Article: On navigating talent challenges at the forefront of the pandemic: Cipla’s Dr. Raju Mistry

Talent Management

On navigating talent challenges at the forefront of the pandemic: Cipla’s Dr. Raju Mistry

From ensuring uninterrupted supply of medicines to prioritizing the health and wellbeing of the employees, while keeping their morale high, Cipla’s Global Chief People Officer talks about navigating unique talent demands.
On navigating talent challenges at the forefront of the pandemic: Cipla’s Dr. Raju Mistry

From producing life supporting drugs to enabling the supply chain for global vaccines, Cipla is one of the major pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of tackling the COVID19 pandemic. In this exclusive interview with People Matters, the company’s President and Global Chief People Officer, Dr. Raju Mistry talks about how the company realigned their talent priorities to accelerate the efforts to fight the pandemic.

1. Cipla is one of the companies that is producing essential COVID19 drugs including Tocilizumab, Remdesivir. Could you talk about the top talent priorities during this time?

We are in the business of saving lives and true to our philosophy of ‘Caring for Life’ our colleagues demonstrated extraordinary dedication to help combat the challenges that we faced during COVID-19. 

Being a part of an industry that is at the forefront of battling against the pandemic, we have to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medicines for critical treatments and access to COVID-19 drugs while ensuring that our employee health and wellbeing is not compromised and that their morale is kept high. 

While its critical for us to ensure optimum attendance at the manufacturing plants for uninterrupted production, what made me feel immensely proud was the bold response that we have received from our Ciplaites who stepped up for the cause of patient care and safety. They embraced the challenge that COVID-19 posed and showed up for work to make a positive difference to the millions of lives that Cipla impacts. 

2. When you think of the COVID-19 portfolio that Cipla is currently working on. What are the talent/ workforce needs at the moment and in the near future?

Well, I think an organisation with a diverse talent pool not only makes for good social sense but also good business sense. With diverse mindsets at the table, a company can operate in an all- encompassing way rather than taking a traditional approach to their decisions, which is necessary with the evolving times. For example, at Cipla, we have always believed in having a diverse talent pool that is helping us evolve from being a drug manufacturer to a holistic healthcare solutions provider.

Working through a global pandemic has highlighted the need for agility and the ability to unlearn and re-learn. These will be crucial focus areas to achieve long term success for individuals as well as organizations. We are also experiencing rapid change in the Phygital work environment in which the Sales forces are now operating globally. It has been an interesting journey to see how technological prowess is rapidly becoming a key differentiator in the overall value that Cipla brings to customers.

3. How did you overcome / are still working on the challenges of scaling up your efforts – including hiring at scale, training efficiency and focusing on quality? 

To address the challenges we faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we lay our focus on three key steps to attain efficiency:

Training: At Cipla, Learning & Development (L&D) has always been a key enabler of creating a future ready organization. The objective of our L&D interventions is to support technical, functional and leadership development opportunities. In terms of adoption, employees have responded positively to change, and the global roll-out of the new learning management systems has further helped to ease the transition and provide access to virtual learning. Additionally, modules to coach the trainers for best practices in facilitating virtual sessions are also a part of our virtual learning strategy. 

Hiring : In corporate roles, we have been able to broaden the horizon of search for talent, owing it to the work-from-anywhere compatible roles and our hybrid working model. For other roles, we looked at local hiring due to limitations of mobility. 

Focus on Quality: Quality of talent is of paramount importance to us since our products are closely associated with the well-being of patients. It is crucial that hiring is equally supported by employee well-being. For this cultural and technical assimilation, our on-boarding process MiCipla was digitized. We have been working towards a global platform for on-boarding and induction for employees, one that provides a seamless experience globally to everyone. The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and has also helped us enrich the program further. 


4. What was the role of technology in meeting your workforce needs, and in supporting your employees in their day to day work?

The work-from-anywhere approach was adapted to, very well by our corporate employees. Now, in our second year of ‘work-from-anywhere’ we can see how this approach allowed us to leverage our digital strength and use it as an enabler for future readiness across functions – from Finance, Supply Chain, HR, Manufacturing and Sales. 

Additionally, we have also worked on a dedicated intervention for Digital Learning. As a part of this program, employees across the organization are undergoing various training interventions ranging from– self-paced self-learning, online programs, digital content on specific topics like AI, ML and VR to name a few. 

Cipla University’s digital learning platform Percipio has also played a significant role in providing continuous real-time access to employees for learning material on a wide variety of topics. On an average, about 12000 employees access nearly 3000 courses every month.

Some additional areas where technology has enabled workforce management: 

  • Daily health declaration app (detailed later in response to COVID management)
  • Hybrid Working: MiSpaces app for aiding safe utilization of workspace
  • Global adoption of MS Teams in a span of 7-10 days was a game changer in continuing the uninterrupted business momentum
  • Digitization of L&D
  • Launch of app and portal for managing employee queries 24x7 with help of a chatbot
  • Management of vaccination drives across India

Technology, automation and hybrid work models will continue to work in industries where business functions are not impacted. The onset of the pandemic led to a shift in our trainings from classroom sessions to digital, including the on-boarding module. In many cases, the content design was revamped to drive engagement in the absence of class-room engagement. So far, about 24 programs have been digitized. 

5. What are some of the efforts that you have taken to support your employees during the pandemic? Which of your initiatives has been the most impactful?

We constituted a special COVID-19 taskforce to put health protocols in place like daily health monitoring, sanitization, provision of safety gear and preventing surface contact, appropriate social distancing, ensuring ease of commute and more. Amidst the surging cases of the second wave of the pandemic, we set up mediclaim and COVID-19 insurance for all our on-roll and off-roll employees. In terms of on-ground help, we helped our employees with getting access to critical medical facilities like doctor consultations, ambulances, quarantine centres, hospital beds, oxygen across 17 states, in 28 locations in the country. We also set up COVID-19 Care Centres across all our sites for our employees. 

We established a ‘Caring for Life Financial Assistance Policy’ to provide a helping hand to a bereaved employee’s family. We also facilitated Special Medical Insurance policy for COVID – 19 for the Contractual Workforce. 

Apart from the above, we have also focused on:

  • Formulating policies for managing culture and productivity in light of the current disruptions.
  • Powering e-learning as a key tool for learning and development practices in the organization.
  • Powering employees to project manage independently through an effective tool or mechanism.
  • Adopting technology that will quickly power these practices and enable a collaborative workspace.
  • Looking after the mental and emotional wellbeing of employees

5. The ‘pharmaceutical and healthcare’ industry is one of the few sectors that is likely to impact the job market positively. How are you looking at the jobs outlook for the year?

In my opinion, with the rapid changes that we have witnessed in the last few quarters, upskilling of talent for functional as well as behavioral skills will be key for the success of an organization and an individual in the current circumstances.

Adoption of digital as a medium right from on-boarding and induction, to learning, recognition, connecting with leadership via virtual townhalls and query management will be essential to provide a good overall experience to the employees.

We have continued our momentum with respect to talent acquisition throughout the year. The jobs outlook continues to remain positive for the right set of talent, and we will continue to look at improving our talent index functionally, while staying focused on hiring for the right culture fit. Cipla’s purpose of Caring for Life, our Leadership Essentials and Credo are firmly ingrained in the hiring process and this will continue in the future too. 

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Topics: Talent Management, #COVID-19

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