Last September, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan–just a few months after taking the reins at the pharmaceutical giant–announced a plan to reduce the company’s total workforce by almost 20%. According to the plan, most of the layoffs would be focused on improving efficiencies in Novartis’s manufacturing operations, Since then, job profile data suggests that the company has indeed been shedding employees, but not just in manufacturing roles. In particular, the number of scientists employed at the firm has dropped rather significantly.

Novartis – Scientist Employee Headcount Over Time

Source: Revelio Labs

This is not exactly a new phenomenon–headcount in scientist roles has been trending downward since 2014–but the pace at which employees are leaving has increased since last year’s announcement. The trend also appears to be specific to Novartis, as attrition rates for scientist roles at a number of the firm’s competitors have actually dropped in the last year.

Novartis – Comparison of Attrition Rate Among Scientists Compared to Peers

Source: Revelio Labs

This development may be particularly concerning given that Novartis started with far fewer scientists on the payroll than its competitors, especially Pfizer. 

Novartis – Scientist Employee Headcount Compared to Peers

Source: Revelio Labs

These figures raise questions about the restructuring underway at Novartis. Did management misrepresent the nature of the planned layoffs, or are scientists’ exodus an unexpected result of unhappiness with the plan, or is the trend entirely coincidental? In either case, stakeholders may wish to keep an eye on Novartis–particularly the company’s drug pipeline–to watch for signs of declining performance in the wake of these departures.

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