Raja Jamalamadaka, MD, Roche Information Solutions India, in an exclusive interaction with People Matters, explains how his company recognised the power of individual agency and trust, relinquishing traditional work patterns for a more dynamic approach. By allowing staff members to determine their work models, collaborate on their terms, and define their own productivity strategies, the company not only elevated employee trust but also cultivated a high-performance culture. This unique strategy not only bolstered productivity but also instilled a sense of ownership, adaptability, and innovation, effectively shaping a workforce equipped to thrive in the face of evolving challenges.
Can you discuss any strategies or programs your organisation has implemented to attract and retain top talent in the healthcare industry?
In the healthcare industry, the full potential of digital insights has largely remained untapped due to the dual reason of the industry’s slower pace of digital adoption and the fragmented nature of healthcare systems. Building successful digital solutions to market in this industry needs a combination of a real-time pulse of the market, execution agility, domain expertise, and the best digital talent. Aware of this dynamic, we – at Roche’s Pune site - started out with a clear vision of building a hi-tech digital center of excellence that would be working on cutting-edge healthcare digital solutions – cost arbitrage wasn’t our foundational base at all. To attract the top talent that would help fulfill our vision, we recognised early in our journey that a clear employee value proposition would be vital to attracting and then retaining talent. A separate sprint helped us to come up with key Indian specific differentiators that would serve as the pillars of our employee value proposition in India –
1. Stability is the strongest value proposition for our employees.
2. The Pune site’s clear growth path would help people grow with the organisation
3. Compelling mission of saving patient lives
4. Laser sharp focus on building industry-leading products that are the future of healthcare rather than just developing projects addressing past requirements
5. Market-linked compensation and non-monetary benefits
6. A partnership (as opposed to a customer/vendor) relationship with our parent Roche that opened a plethora of global opportunities for everyone.
7. A clear purpose fit as our cornerstone of the hiring process– we hire people whose personal purpose aligns with that of Roche. We were clear on NOT hiring purpose misfits, even if they were excellent skill fits. This specific point was a clear differentiator in an industry focused on hiring just skill fits.
The above was woven into a crisp message that was fine-tuned until it chimed with our target talent set and helped us ramp up to 320 employees within 2 years of incorporation.
As talent started coming up, we needed an equally clear roadmap to retain this top talent and we didn’t want to leave it to chance. An introspection sprint helped us narrow down our retention pillars as below –
1. Right from the beginning, we chose not to provide just a job – we helped our staff craft a long-term career, focused on moving from just leveraging “experience” to achieving “potential”. Among others, this approach involved focus on coaching and mentorship and personalised career plans. Some of Roche and the industry’s top mentors were made available to our staff. We also encouraged our employees to choose and follow any of the multiple career paths – technical, management, hybrid or a personal one aligned to organisational needs but based on individual preferences. We allowed people to pace the plans to suit individual preferences and personal situations.
2. Appreciating that top talent thrives in an innovative environment, we sought to provide opportunities for thought leadership to everyone – regardless of experience. This threw open opportunities to speak at reputed industry forums, write in respected journals, and get invited to prestigious events to even the youngest of our associates – something that was a major draw for our staff.
3. Recognising the need to satisfy curiosity, we also adopted a principled approach to broaden horizons – academic partnerships, startup associations, tie-ups with industry bodies and freedom for staff to leverage prestigious publications for self-paced learning.
4. All along, we maintained clear communication lines – from top leadership and local site leadership to cross-team communication and bottom-up messaging through Speak-up channels. This helped reduce stress, liberating positive energy to focus on work.
5. We also were quick in understanding the seismic shifts towards new ways of working and future of work and quickly adopted the hybrid work model
6. A balance of work, fun, CSR and community clubs helped people find meaning beyond work.
All of these played a key role in retaining talent,
How do you ensure that your organisation has a diverse and inclusive workforce, and why is this important for success in the healthcare sector?
Diversity & Inclusion is vital in a healthcare digital organisation for a variety of reasons, some of which are -
1. Stronger employee engagement
2. Increased (internal and external) customer satisfaction
3. More inclusive results that help design products for a diverse patient population – after all, healthcare isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry.
4. Enhanced innovation due to diversity of thoughts and perspectives – this is a vital in a digital center like ours
5. An inclusive culture attracts the best industry talent that is the foundation of a high performing digital center of innovation.
Here are some initiatives to maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce –
1. Periodic Awareness sessions -– to explain the importance of D&I to the entire workforce
2. Monthly Dialogue circles- Friendly conversations on taboo topics and on-the-ground concerns
3. Bi-monthly theme driven Fun Events – that highlight importance of D&I in a fun setting
4. Needs-driven Formal Trainings – to train everyone and particularly leaders on this topic
5. One-on-one coaching – at leadership levels for a deep intervention
6. Deep-dives – to address specific topics for a micro group in a relaxed setting
7. Measured Metrics – Metrics is the key to improvement. The right metrics measured at the right frequency in the right forums is a good reflection of the ground situation and can help plan timely interventions.
Can you discuss any data or metrics that your organisation tracks to measure workforce readiness and adaptability to change?
We measure workforce readiness and an employee’s adaptability to change is measured by two ways:
Forward-Looking - We routinely measure a transformation maturity score – through a series of questions, this score measures the readiness of individuals, teams, and entire organisations to accept transformation - a key ingredient of change. This is a forward-looking metric that shows how ready staff is to face future changes.
Retrospective - We also measure the change adaptation explicitly using a survey tool called GEOS – a survey driven by GLINT. This helps us undertake scores at all levels of granularity. GEOS is a retrospective metric that shows how staff actually faced up to changes.
