Change champions from top life sciences companies discussed how to manage the constant wave of change pharma marketing teams are facing at the Pharma Marketing Network’s 2022 Future Forecast on January 25th. Here are the top three things to know about preparing your pharma marketing team for change in 2022:

1. Your marketing best practices still apply!

Many of the tactics good marketers use to win customers’ hearts and minds are equally applicable to the change-weary employee. Brooke Fleming, Head of Omnichannel Marketing and Digital Enablement at UCB, said, “we value patient-centricity and HCP-centricity, and similarly when it comes to change, it is important to put employees at the center. As we know, customer experience journeys are not linear, so we need to take that same perspective when it comes to understanding our employees.”

After all, measuring and improving customer experience isn’t all that different from measuring and improving employee experience—in fact, change managers often have more and better data than marketers. According to Gina Arangio, Head of Change Management in the Office of the CEO at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), “I would put a marketing professional in a Change role any day of the week and twice on Sunday! We have a human-centric change model at GSK. We apply CX principles to Employee Experience…. We are data-driven, we do the research. We ask employees how they would like to consume information. We do empathy maps and journey maps which allows us to be targeted to individuals for better uptake of change.” Personalization is a big trend in pharma marketing—and also a great tool when planning for change.

2. Confront change fatigue with empathy.

According to Gartner, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused our ability to accept change to decrease by 50% over the past two years. Change fatigue can soon set in for even the most open-minded employees if we don’t make a concerted effort to manage change effectively. Shetal Vyas, Vice President of Operations at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, said, “To be able to say, ‘We are in it together’ builds trust and confidence because we are in this together. We have to acknowledge that we are working with only the facts we know today. There will be continuous change. Set that expectation upfront and get people comfortable with that.”

Change is a fact of the workplace, and companies have to make frequent changes based on a range of uncontrollable factors: market trends, consumer preference, talent needs, and many more. What companies can do, according to Vyas, is, “[make] decisions based on a rational, data-driven approach but execute them in a humane way.” Leading with empathy builds the trust needed for effective change, and it also builds team spirit that makes your organization better and more collaborative for the long run.

3. Never underestimate the power of diverse voices.

Incorporating diverse points of view is the key that makes change stick. According to Arangio, “The days of big three-year change plans developed in a closed room is out the window now.” Engaging your employees at different levels to co-create—and take ownership of—change solutions creates the conditions for durable change.

Fleming described her idea of best practice, saying, “There is something beautiful about the diversity of thinking that comes from bringing folks to the table…. I love the idea of co-creation. It is super important to be able to fail fast, then stand up, dust off, and move forward. Where we can keep momentum is where you see change. We need to create openness to ideas and to seeing things in a different way, even with a plan in place.” It can be hard to operationalize this because of the confidentiality of many changes before they’re widely announced, but Vyas has a tip for the change-savvy pharma marketer, saying, “We build subsets of employees at all levels. We have listening groups so we can take insights and considerations to the executive level.” It turns out focus groups are a key part of agile change.

Change may start at the top, but it can only last if it’s built from the bottom up.


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