Diversity is business for us: A Baxter International story
What are some of the trends that are affecting and shaping talent acquisition in the med tech/healthcare space? What TA practices is Baxter using?
Gautam Kumar: First and foremost, if you look at the global Med-Tech organizations, there is a war for cost efficiency which is getting exacerbated by the limited talent pool, especially in IT and R&D space. With this, talent play has become rigorous and also demanding in terms of hiring. This, in turn, is shaping many trends in the recruitment industry and one of the main impacts of this is on employer brand drivers that are becoming stringent. It is not about putting a brand statement or a value proposition out there anymore but about the niche experiences that employers create for employees. Another trend that is emerging is of organizations trying to strengthen their footprint in India while Indians aspiring to work for global organizations. That is the dichotomy which we are facing that has propelled discussions on how talent acquisition has to evolve in our industry. The other trend is that the Indian talent is looking to work in organizations that are tech-heavy and have started looking at the life part of the work. So, these are a few trends that are shaping recruitment in the med tech/Healthcare industry.
Ravinder Dang: In the context of Baxter’s TA practices, one theme that is playing out is what is called “flattening of the organization”. Since the last three years, as an organization, we have become less hierarchical which has lent a high level of empowerment among our employees and a greater visibility on talent review processes. The second dominant theme playing out is productivity, where we are trying to amplify the output out of the workforce. Productivity for us means looking at high performing talent, individuals who score better as team players and who can leverage resources and get better results and outcomes. The third theme which is playing out in Baxter is innovation. Innovation is linked to growth and acceleration essentially. When we look for talent, we typically look at four checks. The first check is leadership, which comprises the ability to influence outcomes, learning agility, and self-awareness. The second check is “Domain skills in talent” that is skills in the areas of operation. The third check is what I call “fungible skills”, which are basically strategy, planning, and process in certain areas. And the last but in my opinion, the most critical check is that of culture fit, which simply means assessing if the individual demonstrates one or more of our culture levers – act at speed, simplify the complex, have the courage to speak up and act as a good collaborator.
How is technology shaping talent acquisition practices in healthcare? What part do you see it playing when it comes to skilling employees?
Gautam Kumar: Our talent acquisition is AI led which is helping us to shape certain decisions in the selection processes and is generation neutral. For example, in Bengaluru, we are piloting with Sonru, technologies that are helping us get quality talent and enabling us to change the way we look at talent. Our go-to-market in talent has changed. Similarly, we are also getting into tech-driven assessment of talent.
Elaine Lin: AI has created an opportunity for us where we can now remove all barriers. A hiring manager may favor someone who came from the same university or has a bit of a similar background. But AI will look at all profiles that could be culturally fit. So the hiring manager will have to interview that person whether he wants that profile or not and that is a good thing.
What are some of the best practices that you follow for succession planning and leadership development?
Elaine Lin: Leadership development is crucial for us. For a significant period of time, our leadership programs were region-specific and comprised lecture-based teaching coupled with action learning projects. In terms of how many leaders we have created within the organization, our build percentage has been relatively higher than our buying percentage. However, at present, our focus has turned towards designing leadership programs at the global level and then implementing them at the local level. This is the direction towards which Baxter is moving forward. And to do that, one of the considerations has been to leverage technology for micro-learning pieces. Globally, we are also looking at enabling and strengthening personal leadership of employees through a global agile leadership program, a three-day simulation which focuses on business acumen, strategic mind-set, and other leadership competencies. Our program called Growing Emerging Leader or GEL is another 2-day program involving discussions about personal leadership, leadership journey, peer coaching, feedback, and 360 degree feedback session. We are also enabling leadership development by enabling learning through work or a project Assignment. From a formal organization structure, where the leader had the autonomy and the power over people reporting to him, we are moving to a more networked organization. Now leaders work through a network and influence each other to achieve alignment. So the focus now is on building trust, collaboration, and influencing each other.
With the high rate of innovation in the med tech/healthcare sector, how are you ensuring that employees are at the fore front in terms of skills and agility?
