How we work can be as important as what we do

How should a company motivate and reward its employees for doing the right thing?

GSK is trying a new approach to encourage our employees to live our values – transparency, respect, integrity and focus on the patient – in all that we do every day. The stakes are high because doctors, patients and caregivers are depending on us to do more, feel better and live longer.

We have changed the standards by which we reward and incentivize our sales representatives, moving away from numbers of prescriptions sold to counting whether physicians, and in turn patients, are well served. This change sets us apart from other pharma companies and has changed the tone of our work.

Deirdre Connelly, our president of North America Pharmaceuticals, writes about the results and the challenges in a blog published today in the Harvard Business Review online.

More changes are on the horizon too. We announced in December that we will stop paying healthcare professionals to speak on behalf of our medicines. It is helpful for doctors to hear from their colleagues about the appropriate use of medicines, and to share insights that can only be gained through medical practice.  But paying doctors for this service who can also prescribe our medicines distracts some people from the message and allows questions to be raised about perception and motivation. 

We have committed to strengthen our own medical and scientific capability to lead engagement with doctors and to improve our multi-channel capability, including digital technology, to provide appropriate product and disease information to healthcare professionals in a more modern and convenient way by the start of 2016.

These changes compliment other steps we have taken to operate responsibly and meet the changing expectations of society.  We were the first in our industry to launch an online system to open up our clinical trial data to researchers (read about our recent commitments to that  and we’re delighted that other companies are now also adopting this approach to improve transparency. We have also pioneered efforts to make our medicines affordable and accessible to patients in the poorest countries in the world, for example in sub-Saharan Africa, and have topped the internationally recognised Access to Medicines Index three times in a row.

I’m sure these won’t be the last changes we’ll make in our business practices. We have to keep challenging ourselves to think differently and to listen closely and continuously to the expectations of our customers – doctors, patients and caregivers. If we keep our focus on the patient, we will respond with innovation and a sense of urgency.