Apprehension Shapes Employee Satisfaction

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-01-02-2019, Volume 43, Issue 1
Pages: 22–26

Intellectual challenge, work/life balance, compensation, and an unclear business outlook create uncertainty among European bio/pharma employees.

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the January 2019 issue of Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

A career in bio/pharma can be dynamic and stressful. Scientific advances challenge formulators to develop effective drugs. Quality demands push process development and manufacturing professionals to establish, monitor, and adhere to strict standards. Business decisions pressure bio/pharma professionals to adjust research and development efforts to meet tight deadlines. And, unanswered questions about the implications of Brexit may have created uncertainty among bio/pharma professionals working in Europe.

The annual Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe employment survey (1) assessed satisfaction with employment conditions, salary, benefits, as well as employee perspectives on future industry and career prospects.

Overall, the Europe-based respondents reported fewer pay increases, more salary decreases, and more concern about job security compared with peers in other areas of the world. They also expressed more interest in the type and quality of work versus financial compensation.

In one indicator, salary ranked next to last on a list of 12 factors contributing to job satisfaction. Intellectual stimulation and challenging projects were the top “main reasons I come to work,” followed by a good work/life balance, and job security. In comparison, North America-based workers emphasized salary and benefits factors.

Nearly 90% of the Europe-based respondents, however, said that short timelines and insufficient budgets and resources to accomplish a task contributed to job dissatisfaction; 80% said the work/life balance caused unhappiness on the job. More than 75% said “issues with management” were a source of dissatisfaction.

Respondent profile

More than 335 bio/pharma professionals from around the world responded to the survey, which was fielded in November and December 2018. Respondents primarily were full-time, permanent employees (87.3% of all respondents) at innovator bio/pharmaceutical companies (29.5%), generic-drug manufacturing companies (17.9%), and contract research and manufacturing organizations (16.7%).

The represented companies develop or manufacture both small- and large-molecule drugs (48.1%), small-molecule drugs only (28.7%), biologic-based drugs only (5.2%), vaccines (3.1%), and cell therapy or gene therapies (2.1%).

Respondents reported a range of responsibilities including validation, quality control/assurance, analytical studies, formulation, process development, R&D, drug delivery, and manufacturing. More than 41% of respondents work for companies with more than 1000 employees; more than 49% work for companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Nearly 40% of the respondents held doctorate or higher degrees, and 41% held at least a Master’s degree. Compared with the global audience, the Europe-based respondents had more experience working in the bio/pharma industry; 14% had fewer than 10 years of experience, 18.3% had 10–20 years, 46.2% had 20–35 years of experience, and 21.5% have worked in the industry for more than 35 years.





Fewer salary increases

The most significant-and negative-survey response involved salary increases. In 2018, only 51.1% of the Europe-based respondents reported an increase, compared with 58.7% in 2017. Nearly 11% reported a decrease in salary in 2018, compared with 2.7% in 2017.

Lower compensation levels also reflected in salary dissatisfaction, which was higher than reported in the 2017 survey (2). More than 20% of the Europe-based respondents said they were paid below market value compared with 14.7% in 2017; 38% said their pay was at the low end of the salary range for their expertise and responsibility; 41% said they were paid fairly or excessively, compared with 4.3% in 2017.

Similar to the responses of the global audience, nearly one quarter of the Europe-based respondents reported that they used their full allotment of paid time off. Nearly 30% said they used less than half of the available paid time off. Bonuses, profit sharing, and other benefits were largely unchanged year over year.

Workloads continued to increase, especially for those based in Europe; 61.2% of the Europe-based respondents reported increased workloads in 2018; only 56.1% of the global audience reported heavier workloads in 2018. One-third of the respondents said they worked more hours in 2018 than two years ago, similar to responses in previous years.

Employment longevity and opportunities

Europe-based respondents stayed with the same employer longer compared with the global audience responses. Only 18.1% of Europe-based employees stayed with one employer, on average, for five or fewer years; 45% stayed for 11 or more years. North America-based respondents were more mobile; more than 33% said they stayed with one employer, on average, for five or fewer years.

The Europe-based respondents also were more likely to stay in their current positions. Nearly 56% of the global audience said they would like to leave their jobs, given the opportunity; only 46.6% of the Europe-based respondents expressed a desire to change. More than 70% of this group said they do not expect to leave in the coming year; and less than 14% said they would like to change careers and leave the bio/pharma industry, down from previous years.

Less than one-quarter of the Europe-based respondents cited salary as the single reason for job change; intellectual challenge, work/life balance, professional advancement, job security, scientific opportunities, and a tolerant workplace were cited as more important reasons to change jobs.

Most European respondents were confident they would be able to secure a job comparable to the one they currently hold; 23.9% said it would be straightforward to find a new position; 43.8% said felt they would find a comparable job, but the search would take a while.

Europe-based respondents were divided in assessing the pool of qualified candidates and available job openings. While 31.9% said that employers compete for the few qualified candidates for open scientific/technical positions, 37% said there was only moderate competition for open positions. The remaining 30.8% (up from 21.6% in 2017) said there were more qualified candidates than open positions, indicating a tighter job market.

In addition, respondents were not impressed by the skill sets or knowledge of new hires for their job function; 72.5% said the new hires were adequately trained but not exceptional; 23.1% said the new hires were poorly trained.

Business outlook

Geographic differences, and perhaps uncertainty created by the Brexit, resulted in a more negative outlook for business prospects by European-based respondents.

Only 15.2% of the Europe-based respondents said they felt more secure in their positions versus the previous year compared with 24.7% for global respondents. The percent who said they felt less secure was up slightly to 28.8%, similar to the global audience response.

While 52.7% of the global audience respondents expect business to improve, fewer than 40% of European-based respondents had a positive outlook. Nearly one-quarter (22.7%) of the Europe-based respondents expect business to decline; 37.9% expect no significant change. In comparison, only 17.2% of all respondents project business will decline; 30.2% expect no significant change.

Nearly one-third of the respondents reported that their companies had been through a downsizing or restructuring in the past two years; 18.1% experienced a merger or acquisition. More than one-third of the Europe-based respondents reported a change in responsibilities due to the changes in company structure; 7% said they left the company due to the restructuring.

One-quarter of the Europe-based respondents said they voluntarily changed jobs in the past two years; among the reasons cited-with multiple choices allowed-were to pursue a better career opportunity (41.2%), find more challenging work (29.4%), to seek a better work-life balance (29.4%), or to find a more stable/successful company (23.5%).


1. 2018 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Employment Survey, Pharmaceutical Technology, 2018.
2. 2017 Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Employment Survey, Pharmaceutical Technology, 2017.

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 31, No. 1
January 2019
Pages: 22–26


When referring to this article, please cite it as: R. Peters, “Apprehension Shapes Employee Satisfaction,"Pharmaceutical Technology 43 (12) 2019.