Article: AstraZeneca’s Anuradha Kumar on how to foster a people-first culture


AstraZeneca’s Anuradha Kumar on how to foster a people-first culture

Improving employee experience will continue to be the focus area for AstraZeneca through talent development, focused learning, and development sessions among others, says Anuradha Kumar, Associate Director HR.
AstraZeneca’s Anuradha Kumar on how to foster a people-first culture

The changing landscape of the work and work culture has brought employees to the centre stage. Companies are putting their efforts to ensure a seamless experience for their existing and new employees. Anuradha Kumar, Associate Director HR- AstraZeneca, shares how her company made it a priority to offer balanced and compelling well-being programmes to its people.

What were your top learnings in 2022 and how are you planning to build on these and use them to add value for this year?

Talent attraction and retention continue to be key focus areas owing to the change in external market trends. Also, ensuring a strategy to support our efforts to be a Great Place to Work since we recognise our people as our greatest asset.

The impact of the pandemic created a need for a flexible working model. The employees’ expectations of “how we work” emerged quite strongly. Thus came the emergence of the hybrid work model. Another key focus was ‘how do we support’ employees in providing well-being programmes that are balanced and compelling. Besides, ‘how do we make a mindset’ shift in embracing an inclusive approach is another focus area for us.

This year, we will continue to build on perfecting our hybrid model, strengthening utilisation of the well-being programmess with a specific focus on mental well-being and using the power of global diversity.

What are the top changes introduced to promote people-first culture at your organisation in recent years? How do you plan to retain them?

At AstraZeneca, like many organisations, we kept in mind that one important factor for the benefit of our employees is improving employee experience. Important milestones, from the candidate’s journey into onboarding and induction to career development were prioritised.

  • Talent Development through on-the-job experiences - We offered short-term/developmental roles that could be global in nature but can be performed from any location (plan100/secondments/gigs).
  • Focused Learning and Development sessions – ‘Empowerment program’ that focuses on empowering women across levels to succeed at the workplace. Leadership Development Programs, Virtual Development Centers and other global programs introduced to promote people-first culture.
  • Lifelong Learning – Revised continuing Education program (CEP) and certification policy on management/technical/functional courses aligned to individual development plan.
  • We also monitored the benefits that could be offered to employees to ensure we enable an inclusive and diverse workplace.
  • Inclusive benefits – Adoption leave of 26 weeks for the primary care giver, increase in paternity leave from 5 to 10 days, reimbursement of creche services in addition to onsite daycare centers.
  • Sensitization sessions to embrace LGBTQIA / Differently abled and neurodiverse individuals and Celebration of Pride Day.
  • We promote a culture of speaking up so employees feel psychologically safe where employees feel empowered to raise ideas, opinions, concerns or constructive feedback; and challenge behaviours not aligned with our values.
  • All our people policies and practices are designed keeping in mind the need to sustain with the intent of making AstraZeneca a great place to work.


Highlight the areas of concern related to people and hiring that need to be addressed in 2023.

Candidate experience: We aim to continue to focus on candidate and hiring manager experience. Ensuring that we deliver a great experience at the point of hiring helps candidates get off to the best possible start to their life at AstraZeneca.

Onboarding: We aim to make a great first impression, integrate them into our culture and deliver onboarding in a way that reflects our employer brand promise.

Another area to focus on is attracting and retaining Millennials and Gen Z. The need to embrace different generations while making them feel valued. With different generations being a part of organisations, we observe the changing and evolving needs, especially with young talent. A majority prefer to be a part of an organisation in which they look for shared purpose and experiences to be individualised and flexibility and benefits to fit their lifestyle. As an organisation, we need to ensure that their time in the workplace is the best time ever spent. A sense of confidence and achievement needs to be imbibed in them, that they can derive the best of the best by working in the organisation.

Upskilling and talent development in lieu of talent scarcity is another factor that needs to be taken into utmost consideration. It’s important that we find ways to build opportunities for talent building and establishing means to upskill and reskill talent. Based on future requirements, certain skill sets, either borrowed or developed can be used to develop talent. We, at AstraZeneca follow a landscape that allows team members to upskill themselves with technology offerings and education programs for building the required important skillsets. These are the priorities that we look forward to meeting with, in the coming years.

Leaders are having difficulty persuading top talent to join their organisation, what is your suggestion to talent leaders to avoid the risk of losing  the battle for talent to competitors?

Strategies to attract talent vary based on the organisational outlook. Some commonly used methods include showcasing the employer brand. Create an EVP that represents the value that your organistion has to offer its employees.

Focussing on what matters to the candidate. 1) about the organisation : purpose, growth, and values.  2) role, culture and experience. Make sure the recruitment marketing campaigns be it online or print include authentic stories that highlight employee spotlights on career journey, recognition, various forms of engagement from the organization.

Allowing candidates to understand that your organisation is driven by values and how they are embedded in all systems and processes will be an added advantage.

The job description needs to be clear and enticing so that the candidate has a clear understanding of the roles, skills and experience needed.

Hiring managers play a key role throughout the recruitment process. Talent leaders can invest in developing the hiring managers to understand the process and own the experience to recruit a new hire.  It is essential for hiring managers and recruitment teams to have the same process and experience when recruiting their new hire.

Designing a pre-onboarding programme after a candidate accepts the employment offer to establish the connection between the organisation and candidate. To a great extent, this puts the candidates at ease before they start working.

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Topics: #Culture, Employee Relations, Employee Engagement, #Work Culture

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