The pharmaceutical industry in India has been constantly evolving, with new discoveries and innovations driving growth for the sector. Not unlike others, this industry has also been impacted in multiple ways by the onset of the pandemic. Nearly overnight, pharmaceutical companies were required to adopt new working models to fulfill changing consumer requirements. For instance, a shift to digital alternatives for purchase of medicines meant a switch to online processes for pharma companies to maintain productivity. Such shifts in business coupled with increasing competition have highlighted the need for a robust L&D function to help employees cope with an agile and ever-evolving work environment.
Especially in an industry as knowledge intensive as the pharmaceutical industry, continual learning and upskilling of employees is a must-have for companies. The National Skill Development Corporation of India reported a skills gap in human resources for the Indian pharma industry. As per the report, for profiles such as medical representatives, professionals possessed theoretical knowledge, but there was a lack of structured training required for this role. Additionally, for managerial roles such as sales manager, there was a shortage of technical skills and consistent training to remain updated on the latest norms. Hence, pharma companies need to constantly assess and calibrate individual roles and the skill sets needed to perform those roles, thus helping to tailor L&D initiatives for specific needs.
Why learning and development will be key for pharma companies
According to cloud and virtualization provider Citrix’s report on Work 2035, the workplace of the future is a reimagined amalgamation of humans and robots, where leaders and workers will follow episodic trajectories, swarming through short term projects with other specialized freelancers. The workers of the future will be hired by AI, inducted by AI, will interact with some colleagues and the process of learning and development will be automated, highly personalized, and asynchronous.
While the pharma industry is a more traditional one, we are nonetheless in the midst of a constant onslaught of new products and technologies entering the market, and an emphasis on skill development which can support innovation becomes imperative. In India, one of the challenges limiting the growth of R&D is the restricted availability of talent with the requisite expertise, skills, and training. A lack of skilled manpower can prove to be a hindrance in the long-term productivity and growth of the company.
This conundrum offers a unique opportunity for the Indian pharma industry to redefine processes and transform their approach towards learning and development. With employees also looking for opportunities to learn and grow, and a commitment from employers willing to invest in their individual development, a renewed approach towards L&D can help attract and retain top talent. Additionally, motivating and engaging employees through continual learning can also help maximise employee satisfaction.
New technologies require new skills
Between the growing impact of automation and the remote work revolution, to the rise of virtual medicine, autonomous vehicles, and digital currency, the next decade on the job—and off—could look very different from the last. Technology adoption across the pharma value chain, right from research & development to manufacturing and supply chain management has grown tremendously. Companies are using various technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation (RPA) to enhance product quality, maximise productivity, and improve customer experience. Such disruptors can lead to an increase in the skills gap.
The pharma landscape is changing and there is opportunity to drive customer centricity by building relationship management skills, digital fluency, data driven insights and key account management capabilities. We need to use technology to solve some of the repetitive tasks and improve productivity.
We also need to build enterprise leaders as they are critical for organizational success. Leaders who can connect the dots, have systems thinking approaches and are high on emotional intelligence.
Organisations need to brace themselves for this transition and invest in training programs and collaborative learning to support their employees through this transformation. These programs can help employees enhance their potential while helping companies leverage these technologies to drive innovation and long-term growth.
Building tech-savvy and future-ready L&D teams
The pandemic has accelerated the use of online learning platforms, and workers across the world have taken to this trend. In fact, US-based ed-tech platform Coursera claims that the second-largest population of learners on the platform are Indians.
As we guide our employees to work and train digitally, it is equally important that we prepare our L&D teams to be future ready and digitally-savvy. Today’s learners prefer shorter, engaging learning modules and resources which are conveniently accessible online. Thus, equipping L&D teams with the requisite resources to leverage technology to cater to these needs and maximise impact will be critical.
We need to create a learning organization by building and adopting a future learning model consisting of platforms, digital, customized learning experience. The most difficult part is driving the behavioral shifts, agile ways of working driving cross functional collaboration.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, it is imperative for pharma companies to address the skills gap in innovative ways thereby enabling improved employee engagement in an ever-evolving work ecosystem. With job roles evolving constantly, consistent learning and development can help equip employees with the right skills to foster career growth. Further, given the degree of reliance on technology post the onset of the pandemic, reskilling of employees will be critical to engage and retain talent while empowering employees to take on new responsibilities. Organisations that see this implementation through will have the added advantage of enabling long-term growth for their business while cementing their commitment to employee growth.