Elaine Lin: In terms of innovation, technology is one thing. The other is growing through innovation, which is one of our top four goals. We are looking at innovation across the whole organization in terms of process innovation, business model innovation, technology innovation, and therapy innovation. We are also looking at building innovation in attitudes, behaviors, and the overall culture.
Gautam Kumar: The solution for innovative technology is technology itself. But the real deal is to use technology to make employees innovative, informed, capable and agile in face of change. Learning agility is in the DNA of the organization.
Ravinder Dang: Baxter’s focus on upskilling is linked to the needs of our customer base. And this is done through a multi-pronged approach. Our teams are trained in consultative selling processes which is not about selling a pre-packaged solution but about identifying the needs of the customers and then configuring a solution for them. This is one type of upskilling that we do. The other type of upskilling relates to constantly refreshing the clinical skills of the employees. For sales and marketing too, we have a global process called “Bax Performer” (BaxP), a marketing template or process that enables employees to excel in marketing strategic planning and is led by APAC leaders.
The interesting thing in healthcare is if you are not moving with the customer, your curve flattens really fast. For us, upskilling is a continuous process both in terms of resourcing ourselves and shaping the agenda and hence, it is an aggressive play in the organization.
What has Baxter done differently in the diversity and inclusion space?
Elaine Lin: Our belief is to bring women on-board and offer opportunities to women to work and grow in Baxter, which is our key theme in APAC. In fact, we are focusing a lot on creating a diverse and inclusive environment in the organization to ensure that different opinions are brought on the table and see that as an organization, we are delivering better results. In the APAC region, we have a high number of women representatives at each level and we are doing better than our competitors. We have 50 percent women representatives across the whole level and at the VP level, we are about 30 percent. At the director level, we are about 40 percent.
If we look at the health care, especially, Baxter, our mission is to sustain and save people’s lives. There is a lot of emotional touch involved. And women are more connected by emotional touch. These days, more and more women get higher education and given the pivotal role that women play in a family, they tend to be “less aggressive” in changing jobs and tend to be more stable working in one company. This matches well with our business growth objective where we need dedicated employees, working consistently on continual education on therapy to doctors, nurses and patients.
Back in 2006, we started a program called Talent Edge across APAC region. Talent Edge has three components. One is the tone from the top, talk about women, promote more women leadership. The second is how to develop a woman leader where we target at least 50 percent of women representatives. The third piece is how to buy women talent from the market. So, if we have two shortlisted candidates and if the female candidate is equally good as the male, we give preference to her.
Ravinder Dang: Sometimes, intentions take longer to play out and good intentions do play out if you sustain them. In every kick-off, we do something called a “WIN forum” that is ‘Women-In-Action’. Earlier, the WIN format was for leadership roles only but with the conversations around diversity intensifying, we got the next level of key managers involved in this initiative.
Gautam Kumar: Diversity is business for us; It adds to our bottom-line. We see the linkage between diversity and business more as a correlation and not necessarily as causation, meaning that while we are committing to the cause of diversity and inclusion, we are not relying on it solely for that but we are seeing it more as an overarching principle that can help us reach our goal of being in top quartile companies when it comes to best places to work.
Our WIN forum was earlier for women only – to influence them particularly. But we realized that if we wanted change, we needed to influence men too. And this was a big realization for us. Sensitizing men was I think the game changer for diversity initiatives at Baxter. We are also focusing on women development specifically where we identify our women talent and get in a discussion with them on their career aspirations and identify mentors for them and see how as an organization we can give them the right amount and kind of support to succeed.
Also, when we did our attrition analysis for diverse talent, there was hardly any attrition. They were performing better than the rest, were more stable in the organization, and added more to the bottom-line. Thus, we started getting diverse talent, who in turn delivered more to the bottom line and made the organization more ethical. For us, it is not about following someone else’s initiative of being a diversity-led organization. It is pure business for us. Am I emulating any best practices? No. I don’t think so. It brings us profit. It is as simple as that.