The two scores read as together presents a holistic change metric that has helped us track and measure workforce readiness and adaptability to change.
How does your organisation approach talent development and career growth for healthcare professionals, and what opportunities are available for ongoing learning and development?
We follow six different approaches to talent development and career growth –
Focus on Potential Vs Experience - Right from the beginning, we chose not to provide just a job – we help our staff craft a long-term career, focused on moving from just leveraging past “experience” to achieving future “potential”. Among others, this approach involved focus on coaching and mentorship and personalised career plans. This way we managed to focus on learning as a continuous journey rather than as a destination.
Personalised Career plans- We also encourage our employees to choose and follow any of the multiple career paths – technical, management, hybrid or a personal one aligned to organisational needs but based on individual preferences. We allowed people to pace the plans to suit individual preferences and personal situations. These approaches helped keep the staff inspired and in a learning zone.
Focus on Thought Leadership - Appreciating that top talent thrives in an innovative environment, we sought to provide opportunities for thought leadership to everyone – regardless of experience. This threw open opportunities to speak at reputed industry forums, write in respected journals and get invited to prestigious events to even the youngest of our associates – something that was a major draw for our staff.
Broadening Horizons - Recognising the need to satisfy curiosity, we also adopted a principled approach to broadening horizons – academic partnerships, startup associations, tie ups with industry bodies and freedom for staff to leverage prestigious publications for self-paced learning.
Meaningful Association - The value in the adage “You are as good as your association” appealed to our staff- and we focused on providing high quality association through leveraging Indian digital industry’s communities together with Roche’s rich internal ecosystem. In addition to the rich association, this approach helped staff stay curious and in the know of things.
Metrics- Lastly we stopped measuring talent development merely in terms of “training dollars per staff member”, instead we spent time on tailoring training to individuals’ purpose and measuring its impact through GEOS score that measured growth and empowerment in line with one’s goals.
How does your organisation approach workforce planning and talent management, and what strategies have been most effective in ensuring a future-ready workforce?
Two important aspects among many others, to run a successful organisation includes talent management and workforce planning.
We take the future of work very seriously at Roche and we even believe that the future is already here. Aware that needs of the workforce have changed, we conducted an internal study that showed us 5 areas that staff especially valued post pandemic –
- Purpose alignment
- Meaning at work and beyond
- Ongoing learning
- Positive Relationships
Combining the above, we came up with a theme that addresses these in the new ways of working -“Uncover the Why, Co-create the What and autonomy in How and Where to staff”.
What this means is leaders actively work with staff to identify the purpose alignment - through a series of introspection exercises designed to help people identify how well they identify and align with the company’s purpose. We found renewed engagement in staff once this exercise was completed. However, this was an ongoing exercise executed often to ensure staff doesn’t miss its purpose. We call this “Uncover the Why”.
With the purpose in place, leaders jointly work with staff to co-create the “what” i.e. what products/solutions/actions are to be undertaken to meet the “why”. Here, we recognized that staff members merely don’t want to be lectured on what to do, instead they appreciate the opportunity of participating in discussions to jointly create i.e. co-create the solutions. This gives a renewed sense of meaning and autonomy to staff members.
With this completed, we recognised the benefit in letting staff decide WHERE they want to work and HOW they want work completed.
We believe that in the new normal, an office is NOT a place where work is done, an office is a “experience” and “ecosystem” zone – a place where people experience the culture and the big picture of Roche and embrace the rich ecosystem.
As a result, we never enforced any work pattern on anyone except those mandated by regulatory/legal needs. Staff members chose the work model (hybrid etc), the number of days, the collaboration models, the necessary trainings and work approaches that would stoke their productivity. Surprisingly, this enhanced trust to high levels and staff made the right decisions of work locations without explicitly being told to do so. Since staff members felt tremendously empowered, these approaches also helped establish a high performance culture characterised by high productivity, enhanced trust, reduced barriers to execution, a self-starter mindset, adaptability to changes, a high risk tolerance and an overall feeling of working at a great place. We actually measure all these parameters using our internal GEOS tool.
All of the above approaches have helped create a future ready workforce. In fact, we treat our “great place to work” certification - received within a year of incorporation as testimony to the success of this model.
Can you discuss any specific challenges or opportunities that your organisation has faced in building and maintaining a high-performing healthcare workforce?
We faced several challenges on our journey to building a high performing culture but we can highlight two of them -
Challenges of status quo - At one point on our journey when we assessed that we had met our internally defined metrics of a high-performing culture, we maintained the status quo. This clearly turned out to be both a challenge and an opportunity – our internal clients soon noticed a gradual decline in standards despite us running the same initiatives at the site. This led us to learning that a high performing culture is not a stagnant goalpost but a moving one. We seized the opportunity to rethink Initiatives, sharpen metrics and retrain leaders to prevent a gradual erosion of values and decline in standards of our workforce.
Our key learning here was that there is no status quo in a high performing workforce – reinvention and continuous evolution is the key.
Micro-cultures - Every organisation has micro-cultures within the broader culture and we were no exception. However, given the multitude of teams at our site and the global reporting, our site leaders noticed a wide diversion in workforce performance and culture from the median. While we never sought to homogenise (our heterogeneity was the strength of our site), we weren’t ready for such a wide dispersion. The dispersion led to a wide variety of deliverable quality and a differentiated employee experience that wasn’t always optimal.
We soon worked on a separate exercise identifying our site values and the right mix of homogenisation and heterogenisation. While we still haven’t hit the sweet spot, we now have a better recognition of the challenges in maintaining a high-performing workforce in a global setup.
There were several other opportunities but our single biggest learning was that a high-performing workforce or culture is difficult to build, and even more difficult to sustain.