Attrition in Pharma Industry

Insights of attrition rate of Medical representatives in Pharma companies and innovative ways to improve them.

Attrition refers to the reduction in staff and employees of company by normal means. The primary focus is to present the high attrition rate seen in the pharmaceutical market industry, its causes and controlling strategy for retention of Pharma sales representatives. Though attrition is a natural phenomena in all industries, Indian Pharma marketing industries is worst plagued by it. After IT and BPO, Pharma marketing industries experience the greatest rate of employee leaving the company for various reasons.

While global Pharma marketing attrition rate is 10-12% per annum, the rate of employees who leave the organization in India is 25 -30 %. The attrition is more prevalent in the middle and junior management level, due to which majority of the companies have understood the criticality of talent management. Retention is always a big challenge for any organization in today’s time frame. Indian Pharma companies have started paying attention towards the retainment and management of the Medical Representatives to gain key and valuable employees back into the company.

High attrition rate of MR happens due to following reasons:

1) External factors – The demand of fresh talent is more. The companies are looking for fresh talent to incorporate new ideas but the supply is very less, career view point of many young people to join as MR is just to prevent the ‘Stop Gap’ in their career path. The demand-supply imbalance leads to significant efforts to retain and attract a skilled Medical Representative.

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This has led to higher salary hikes in the Pharma sector than most other sectors .This is clearly a challenge in an industry which is very knowledge and relationship driven. 2) Internal factors – It has been observed that many MR leave their job during the first 3 months itself due to the reasons like they were not serious about their job, They were overqualified and lost interest in their job, They might even be under-qualified and felt bogged down by the challenges of the job, They lack motivation, feel less growth in career path, Monotonous work, limited training and development opportunities, working environment as well salary and compensation becomes an important issue in some cases etc.

Now to meet the global competitiveness; Pharma companies have transformed their survival strategy to competitive strategy as a result there is huge pressures on the shoulder of medical representatives for higher secondary sales achievement and thereby constantly poking the field force which eventually leads to attrition. So the people change organizations frequently. Similarly poor management is also one of the key factors responsible for leaving the organizations. There is a popular saying “employee leaves the boss not the organizations. “ Poor management includes lack of support to the employee, lack of transparent career growth ladder, adverse relation between the boss and subordinates, lack of motivation. Psychological relationship between leaders and employee is very crucial for sticking of employee in a particular organization.

Thus, Organization culture also plays a significant role in sticking of Pharma sales representative in the same company for long run. Retention of the talented employees is always the most important agenda for any company to grow. Sometimes monetary benefits can help as by recent survey it was shown that more and more medical representatives are moving in insurance, telecommunications etc as they are paid double in those sectors but only monetary benefits are not sufficient to retain them it ultimately becomes a hygiene factor in talent management. Thus looking for new methods for attracting, motivating and retaining them becomes very important.

Being the first line manager few suggestions to reduce attrition rate: 1. Treat employees as you like to be treated: Treating and handling the employee with appreciation and care is most necessary. While addressing or pointing out their problems they shouldn’t be criticized and rather should be explained in a courteous manner. The sales representative undergoes a lot of pressures and tensions regarding the achievement of targeted sales so, they should be motivated continuously and should be dealt in same manner as the first line manager or other seniors would like to be treated. Incentives like give free monthly travelling passes, movie tickets, etc. can be given.

2. Ask employees for their opinions and implement the good ideas: Having equal contribution from the entire sales force representatives can have an impact over representative’s mind that their ideas and thoughts are valued and are taken into consideration when need arises. Having certain schemes for bringing about certain new ideas to increase the sales level should be implemented, this shall bring about a flow of innovative ideas and also execution of those ideas will bring about a sense of dignity among employee.

3. Reward those that go above and beyond the call of duty: Certain incentives can be granted when a particular sales representative works excellently and achieves sales beyond the targeted levels. There could also be certain cases when an employee performs or outdoes something which wasn’t achieved by any employee in the company before, for that he should be acknowledged well and should be awarded like salesman of the year, highest target achiever, fastest target achiever, etc. and they should be felicitated in front of the whole company instead of felicitating through emails.

4. Take very good care of your star performers or someone else will: Taking good care of star performers is very essential. Their qualities maybe unique and selling strategies might be very effective. Interacting and making them comfortable about their job shall retain the employee in the company and chances of him leaving the company for another might reduce to some extent. If they are performing really well incentives like foreign trips, etc. can be given.

5. Communicate with your staff:
Sales peoples sometimes feel that the company doesn’t care enough for them. So, the higher level executives can make a point to interact with them at a time and get a knowhow about what problems they are facing on the field and other certain issues. First line manager should always communicate through all the sessions with each employee and have discussion regarding all the sales meet and problems related to those the sales rep might’ve had.

6. Hold skip level meetings to make sure that you’re Managers/Directors are treating their staff correctly: Skip level meetings by higher ups can bring about more peachy feeling in the employee they might feel the concern and guardianship from top executives. This shall further charge and motivate them for the tasks they perform.

7. Build career planning for each employee:
If employee wants to pursue further education the company can help by providing him admission in collaborated institutions- tailor made courses as well as sponsoring its education thus meeting the need of the employee which motivates him as well as help the company in retaining him.

8. Bring about job rotation and more growth opportunities: Giving growth opportunities like promotion and assigning certain new functionalities in the job shall increase the overall knowledge about the sales rep and also he won’t feel monotonous about the work he’s been performing. This shall give in-depth knowledge about other functions in the company and shall thereby increase the understanding of the employee about working of the other sectors in company.

9. Making them feel like family member:
The employees of the company should be treated as the assets and they must be treated like a family member. Salesperson job is mostly to work out of the company, in such cases wishing them on their birthdays, anniversaries, etc. can be done. Also, paying visit or giving condolences to the MR on death of his family member can make him feel concerned and a part of family.

10. Optimizing target policies:
Instead of having fixed monthly targets, the sales targets could be designed individually by looking through their past month performances. Depending on that each month the targeted sales could be increased or optimized depending upon past months performance. This shall bring about an upscale in sales level too.


Thus for retaining MR the first line manager should focus on each and every step right from the recruitment, to training and development, rewards and appraisals even fulfilling the needs of MR as all of these steps play a crucial role in motivating and keeping him attracted towards his job.

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Attrition in Pharma Industry. (2016, Oct 03). Retrieved from

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