Resilient leaders have the ability to sustain their energy level under pressure: Farhat Umar

Resilient leaders have the ability to sustain their energy level under pressure: Farhat Umar

"The COVID-19 pandemic has obliged companies to eliminate barriers to implementing remote work broadly, enabling a future in which fewer employees are tied to a physical office," says Farhat Kumar, SVP and HeadHR, Mankind Pharma. Take a look at this exclusive interview to know more about the future of work in the pharma sector.

Although the blending of workforces (full-time, part-time, contingent, bots, in-office, remote, etc.) is not a new trend, it has gained new momentum following the pandemic. Which roles in the Pharma Sector are best performed by full-time employees, and which are better suited to contingent talent? Do you foresee certain full-time jobs veering into non-traditional domains?


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced an overnight change in the way we work. It has illuminated the benefits and drawbacks of remote working and provided companies with an opportunity to reimagine a work-and-learning model for everybody. Key departments like Quality Assurance and R&D require a skilled and trained workforce. Hence, such people are likely to be employed as full-time employees, and entry-level roles in production lines and sales team are suited for contingent talent.


The pandemic has obliged companies to eliminate barriers to implementing remote work broadly, enabling a future in which fewer employees are tied to a physical office. By doing so, companies have opened a further possibility - that their workforce can be extended beyond permanent employees to include highly skilled gig workers, sourced from digital talent platforms. Hence, there is a strong possibility of full-time jobs veering into non-traditional domains.


The pre-pandemic war for talent and the pandemic-triggered acceleration of digital transformation across organisations is further bound to enhance the scarcity of talent. How do you believe the Pharma sector will rise to this challenge of talent scarcity? Do you think the pandemic will transform the manner in which talent is acquired and onboarded?


The Indian Pharmaceutical industry is expected to outperform the global Pharma industry and grow to $55 billion in the coming years. Bio-pharmaceuticals account for the largest share of the biotech industry revenues. Augmenting this boom is the demand for talent that is surging at every level.


Talent scarcity is bound to enhance in the Pharma sector. And multiple new roles will be created after the rapid adoption of digital transformation in sales & R&D due to increased usage of telemedicine, digital therapeutics and decentralised clinical trials in R&D. The pandemic has also changed the traditional sales and marketing models, leading to increased demand for online marketing and communication tools.


It is time to look at the following parameters to retain and attract talent:

• Mapping a planned organisational structure: Since the best process helps to optimise costs


• Training and capacity building: Ongoing E-Learning, Technical, Behavioural and compliance training


• Leadership Development: Various programmes to develop in-house leaders


• Talent retention: Various methodology to retain the best talent


 • Thinking Ahead


• Talent Pool: Creating a Talent pipeline for business continuity Recruitment strategies are also being amended accordingly, and it is important to have multiple channels to ensure continuous and effective communication with the candidates.


• Digital Interviews: The pandemic has laid restrictions on many activities, including movement, and we will witness more instances of hiring managers, investing and relying heavily on virtual interviewing technology to maintain the pace of recruiting efforts.


• Recruitment Marketing: Great talent is a powerful source of competitive advantage in business, and advertisements about job vacancies give companies the ability to attract the best


• Social Media Recruitment: According to Statista, 50% of Indians used social networks in 2020. Today, people are very active on social media while in pursuit of jobs. Given the trend and behavioural aspects, companies will exert greater emphasis on recruiting through networking platforms.


• Online Onboarding: Various software tools will ease the onboarding of employees from movement-related hassles


Many years ago, NASA engineers were apparently against employing crowdsourcing platforms for the simple reason that they stood to eliminate the culture of NASA—collaboration and brainstorming. What are the possible fallouts of a blended workforce on the culture of an organisation?


It is difficult to maintain a strong, positive company culture while managing a blended workforce. While the unique experiences and skills of contingent workers present positive opportunities, they also have the potential to bring their baggage from past work situations into the workplace. Unlike permanent employees, they are not subject to the same expectations from the management, and it may be difficult to control negativity that threatens the culture of the company. This can be fixed through proper induction about the company’s mission, vision and company values so that they are tied to the same greater purpose that traditional workers share.


