MSL Titling - A Retention Tool

A common question I field from thoughtful Pharmaceutical Companies is “How are companies with the best retention tiering and titling their MSL teams?”

What I’ve seen from the top companies is that they utilize a three, or in some cases, a four-tier MSL titling structure. Today, I’ll be going over the structures I’ve seen and how having such a structure can be a great retention tool.

Experienced MSLs on the team can become slightly disgruntled if someone without experience comes in with the same titles as they have.

The MSL role is a great one, but it doesn’t promote a lot of career growth or trajectory. I heard one candidate tell me one time, “An MSL is the best dead-end job in the world!”  To avoid your MSLs feeling like they are in a dead-end scenario, below is how a four-tier structure could look like for your company:

The first level would be “Associate MSL." This is would be for a person who comes to your company with no prior functional experience.  Why is this a good idea?  Well, what I’ve seen is other experienced MSLs on the team can become slightly disgruntled if someone without experience comes in with the same titles as they have.  My advice is to have a distinctly different level for someone without prior experience.

The second tier is “Medical Science Liaison,” which is a role that would be fulfilled by someone with more than two or three years of MSL experience. This title is a good fit for someone who isn’t at an introductory level but isn’t quite at a senior-level either.

The third tier is customarily referred to as a “Senior MSL.” This would be for someone with more than three to five years of experience who is taking on extra projects and responsibilities.

The fourth tier is the role of “Executive MSL” or “Principal MSL.” This level of liaison is typically for those with more than eight years of experience. Some companies only keep this distinction for people within their company, meaning they wouldn’t bring an outside person in at this level.   

Along with ratcheting up the titles, here are some other incentives that will keep your MSL team engaged and striving for the next level:

1.     Increased salary band. I see most companies have a salary-band increase per level of MSL.

2.     Increased bonuses. Similarly to a raise in pay, a boost in bonuses will provide positive reinforcement as someone advances in title.  Related, some companies give additional stock options or grants according to the level of MSL as part of their annual bonus package.

3.     Increased responsibilities. As a person advances through the tiers, give them additional responsibilities to keep them stimulated. For example, you may consider having higher-level MSLs train those at a lower tier.  Additionally, you could have the senior-most MSLs be part of the interview panel that chooses other liaisons for the team.

If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 

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