In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Ravneet Bhanot, Head, Human Resource, Novartis GDD India shared her thoughts on the significance of people and culture in an organization. The senior HR industry leader also shared how HR can bring new value to the business in times of disruption. Read the edited excerpts here.
How do you create a common culture in Novartis, an organization which is spread across the globe?
The importance of culture can never be undermined especially for a pharma organization like ours that is at the forefront of innovating medicines to meet unmet medical needs of patients worldwide. Drug development takes a collective effort. It is, therefore, imperative that we have a common culture across all our functions, divisions and geographies that binds people together and drives them towards our common objective of developing breakthrough treatments. Our cultural aspiration for everybody at Novartis is to be Inspired, Curious and Unbossed.
We follow a three-pronged strategy to bring cultural aspiration to life. The first is shaping the organizational structures for effectiveness, efficiency, and agility and to reduce multiple layers and bring in more simplicity in the processes. Second is to hire, train and retain high quality, diverse talent capabilities that meet the demands of today and future. The third is to align the individual’s objectives with that of the organization’s because we strongly believe that personal transformation alone can lead to organizational transformation.
What have been your core people strategy drivers?
Our strategy is based on two key pillars. One is People and Culture: Build a single consistent Novartis employee experience. We believe in creating and promoting #OneNovartis culture. We want to have an inclusive culture that leverages the diverse strengths that our associates bring across different teams and geographies.
The second is more focused on the business - Organization and Talent. The business landscape evolves with the market. As HR, we need to have the foresight to prepare a workforce that is future-ready. We need to have an organizational structure, operating model and workflow that can adapt to the rapid changes. We have made sure that all our divisions are more integrated and not operating in silos. As the business model evolves - we have to make sure that we are hiring people with the right mindset and capability.
How can HR bring new value to the business in times of disruption?
The operating models of pharma are constantly evolving. HR has a crucial role to play in these disruptive times. We need to have the right organization model, capabilities and culture that enables science-based innovations and delivers positive outcomes. Creating an organizational structure is essential which is extremely agile.
In addition, keeping in mind the emerging need for personalized medicine, we need to enable our associates to understand and embrace these disruptive technologies. HR plays an important role in defining the talent strategy to support long-term strategic business objectives based on future organizational talent needs and the dynamics of the external talent market.
What steps is Novartis taking to build an environment that supports creativity, collaboration, the performance of their associates?
To build a creative, collaborative and high performing organization, there are a few levers one must keep in mind. One is definitely culture- we want our associates to be inspired, curious and unbossed. And as I had mentioned earlier, in order to encourage continuous learning and enable our associates to stay ahead of the scientific advances being made across various fields, we have invested in platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera so that our people can have all the learning opportunities they want at their fingertips.
We reimagined our performance management system wherein we said that we do not want our people to focus on individual objectives in silos, but we really want them to move towards a collective objective. We encourage our people to be more collaborative and work together towards our common goal of improving and extending patients’ lives. As HR, we are making sure that the kind of people we are hiring in the organization are more aligned with the new culture that we are trying to inculcate.
What are your key focus areas for the financial year 2019-20?
Our culture aspiration will also continue to be our focus in 2019-20. We aim to ensure that everybody at Novartis knows, applies, experiences and sustains our culture in their daily activities.
To ignite this cultural transformation, we have started our efforts with our leaders. There is a strong correlation between the levels of active engagement in culture change by leaders and the willingness of associates to make a personal change. We want to develop leaders who are self-aware and be aligned with our cultural values and principles so that they act as role models for our associates.
Secondly, we want to activate teams and engage associates by creating awareness about our cultural values. Every quarter we are conducting a survey – ‘Our Voice’ to hear from our associates on what is working and what is not. We want to empower them to ‘fix one thing’ that could lead us closer to our cultural evolution.
Thirdly, we want to improve experiences. Our reimagined performance management system is designed to help us move from individual goals to team-based ones, enable spontaneous robust feedback – with the principle from “anyone, any time”, while building a strong coaching culture. We want our associates at all levels to be the catalyst for change in this year and beyond.