change, get a new project or idea off the ground, win new business, set up new partnerships, or manage internal re-organisation including downsizing, merging, integration or acquisitions. The right Interim Manager can add value to multiple areas of the business.
There are many obvious benefits to hiring Interim talent; knowledge and expertise, new and objective points of view, highly efficient with no distractions from existing office politics. However, these benefits can only be reaped by managing an interim correctly, and by carefully preparing your existing team and yourself for their arrival. Map out your priorities and key deliverables for the next 3-6 months and ensure that your team and your interim manager are clear on these. Review progress with the interim manager regularly, and treat them as part of your team, keeping them informed and updated. Also, clearly brief your team on the role of the interim manager and allow adequate time for a handover and embedding of knowledge before they leave.
When done right, an interim manager can provide a cost-effective way to access the best talent to deliver a flexible solution, whilst transferring skills to your team. It is not right for every situation but should always be a consideration.
For more information on The RSA Group Executive Interim service please contact Prad Mistry at The RSA Group, +44 (0) 7875 379492