The Future of Incentive Compensation

Emerging pharma companies must work hard to fine-tune their incentive compensation plans today. But they also must keep a close eye on how changing industry dynamics will impact sales rep motivation and force changes in plan makeup in the coming years. With the increased availability of patient-level data, companies will have the opportunity to incorporate new metrics (e.g., the length of therapy adherence) into incentive compensation plans. Additionally, as key account manager roles grow, companies will need to structure plans for these individuals, whose activities, incentives, and goals often differ from traditional reps. And companies will need to continue to find ways to motivate reps as physicians further restrict access. Overall, the evolving health care system will add complexity to incentive compensation plans. It will be up to emerging pharma commercial leaders to ensure plans account for new metrics as well as the evolving roles within the sales force to maintain motivation and results.

Another key consideration is the generational mix of the sales force. Millennials are poised to comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, and pharmaceutical companies should respond accordingly, even if many of today’s high-performing reps remain baby boomers.

Though every individual is different, in general, individuals from various generations tend to be motivated in different ways. Of course, some of these differences are based on life stage more than generation. For example, a sales rep nearing retirement will naturally be more risk-averse than a rep in her 20s. However, there are documented variations in how individuals from different generations respond to incentives that companies should account for as they design incentive compensation plans.

Whereas baby boomers may seek more financial rewards, younger, millennial members of the sales force may seek more visible forms of recognition. As a result, companies should get creative when they reward these younger reps. Instead of simply dusting off traditional recognition tools like President’s Club, think about creating a “sharable” version of a reward trip. Consider announcing sales award winners on social media and encourage reps to share pictures from their award vacations with a custom hashtag. Evolving sales rewards to meet the needs of the younger generations will ensure an emerging pharma company is prepared to engage and retain reps as the generational mix of the sales force continues to change. At the same time, companies should retain traditional motivational techniques and plan types to ensure they continue to accommodate the motivational needs of the other generations in the sales force.