Interview with  Sakshi Sood

Interview with Sakshi Sood

Irrespective of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has been having on all the other sectors, the attention has now shifted to the healthcare sector in terms of providing medical aid to those infected, providing safety equipment to healthcare workers and so on. Given such an impetus, do you feel that there is sufficient thrust for jobs in the healthcare sector in the coming days?


While most other sectors are reducing their hiring, there is an increased demand for healthcare workers worldwide due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The demand is not just for doctors and nurses, but also for the paramedical staff which includes ward boys, diagnostic technicians etc. This epidemic has brought these roles to the forefront, thereby increasing their value and respect by many a fold.


A lot of contractual jobs have also sprung up with companies requiring workforce only to help tide over the crisis. As far as India goes, the demand for our doctors and nurses has gone up not just in the country, but also worldwide. In fact, as per NHS data, over 40% of the doctors in the UK who have been working tirelessly to fight the COVID-19 are Indian.


Owing to the COVID-19 Pandemic, working practices such as remote working and telecommuting have emerged as the new normal among corporates. Is this an indicator of the things to come in the future in the healthcare sector?


Yes, absolutely. The entire job market is evolving and undergoing a paradigm change – key skills are changing, digitisation is becoming critical, remote working is becoming the norm etc.


I strongly believe that the focus now will shift to hiring for roles which have remote working as an inherent feature. As a matter of fact, a lot of companies are now creating roles keeping in mind that remote working is going to be the norm at least for the foreseeable future. Talent pipeline will see a major change because of this.


Another perspective is that this evolving job market bodes well for women who are trying to re-enter the corporate workforce. Gig workers will also be factored in when the hiring plans will be revisited this year. Even the hot skills are undergoing a change with renewed importance being accorded to adaptability and the ability to work in uncertain market dynamics. HiPos of earlier days will not continue to remain so if they do not prove their mettle in adapting to this new work environment. This means revisiting succession planning will become a key focus area for HR professionals this year.


The COVID-19 Pandemic has rendered some job roles as redundant and led them to rapid extinction and at the same time led to the creation of newer job roles in various sectors. What job role changes has it brought about for the healthcare sector?


Just like a lot of other sectors, pharma roles have undergone a sea change. Digitization has become a core focus area for us with roles coming up in predictive analytics and multi-channel marketing.


Role profile of pharma representatives has also undergone many changes with e-detailing and virtual connect with doctors becoming the norm. Most medical representatives no longer perform their usual sales promotion activities with just the doctors, their role has now evolved into key account management which involves end-to-end management of all personnel involved in generating orders through prescriptions. These include doctors, pharmacists, stockists etc.


According to you, what has COVID-19 changed the most for HR professionals? What are the areas of concerns that employers might be called upon to address going forward?


The biggest challenge emerging for HR during these crisis times is keeping the teams motivated and maintaining a business connect virtually. In the healthcare sector in particular, where more than 85% of the workforce is field-based and not used to staying at home and working, it becomes a monumental task to keep employees engaged.


A lot of healthcare workers also bear the brunt of being the front-line fighters in this battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a toll on their lives. This further poses a problem of keeping people motivated to continue doing their work amidst their own health concerns, family pressures, lack of availability of protective gear etc.


Going forward, HR professionals will need to redefine existing job roles and build in remote working as an essential component, devise ingenious ways to boost employee motivation, and, most importantly, train people managers to deal with uncertain situations and manage their stress in high pressure situations so that their team members do not face any additional pressures.


Even though the frontline medical staff have been hailed as heroes and also applauded worldwide owing to the zealous service rendered by them, they have also fallen victims to the COVID-19 Pandemic. How do HR Managers function to keep the frontline employees in the healthcare motivated?


The fact that the efforts of healthcare workers are for a truly noble cause is what keeps most of them motivated. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the healthcare sector has been brought to the forefront. It is therefore a crucial time for


HR professionals to provide the bigger picture to all employees to build up the motivation. HR must ensure that the safety of employees is at the crux of every business decision, and this must be made known to the frontline employees as well.


It has been observed, for some time, by HR professionals across many pharma companies since the lockdown has begun that when employees see that the company prioritises their safety and wellbeing, the engagement levels improve.


Periodic checks on health condition, issuance of safety advisories, sessions to understand and manage COVID19, sessions to manage stress and lifestyle during lockdown etc. are some of the other commonly adopted techniques by HR professionals of the healthcare sector to keep in touch with their employees and continually engage with them.


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