BMS program helps reps plan ahead

September 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

With all the time sales representatives spend selling in the field, reading clinical material and arranging or preparing lunches, they rarely have time to sit down and research the personal, financial and other needs of their own lives

With all the time sales representatives spend selling in the field, reading clinical material and arranging or preparing lunches, they rarely have time to sit down and research the personal, financial and other needs of their own lives.

That's one reason why Bristol-Myers Squibb employees appreciate the company's Horizons program.

The program, which was started in 1990 by vice president of training and development Margaret Pyles, is a personal and professional development program that helps reps and other employees in the pharmaceutical group develop their own skills and interests at their own pace. The program consists of two- and three-day seminars, home study courses and educational lunches known as "brown bag seminars."

Currently, more than 4,000 employees participate in the program. In order to qualify for the program, reps have to be a Bristol-Myers Squibb employee for at least six months and a member of the company's pharmaceutical division. In order to attend one of the lengthier seminars, employees must have worked for the company for one year and must have completed at least two home study courses. Sales reps must also demonstrate good sales performance and obtain their manager's approval in order to attend.

To reward completion of a Horizons program seminar or home study course, the company awards points which participants can then "spend" in a Horizons catalog of gifts. Gifts range from cameras and binoculars to stereos and telephones.

Feedback from participants

To date, the feedback and interest from sales reps and other participating employees has been outstanding.

"It was everything I expected it to be," said Bill Maddox, a central nervous system antibiotics district business manager, from Paducah, KY, who recently attended his first two-day Horizons seminar in Phoenix. "I was very impressed with the way the company was willing to provide this type of personal development. Compared to the other meetings that we go to, which are sales- and marketing-oriented, this was for me and my development."

And investing in employee development, Bristol-Myers Squibb discovered, improves not only its employees' skills, but also their loyalty to the company.

"We looked at field reps who went to Horizons seminars in 1997, and the turnover rate among those people was roughly 0.25%," said Keith. "Everything we do is strictly motivational. It is geared to building loyalty between the company and the Horizons program member."

Sherry Lynn, a neuroscience/anti-infective associate territory business manager from Canyon, TX, deeply appreciated that effort at a Horizons seminar she recently attended.

"One of the things that really moved me was that I really felt Bristol-Myers Squibb had not only an investment in helping me out and helping me be better at my job, but that they also were invested in my having a more profitable life and being a better person," she said. "It was a nice feeling, that a corporation as big as Bristol-Myers Squibb, really cared about me as an individual."

During a time when many sales reps are jumping from one company to another, Bristol-Myers Squibb appears to have found one good way to encourage them to stay. PR

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