Your Most Precious Asset - Pharmaceutical Executive


Your Most Precious Asset

Pharmaceutical Executive

6. Build Flexibility into Your Organization

At a time when technology provides greater mobility than ever before, we are flexible about alternative work schedules and accommodate individual preferences and family needs as an important aspect of keeping personnel happy and involved. It also means that the agency keeps staff members who are important to business relationships or creative initiatives.

7. Shop at Home First

While going outside for new talent is often necessary, wherever possible we promote from within, benefiting from our investments in management and training. This ensures that the agency's culture, operations knowledge, and values are kept within our organization, and minimizes recruitment costs due to staff losses.

According to the US Department of Labor, workers change jobs an average of 10 times between the ages of 18 and 38. We strive to provide a place where ambitious people can grow, and mark out the paths available for promotion. In addition, when a person wants to go in a different direction (for example, from a junior account service role to a junior creative role), we do our best to find a spot that fits his or her career objective, allowing change in jobs to occur all within our own agency.

8. Be Aware of the Needs and Potential of Your Staff

To keep staff motivated, you need to know what they need and want. By holding focus groups with small groups of employees, we let our staff tell us how they feel and what they need to do their jobs better. We find out what's most meaningful to them in their jobs so we can motivate them. Do they want more recognition or time from their bosses? The opportunity to work in another therapeutic area? More challenge in their work? More flex time? We do our best to accommodate them whenever possible.

Finally, to make sure our managers are doing their jobs, we double check our own assessments through an outside firm that conducts 360-degree interviews among the subordinates, peers, and supervisors of every director and above. This allows us to spot problems early and fix them before they begin to cause bigger problems.

9. Work to Live, Not the Converse

Obviously, there are times when people need to work late, but making it a regular habit—or encouraging people to work until midnight as a "badge of honor"—is likely to result in burnout, as well as dampening creativity. A vital life outside the office recharges the batteries and makes for a happier staff that creates better and fresher work. Times with friends, music, books, movies, plays, and TV can all inspire ideas, so encourage people to get out and have fun. We try to make sure we have a staffing plan in all of our departments that allows most people, most of the time, to leave at a reasonable hour and not have to work weekends. Of course, during a launch or other crunch time, that doesn't happen. But in our agency, those situations are exceptions.

10. Break Silos and Have Fun

It's important to encourage people to share thoughts, ideas and experiences, so they can learn from each other and pass knowledge on to others. Every year we schedule brand update presentations, where account supervisors make 20-minute presentations to vice president–account directors about what their brands are facing and how their teams are dealing with it. We also have an annual brand fair that allows account and creative teams to display the work they're doing. Both of these activities give mid-level and junior staff exposure to their peers and senior staff, and allow for cross-fertilization of ideas.

Your staff works hard, give them time for fun. Every week we provide "Free Lunch Friday," which brings people together to talk, laugh, be with friends, and meet new ones. The nominal fee we charge is donated to a charity, which brings me to my final thought...

11. Practice Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility programs are becoming vital aspects of corporate culture. We've actively solicited causes, including health organizations and charities, to which we contribute creativity, skills, and even cash donations. From collecting warm coats to knitting hats, gloves, and scarves to creating ads and promotional materials for health associations, we have a range of offerings that allow everyone to participate in activities that interest them and make them proud of our organization and its generosity.

As Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, now professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said, "Your most precious possession is not your financial assets. [It] is the people you have working there, what they carry around in their heads, and their ability to work together."

As your most valuable commodity, your people are what build your name and reputation and what make a great agency. Treat them as your most precious asset and they'll continue to pay dividends for years to come.

Michael R. Perry is vice president, account director for AbelsonTaylor. He can be reached at


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