Business Today

Growing with the Leader

Abbott India's employee value proposition strategy focuses on flexi-benefits, participation of women and nurturing future leaders.
twitter-logo PB Jayakumar   New Delhi     Print Edition: March 11, 2018
Growing with the Leader
Photograph; Rachit Goswami

The top brass of Abbott India is clear on what helped it earn the rare distinction of emerging the winner in the Pharma and Healthcare category of Business Todays 'Best Companies to Work For' survey for a fifth consecutive year. Unlike most multinational drug companies, Abbott India, the second-largest pharmaceutical company in India after Sun Pharmaceuticals in terms of domestic market share, has had an India-specific talent strategy since 2014. "Our talent strategy has five key focus areas: creating a leadership engine, building the No. 1 field force, driving managerial effectiveness, creating best-in-class support organisation and strengthening our employee value proposition," says Bhaskar Iyer, Management Representative of Abbott in India and Vice President of its pharma business.

A billion dollar-plus diversified healthcare company with presence in nutrition, pharmaceuticals, devices and diagnostics segments, Abbott India has been present in the country for over 100 years now. The company has identified a quantifiable growth matrix for all its employees, says Iyer.

With the help of an external agency, performance of all employees is analysed and quantified on benchmarks evolved on the basis of their feedback and advice. Growth opportunities are offered across all departments with a comprehensive analysis methodology. The company's leadership is focused on developing and nurturing a strong bench of future leaders. The 10,000-plus field force, the main bread earners of Abbott India, are allowed to develop their capabilities and chart an independent career growth path through a transparent communication system linking the HR department and managers. Similarly, managerial effectiveness and career development are ensured in other areas like research and development, medical devices and supply chain. "We also ensure 'best in class support function' and understand that the primary role of others in the system is to help the field force to succeed", says Iyer.

A few simple and clear themes convey the essence of the EVP programme, according to Sandeep Sengupta, Regional Human Resources Director. "'Be the best you can be' helps employees realise their potential growth as high performers and 'be inspired by what you do' instills pride in working for Abbott and shaping India's healthcare. 'Be acknowledged for efforts' is an assurance of growth opportunities within the organisation," he says. Sengupta narrates an example of how Abbott India grooms the leaders of tomorrow. This year, the 10 top sales performers were allowed to do a one year management course at the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata through a special exclusive arrangement with the premier management institute.

The employees are also given 'Flexi Benefits' that they can choose from the salary package. It gives employees the flexibility to choose additional benefits in the form of insurance coverage options, lifestyle-related benefits or in self-development (educational courses, books, etc). All benefits extended to employees are at discounted rates and negotiated by Abbott. So far, 4,200 employees have availed the 'Flexi Benefits' scheme.

The company also prides itself on a few other employee-centric schemes. A customised Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a free counseling service introduced by Abbott for its employees. Similarly, the company has tied up with an online pharmacy to launch 'Abbott Shop', an effort to help all its employees and their families access Abbott's medicines and other products at a deep-discounted price.

Bhasker Iyer says Abbott and its employees take pride in the new corporate branding strategy 'Life to the fullest', as the company touches the life of everyone: from a baby to a geriatric patient. Employees also take pride in the fact that Abbott is ranked number one in several therapeutic categories.

The latest initiative from the company is developing women leaders of Abbott (WLA), including women in the sales force, a rarity in the pharmaceutical industry. Abbott, with popular brands like nutrition product PediaSure and antacid Digene in its kitty, has over 12,000 employees under four companies in India , the highest number of employees anywhere in the world other than the US. The company recruits around 800 employees every year - about 500 are freshers from leading B.Pharm and management campuses. All openings within the organisation are conveyed to all employees so that they can think of a switch to another department if they deem themselves suitable for the job. Deserving employees in India are given an opportunity to work for Abbott's global network

Attrition levels are in low single digits, when compared to industry standards of nearly 20 per cent, says Bhasker Iyer. Unlike most other MNCs, Abbott has developed a culture of 'think globally and act locally,' points out Iyer. Most of the country specific business decisions are taken by the India management, with limited intervention by the global parent.

Meanwhile, Abbott has moved to a new corporate office at Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai by moving employees from seven offices spread across the city. It is also setting up a large research and development centre in Mumbai.

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