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Techniques to upsurge employee engagement in pharma

Basuri Dutta
Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

In the last three decades, ever since liberalization came to India, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and biotechnology industry (hereby referred to as PHB industry) have failed to attract talent. Except for pharmacy graduates and people with a healthcare background, one doesn't come across new entrants to be a part of the industry. The feedback on the quality of employee experience has been unfavourable. And the situation remains the same, even after two years of Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest pandemic was a watershed event in human history. The industry received global attention. It grew, strengthened, and became more efficient and well-equipped to serve better. Despite everything success for this industry evades. It needs more time to maximize this near-perfect alignment of the variables required for its success. A highly engaged workforce is the fuel for its success, which is not the case currently, based on the data available from reliable sources.

Attrition or voluntary turnover is a good indicator of an industry's success and growth possibilities. The employees’ intention to stay with an organization for a long period is lower than the voluntary turnover of employees in industries with many new players in the market and ample new opportunities. However, this trend is different in the PHB industry; a lower attrition rate means that neither new players nor established firms are entering the market. As a result, the sector needs to prepare to take full advantage of government incentives.

The Great Place To Work study recognizes organizations that are built on the foundation of trust as great workplaces. Workplaces that use meaningful values and effective leadership along with trust maximize the human potential of the workforce, resulting in a culture of ‘Innovation by All’ and significant financial growth.

Contrary to the trends in most people-intensive industries, where favourable employee experience shows an upward trend, in the PHB industry, there is a drop in the rate of favourable employee experience. The areas where the perception of employees has dropped the most over the previous year are:

  • Fair rewards and gain sharing with employees.
  • Special and unique benefits to some employees.
  • Favouritism by managers while engaging with their team members.
  • Management integrity, they walk the talk.
This diminished quality of employee experience reported by employees in this industry over the last year can be boiled down to 3 factors:

A disconnect between the expectations of employees and the experience delivered by the employers/organizations.

There is much to be done when it comes to the healthcare sector in India. The quality of people practices are deficient; thus, the below-average quality of employee experience. However, the quality and maturity level of these practices in the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sector is significantly better and are among the best when compared with other industries. Yet, the employee experience is not in proportion. Moreover, this is the case across all parameters of great workplace culture including organizational values, maximizing the human potential of their workforce by providing a consistent experience, trust, leadership effectiveness, and lastly, a culture of innovation. The area with the largest disconnect and gap between the people practices and the employee experience is in creating a culture of innovation. For this industry building a culture of innovation is vital for its sustenance and enduring success.

What companies need to do
Organizations need to listen to their employees more in real time, as they would listen to their customers. Understand their employees’ profiles, offer a reasonable value proposition, and deliver consistently.

Need for enhanced leadership effectiveness
Leadership effectiveness is a crucial driver for the optimal employee experience in general and engagement at work. The PHB industry has much scope for improvement, especially in the healthcare sector.

While leaders in the PHB industry show competence in running the business and articulate the vision/purpose of the organization along with a practical blueprint to achieve it, they lack in making authentic connections with their people. These leaders are inaccessible and do not show any sincere interest or demonstrate care for their team members or work groups. Our data shows that the leadership effectiveness, for the PHB industry, has significant opportunities for improvement. By generating an ongoing discourse with employees, involving them in decisions that impact their job or work environment, leaders taking affirmative action on feedback received from across the organization, enabling candid communication in terms of employees' ability to ask reasonable questions and get straight answers, leaders can show genuine care for people they lead.

To make an effective leadership team, organizations must ensure that the leaders participate in the process of determining or developing their overall strategy, business direction, and goals. They should be ready to communicate that strategy/direction/goals to everyone ensuring all employees connect.

Creating a culture of innovation across the organization
Lastly, creating a culture of innovation is also significant in the PHB industry. However, this industry in India is neither at the top nor among the bottom rung. It is somewhere in the middle, and there is scope for this industry to ramp up its innovation velocity by creating a culture of ‘Innovation by All’. Positive employee experience can be generated in the organization through personal inspiration, where the management seeks ideas and suggestions from employees and then acts on them. Through organizational connection, where the management involves people in decisions that impact their job or work environment. As per Great Place To Work research, if individual inspiration and organizational connection are present in good measure then it results in building and sustaining a culture of innovation by all. Employees in these organizations endorse their respective organizations for celebrating innovation at work and providing opportunities for developing new and better ways of doing things.

Organizations need to bring about intentionality to creating and sustaining a culture of innovation. Innovation in the organization should result from a thought-through strategy of idea generation from across the organization. Through the culture of innovation, organizations not only spotlight new ideas and better ways of doing things that bring about real improvement to the organization's business performance but also incentivise, recognize and reward the behaviours that lead to innovation.  

So what differentiates the best from other workplaces?
The best workplaces are differentiated by a superior quality of employee experience fuelled by trust. The best workplaces in the PHB industry create a workplace culture where the zeitgeist is trust by delivering consistently on a suitable employee value proposition, through effective leadership, thereby resulting in a culture of ‘Innovation by All’.

Workplace equation
To thrive in India's current PHB industry, the fulcrum for organizations is three workplace culture facets. Employee trust or people are twice as important as leadership or innovation.

(Author is practice head, vice president of Great Place to Work India)


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