Wallet opened in fight for people BioReliance gives raises to 80% of its U.S. employees

Skilled workers in demand

The workplace

September 24, 1998|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

BioReliance Corp. has raised the pay of 80 percent of its U.S. employees under a salary-adjustment plan started a year ago to bolster the biotechnology company's recruiting and retention efforts.

The Rockville company, which earned $2.3 million on $25 million VTC in sales in the first half of this year, began the program because of increasing pressures from high-technology recruiting firms and competitors looking to entice key employees to jobs with higher salaries, said the company's president and chief executive officer, Capers McDonald.

"The market for some types of skilled people has become very tight," McDonald said. "We are noticing a lot of pressure, for example, from other high-tech firms in the Northern Virginia area. We had to come up with a strategy to deal with that because, after all, we are a service business based on people."

About 240 of the company's 350 workers in Maryland were affected by the program. While pay increases ranged from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, the average boost was $2,000. Similar pay increases were given to the company's United Kingdom-based employees last year.

Robert Eaton, a spokesman for MdBio Inc., a Maryland biotechnology industry group in Frederick, said it found in a first-time study of the industry to be published next week that the average annual pay at service-based biotechnology firms in Maryland is $40,100.

The pay increases were made after a case-by-case review, and were based on several factors including skill, merit, industry averages and competition factors.

"We view this as an investment in people," McDonald said.

"We want to provide competitive salaries, as well as career advancement and job training opportunities. People in this industry want a chance to grow professionally, and we recognize that.

"The bottom line is we want BioReliance to be known as a difficult place to recruit from." While employee turnover rates at BioReliance vary by actual job classification, the turnover rate for laboratory workers averages about 15 percent, McDonald said.

Reducing that and turnover in other areas should help cut costs of recruiting and training new employees, he said.

The company, which provides testing and manufacturing services for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, also embarked on the salary-adjustment program to help recruit workers, particularly those with financial, accounting, laboratory, sales and information technology skills.

The U.S. pay increases will add $550,000 to the Rockville company's operating costs in 1999, the company said.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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