GSK suffers sales-rep poaching in China, India

The pharma industry's headlong rush into developing countries hasn't just led to a battle for market share. It's created a parallel battle for good employees. As GlaxoSmithKline's emerging markets chief tells Bloomberg, the drugmaker faces a "war for talent" in China and India, particularly in marketing and sales.

Every year, about 20 percent of GSK's sales force quits to take jobs at rival firms, Abbas Hussain says. And that's about average for the pharma industry in those markets, meaning that most if not all drugmakers share the turnover problem. "It's hard to do anything about," Hussain tells the news service. "If you have a good person, they could find someone else willing to pay twice as much."

It's not difficult to figure out why GSK and its competitors are having trouble retaining trained workers. As they lay off sales folks in slow-growth areas such as the U.S. and Europe, pharma companies have simultaneously launched a recruitment drive in emerging markets, where analysts expect sustained growth. And drugmakers continue to announce plans to staff up by hundreds and hundreds of reps, particularly in China.

GSK is trying to boost retention by offering delayed incentive compensation, Bloomberg says. Last fall, Takeda Pharmaceutical, which has faced sales-rep turnover of up to 60 percent annually, brought in new management to focus specifically on that attrition problem, figuring that if it could fix its sales turnover, it could boost sales in the country tenfold within five years. 

- see the Bloomberg story