It’s Time for Companies To See Employees as Full-Time People

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-02-01-2022, Volume 42, Issue 2

Addressing whole employee is as important as treating whole patient.

During our December 2020 Pharmaceutical CEO Leadership: Diversity in Pharma roundtable, Anne E. White, president of Lilly Oncology and senior vice president at Eli Lilly and Company, recalled a comment from a member from the Black community who shared that every day at 3 p.m. she was distracted by the worry of her teenage son driving home from school. “It’s incredibly important to allow our employees to feel they can focus at work because they’re not worrying about what’s going on at home,” she said. As a working mother of two middle schoolers, I understand the importance of the 3 p.m. check-in. A 30-second call is all it takes to put my mind at ease and refocus on work.

For years, people have tried to draw the line between work and home. But then came COVID-19, and the boundaries between work and home were blurred far beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. Today, companies that recognize how work and home are intertwined and make an effort to embrace the personal side of employees are in the best position to build trust, respect, and loyalty.

Maven Clinic recently conducted a survey of working parents with Great Place to Work. The research found that a holistic approach to employee well-being can prevent four out of five working parents from quitting. Also, organizations that were perceived as offering “special and unique” benefits—such as subsidized childcare, fertility programs, and adoption support—were two times as likely to retain parents. With parents comprising 40% of the US economy, these insights can be useful.

“This report shows that the Great Resignation is fundamentally a crisis of recognition,” said Kate Ryder, founder and CEO of Maven, in a press release. “Working parents who feel included within a company’s culture and empowered in its long-term strategy are far more likely to stay with their employer. The companies that think about their employees’ experience holistically…are set to leapfrog their peers in the post-pandemic economy.”

Raj Verma, chief diversity and experience officer at Sanofi, joined the company in late 2020 in a newly created role. He set out to bring together the areas of employee experience; culture; and diversity, equity, and inclusion, understanding that they are linked. “If you don’t have a positive experience, you’re not going to create a culture that’s inclusive. And if you don’t have that inclusion, your level of diversity is going to fall by the wayside over time,” he says.

In his global role, Verma has helped introduce a companywide well-being strategy. He met with representatives from around the world to look at issues they cared about from physical, mental, financial, and health perspectives. Once similarities were identified, each country introduced its own practices and policies to supercharge the initiatives.

Verma has been working on other programs that address the whole employee. Sanofi’s revised gender-neutral parental leave policy offers a minimum of 14 weeks fully paid leave (including adoption and surrogacy). “If people are comfortable and trusting that the organization is doing things that look after their whole family, they’re going to be far more loyal, far more energized, far more driven to give you their very best,” says Verma. “And that’s what we’re always looking for.”

Verma also has helped launch a flexible work framework, which gives people a choice not only about where they work, but when they work, how they work, and why. He’s established a consistent global employee assistance program for employees and their families, which offers free access to benefits such as one-on-one coaching and counseling. Additional programs being developed include a sabbatical policy that gives people time off without feeling as if they’re going to slow down in their career; an initiative that encourages people to speak up if they notice anything out of step with company values and behaviors; and a global volunteering program, in which every employee receives at least one day paid to do something in line with Sanofi’s corporate social responsibility approach.

“We are very much a work in progress,” says Verma. “We’re listening, we’re learning, and we’re doing what we think is going to be right and relevant. Organizations are missing a beat if they don’t recognize that you have to look at the employee not just at work, but outside of work, because you want an employee to bring their best self to work, wherever that may be. We want them to be their whole selves.”

Elaine Quilici is Pharm Exec’s Editor-in-Chief. She can be reached at equilici@mjhlifesciences.com