Genentech, Novo Nordisk and AbbVie top the list of best workplaces in biopharma

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Roche's Genentech, Novo Nordisk and AbbVie rank among the top on Fortune's list of best U.S. workplaces in biopharma in 2020. (Getty Images)

Biopharma companies all vow to help patients, but how do they fare in creating healthy workplace environments for their employees?

Roche’s Genentech, Novo Nordisk and AbbVie ranked as the top 3 on Fortune’s U.S. best workplaces in biopharma in 2020, a list that’s heavily based on anonymous employee surveys. The three drugmakers’ U.S. operations also made it onto the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2020 master roster.

Horizon Therapeutics, United Therapeutics, Acorda Therapeutics, Exact Sciences, Harmony Biosciences, Accent Therapeutics and Boston Pharmaceuticals rounded out the top 10 honors for biopharma.

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According to Fortune, 85% of the assessment is based on a survey filled out by employees about their experiences at their companies, and responses are further analyzed against the organization’s size and employee demographic makeup as relative to their peers in the industry.

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"Genentech is an inclusive and diverse place. Allows me to bring my whole self to work and sees my true value. Applauses me in public and gives me opportunities at every step regardless of how new I am to this organization," one Genentech employee is quoted as saying.

Interestingly, the three Big Pharma companies on the top of the list all did slightly worse than the remaining seven biotechs in terms of employee feedback. The percentages of employees that said the company was a great place to work ranged from 85% to 89% among Genentech, AbbVie and Novo, while the other smaller shops scored above 90%.

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Accent, which is working on translating RNA-modifying protein science into new cancer therapeutics and employs just about 20 staffers, has 100% of employees expressing overall satisfaction. On five separate questions asking employees about management engagement, approachability, competence and vision for the organization, Accent leadership scored 100% across the board.

All told, the questionnaire has over 60 questions that also include ones about employee benefits. Genentech, AbbVie and Novo did well on the questions of whether employees are proud to tell others of their employer and of the company’s contribution to the community.

Outside of the survey, the ranking is based on an external assessment of innovation, company values and the effectiveness of company leadership.

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Fortune noted that the ranking was finalized before the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses to the crisis could arguably tip the balance in favor of Big Pharma, as these large corporations have more resources at their disposal to help society and their employees, be it medicines or financial support.

For example, Genentech recently started a clinical trial of its arthritis med Actemra to examine whether it can control dangerous inflammatory responses associated with COVID-19 infection. The company’s also providing 10,000 vials to the U.S. national stockpile for potential future use.

AbbVie’s working with health authorities, including the World Health Organization, on clinical trials of its HIV combo Kaletra (Aluvia) as a potential therapy for COVID-19. The Illinois pharma—like several other U.S. drugmakers, including Merck, Eli Lilly and Pfizer—has also rolled out policies that allow its employees to offer their professional expertise through volunteer work during the crisis while still on full pay at the company.

Novo Nordisk, meanwhile, is aiming to help those financially hit by the pandemic by offering its insulin free of charge for a 90-day supply for eligible patients under its enhanced Diabetes Patient Assistance Program.

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