In developing a blended workforce, do you believe that the senior leadership is required to bring about a mindset shift within the company that full-time employees alone cannot ensure the completion of work/ projects? If yes, how can leadership channelise such a mindset change within an organisation in the Pharma Sector?


Overnight, COVID-19 and social distancing caused most firms to embrace remote work and best practices to ensure the health and safety of their staff and clients. In doing so, firm leaders realised that remote work can work and team members managed to deliver results under less than ideal conditions, lacking childcare and the inability to leave their homes due to the lockdown. Instead of lamenting the loss of the old normal, leaders must begin to imagine their ‘next better’, creating a culture that embraces anywhere work and a leadership mindset that supports a blended workforce.


A. Paradigm Shift: Enhanced communication, focus in virtual meeting, review mechanism and freedom to the workforce to ascertain the best process


B. Trust: To move into this new paradigm it is essential to retain trust. Firstly, one needs to trust that smart, capable employees have been hired who come with good intentions and the desire to perform and deliver results


C. Prioritisation of Employee Health, Safety, Support & Productivity: Leaders must provide a platform where an employee becomes a contributor in every process. Leaders must establish an eco-friendly environment where an employee can easily take his/her decision and work with flexibility. For instance, providing a remote connect option with a Zoom or Teams link for video meetings to maximise engagement and participation


D. Practice Parity: A level-playing field has been created since almost everyone is working remotely due to the pandemic


E. Technology Access & Restriction: A Pharma company houses a huge amount of confidential data and needs safeguarding from the outside climate. Hence, technological upgrades and access with restriction should also be monitored. Also, the key workforce must be identified to provide quality assignment during work from home


F. Adopting Resilient Leadership: It helps to understand and bounce back with more power to deal with adversities, setbacks, pandemics and Business discontinuity and thereafter recover from them in order to live life to the fullest. Resilient leaders have the ability to sustain their energy level under pressure and cope with disruptive changes and adapt. They bounce back from setbacks. They also overcome major difficulties without engaging in dysfunctional behaviour or harming others. When faced with ambiguity, a resilient leader finds ways to move forward and avoids getting stuck.


G. Focusing on Agility: Focus on agility and developing future leaders as per the current scenario enables them to deal with any situation at any time. Leadership agility is the ability to take effective action in complex, rapidly changing conditions. Agile leaders act with purpose, flexibility, collaborating with different stakeholders, developing creative solutions and continually learning and changing.


Too often, in times of stress, threat, complexity, and change — leaders tend to retreat to their comfort zones by over-relying on their habits and strengths that have served them well in the past. It is important to have Goals since they create clarity and focus on how a leader should invest time, resources, and energy to achieve the greatest success.


Depending on the sector, the nature of the work that people do, and the setup an organisation prefers, some companies are going virtual-first while others are rallying to get employees back in-house or piloting a blended working model. Do you believe the office to be an important hub for collaboration, creativity, and innovation?


The basic mantra of today’s business is ‘we have to collaborate’. Collaboration in the workplace or a virtual environment depends on effective employees and the teams in place. Workplace collaboration is always a priority, however, owing to the pandemic, pharma organisations also learned the art of remote working and managing the workforce remotely. The pandemic and the subsequent lock-down enforced the rapid adoption of digital technologies, bringing a direct impact on the core aspects of work and life.


An Organisation is like a family where every individual has his/her own opinion. Some employees feel the workplace as the best place to innovate ideas and enhance business. People rightly point out limitations of the remote model — in terms of ‘human connection’ and specifically the difficulty to build and maintain professional relationships or to interact at a more personal level. On top of that, the typical home office is rarely ideal — in terms of setup, equipment, and ergonomics.


On the other hand, some people believe that work from home is better. Also, remote workers save significant time lost in commute, which, in theory, can be used for personal activities and thus improve people’s work-life balance. This is a complex question with no easy, universal solution. The next ‘normal’ will not come by ‘intelligent design’. Instead, it will evolve, as businesses and professionals embrace the change, adapt to the new conditions, and adopt the new technological capabilities.




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