Best Places To Work In Industry, 2005

place to work.

Maria Anderson
Jun 5, 2005

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Finding the Right FitIndustry jobs: The good, the bad, and the ugly(Theresa Tamkins)


TOP LEFT: Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Johnston, Iowa.

TOP RIGHT: Novo Nordisk, Maaloev, Denmark.

BOTTOM: Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Illinois

For the third year in a row, The Scientist has asked industry scientists to tell us what makes their company a great – or not so great – place to work. We took the factors scientists rated as the most important in terms of job satisfaction, and combined them with the scientists' ratings of their own workplaces. The result? The Best Places to Work in Industry, 2005.

Our survey found that scientists working in industry are much like their colleagues in academia: They need to be personally satisfied with the work they do every day, be it at the bench or behind a desk. "You feel that the work you do is important to the world's food supply," says one employee of Pioneer Hi-Bred International in Johnston, Iowa, which ranked second on our list of companies with more than 5,000 employees. "This is added incentive and purpose behind the work you do."

Other factors, such as feeling appreciated, being included in decision-making, and working at a company with a research mission that is logical and clear also made it into the top 10. Companies that foster a sense of teamwork (#10 on the list) came out on top, as did workplaces with coworkers who do their job with integrity and professionalism (#4 on the list).


"Everyone here has a respect for one another's abilities," says Orn Almarrson, senior director, TransForm Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Mass, which ranked second on the list of companies with less than 5,000 employees. "Collectively, we are strong scientifically, technically, and also operationally. We get things done together."

While scientists around the world generally agree on the key job-related factors, scientists in the United States are a bit more concerned about their company's ethical standards than their colleagues in Canada and Europe. Most scientists say a company's ethical standards are important, but US scientists rated it more highly – #2 on the list, versus #14 for those outside the United States. (When the results were combined, ethical standards ranked #3.)

Top 10 Factors

(ranked by importance)

1. Work is personally satisfying

2. Contributions to the team are appreciated

3. Company has high ethical standards

4. Colleagues do job with integrity and professionalism

5. Company research mission is logical and practical

6. Employees are included in decision-making that affects them

7. Improvements in capabilities/performance are recognized

8. Company offers adequate healthcare benefits

9. Company is concerned about maintaining morale

10. Company fosters spirit of teamwork

The reason for the difference is not clear, although US scientists have been exposed to a stream of bad news about corporate misbehavior and product problems, says Cynthia Robbins-Roth, founder of BioVenture Consultants in San Mateo, Calif., and author of Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower.

"I think that it's starting to affect employees in our sector," she says. "When things go wrong with our products, they have a pretty profound impact on people. For all of us as life scientists, we are very well aware that biology is incredibly complex, and that there are always some things you're not going to know about a product until it's out there in enough people. But, you like to think that the company in general is taking a positive ethical stance."

Another difference between US scientists and their non-US colleagues is a factor that has popped up in our surveys time after time: healthcare. In the United States, with its employer-provided benefits, healthcare is a key factor in worker satisfaction. In the United States, adequate employee healthcare was rated at #3, while adequate healthcare for the family came in at #5. In the rest of the world, employee and family healthcare ranked #36 and #39, respectively.

All scientists seemed to agree that some perks could make the difference between a so-so job and a great one. Although flextime, job-sharing, and vacations didn't make the top 10 (#36, #43, and #22, respectively), they are still important to employees around the world.

"Our company provides some additional small, but comforting benefits, such as renting summer houses for a very low price, and discounts in shops and services," says an employee of Novo Nordisk in Maaloev, Denmark, which ranked #4 on our list of large companies.


We posted a Web-based survey and invited industry-based readers of The Scientist in print and on the Web to respond. From more than 30,000 invitations, we received 1,560 useable responses from scientists in industry in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. We asked respondents to assess their work environments and experiences by indicating their level of agreement with 43 positive statements. In addition we asked respondents to rank the importance of each statement.

Genentech: Riding a Wave of Good News


Genentech is enjoying a wave of good news lately about its lineup of drugs, including Herceptin, Avastin, and Tarceva. Herceptin seems to help prevent recurrences in some breast cancer patients; Avastin can help patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who are at low risk of bleeding; and Tarceva can extend the lives of patients with pancreatic cancer when combined with another drug.

What's more, Genentech topped the list of our Best Places to Work in Industry. All this good news can leave employees feeling pretty pleased with themselves and their company.

"I think our success with Tarceva, if you compare it with say, Iressa, shows how well Genentech does at every step of the way, from research ... [to] how we run trials, how we pick the patients, how we analyze the data. We've been able to succeed in increasing survival in patients, where another drug that's similar has had a more difficult time," says Ellen Filvaroff, senior scientist at Genentech. "I'm really proud of that."

Filvaroff says Genentech is "distinctly different from most other companies, in many ways, in that we publish, we go to meetings and talk about it, that we have an academic environment, we have sabbaticals." CEO Art Levinson is "a real person who has values that are close to mine," she says. "I think it's important to work at a place where the value system is one that you believe in."

Consultant Cynthia Robbins-Roth, who worked for Genentech at the begining of her career, says she learned some valuable lessons when working for the biotech in the 1980s. "The big lesson I learned from Genentech was you can have the best science in the world, but if you don't get the people stuff right, it's essentially equivalent to having no technology."

- Theresa Tamkins

Companies were segregated into large (more than 5,000 employees) and small (fewer than 5,000 employees). Large companies with 10 or more responses and small companies with four or more responses were ranked. In order to calculate the overall rankings of institutions, we first weighted each factor based on the average importance score. The overall rankings were based on the average score per institution on all factors, weighted as described. Detailed information on the survey methodology is available here. Although our sample of scientists in industry was large, it was self-selected, and we have made no attempt to standardize the results or to do detailed statistical analysis.