Express Pharma

Redefining job roles to build competitive compliance

Express Pharma, in association with SAP India, as part of the Life Sciences Industry Knowledge Exchange Forum, recently hosted a virtual event to discuss and deliberate on building a workforce in the life sciences industry that is future-ready

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The pharma industry is experiencing technological disruptions spurred by the need for enhanced speed, efficiency and efficacy in products and processes, evidence-based decision making, shifting market demands, etc. Optimising the use of technology to improve productivity, eliminate redundant processes, scale manufacturing capacity and build competitive compliance would be the distinguishing feature of the best-run life-sciences companies. In turn, the creation of a workforce with skill levels that is at par with the radical advancements in the pharma sector has emerged as an exigency.

Therefore, as part of the Industry Knowledge Exchange Series, Express Pharma, in association with SAP, recently hosted a virtual event on the theme, Redefining Job Roles – Employee Enablement for Digital Adoption in Pharma Industry. The event witnessed industry leaders from different functions and tech experts come together to confer and chart strategies that will help enable users to adopt digital tools, benefit from automation and make data-enabled decisions.

It started with a welcome address by Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor, Express Pharma and Express Healthcare. Setting the context for the sessions to follow, she highlighted how the COVID pandemic has redefined many realities of our lives, both on the personal front and as corporate citizens, and said, “It has triggered new ways of looking at both workplace and workforce, with employees working from home or anywhere, and employers taking on the responsibility to keep their workforce safe, not just from the virus but from the disruption that it brings.”

She added that the spotlight was on pharma companies to scale up and deliver life-saving medicines and vaccines to help the human race come to terms with COVID and future diseases. But, keeping track of a VUCA world, the sector will have to skill up and scale-up, to protect the workforce and the workplace.

Next, Rajesh Kuppuswamy, Life Sciences and Health Care Industry Advisor, SAP India gave an overview on how the industry was transforming as a result of rising investments, technological disruptions, evolving regulations and growing collaborations. In this scenario, it was pivotal to relook and make appropriate changes to the workplace and the workforce with the help of technology to make advancements in productivity, quality and compliance.

He also emphasised that as new business models, product mix and technology emerge, ensuring the right people with the right skills in the right place across functions will be crucial to succeed in a future which will comprise both, unparalleled opportunities and challenges.

Subsequently, a panel discussion on ‘Redefining Job Roles to Build Competitive ComplianceCurrent Status and Way Forward’ ensued. It examined how to empower the user in the post-pandemic world where the pharma industry will be under the spotlight. It also looked at the role of technology in de-imagining business functions such as manufacturing, QA/QC, product development and tech transfer. The foundational and differentiating roles of HR and IT were addressed as well.

Dr Avdhut Parab, Global CIO, Wockhardt; Namrata Gill Tyagi, Vice-President, HR, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories; Rajendra Chunodkar, President, Manufacturing Operations, Lupin; Dr Rajesh Kumar Singh, Associate Director, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals; Rajorshi Ganguli, President and Global HR Head, Alkem Laboratories; Antony Prashant, Partner, Deloitte; and Sudakshina Ghosh, Industry Business Architect, Team Lead, Industry & Customer Advisory Practice, SAP India were part of this discussion.

Moderated by Roychowdhury, the panelists assessed the need to redefine jobs, dived into the strategies to address this need and elaborated on how these strategies have been or can be executed.

We present the views and insights shared by the experts and leaders during this session:

Data and digitalisation: Redefining job roles in pharma 

The panelists were unanimous in their opinion that emerging technologies and digitalisation was ushering a tectonic shift and altering the traditional styles of working in the pharma industry. In this background, building a workforce that was enabled to cope and adapt to these changes with the help of new skills will be central for the continuous progress of the sector.

HR leaders, Namrata Gill Tyagi and Rajorshi Ganguli, highlighted that while automation and digitalisation have reduced jobs requiring manual intervention, it has also created a need for professionals who can work with automated systems, easily adapt to smart tools, and curate data to gain actionable insights and implement best practices across processes. Ganguli pointed out that even a shop floor employee needs to have digital skills and the industry will have to train its people accordingly.

Gill Tyagi informed that as pharma companies were getting into newer spheres like digital therapeutics they will need employees with a digital-first mindset and specialised skills to aid this transformation. So, Dr Reddy’s has introduced a digital learning intervention, DigitalNinja to upskill its employees.

Functional leaders on the panel, Dr Avadhut Parab; Rajendra Chunodkar; and Dr Rajesh Kumar Singh, also reiterated the views expressed by the HR leaders and said that enabling and equipping leaders, managers and employees through upskilling and reskilling initiatives will be core to ensure sustainability and growth of both, people and organisations, leverage opportunities, outpace challenges and tackle uncertainties in future.

Chunodkar pointed out that there was mounting pressure on Indian generic pharma companies to improve their profit margins. So, the sector was turning towards digitalisation and data to optimise manpower cost, get higher yields for products and reduce utility consumption. This is where data and digitalisation will play key roles. Citing an example, he shared how data scientists, data engineers were helping to make impactful data-backed decisions to improve yields even in complex processes like fermentation, a stark deviation from the way things were done before.

Dr Parab advised that while the industry was conversant with the people, process, technology triangle for new initiatives and change management, now it will have to evolve and map it with another triangle formed by people set, mindset and skill set. He informed that his organisation has already begun this practice. Emphasising the importance of the right approaches to get the right impact, he also advocated that the companies should opt for adaptive learning strategies to get the best outcomes.

On the same lines, Anthony Prashant recommended that functions can be classified into three broad segments: ones that can be fully automated, processes where humans and robots need to collaborate and those where human intervention is still paramount. And, since the industry works with hybrid models, a mix of skills is required in its workforce.

Sudakshina Ghosh pointed out that the pharma workforce will have to be adept at not only functional skills but also focus on building digital skills, and possess collaboration skills, agility, problem-solving abilities and an innovative mindset. She also said that the role of a total and comprehensive manpower management platform will be vital to source a workforce with the right skills, onboard them properly to deploy them faster, train and upskill them regularly, enable efficient and effective implementation and help in manpower planning as per skills.

Strategising to future-proof workforce

The industry, recognising the fact that a forward-thinking workforce equipped with the right skills is intrinsic to its continued progress, is redrawing its blueprint for talent acquisition, training, deployment and retention. Our panel of experts and leaders also shared a few strategies that are being deployed in pharma companies to ramp up their human capabilities and become future-ready:

Accelerate learning and development: Informing that this has been identified as a key goal for Dr Reddy’s, Gill Tyagi spoke on the company approach towards this objective by creating an ideal employee profile for each role and categorising the skills sets under ‘fit for now’ and ‘fit for the future’. Based on that, the company has been investing time and money to enable its employees to learn and hone the skills required for the future.

She updated that the company’s strategy was to identify and implement the right methodologies to help employees to develop the required skills and knowledge in a timely manner. Thus, it was an approach based on the experience and exposure that the company can offer.

Citing an example, she informed about the company’s investment in virtual study machines of different industries from different geographies to help the employees learn from the best in class.

An interdisciplinary approach: Ganguli appr