Sandeep Makkar, Managing Director, Johnson & Johnson Medical India, and Emrana Sheikh, Enterprise HR Head – India and South Asia, Johnson & Johnson organized dozens of town halls to ensure that they reached out to and reassured employees
Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India
Gaurav Sahni received a frantic call from a surgeon who had to perform a complex gall bladder surgery in Lucknow during the initial days of the lockdown last year. The Ethicon sales representative at Johnson & Johnson India drove for hours to pick up the medical equipment and then covered an even greater distance to deliver and demonstrate how it was used. This, despite the logistical challenges he encountered and knowing that hospitals were not safe to visit because of the coronavirus.
“Our business thrives when we put the needs and well-being of the people we serve first: Our patients, customers, doctors, nurses and employees. It’s our recipe for business success, and that’s how we live up to our purpose,” says Sandeep Makkar, managing director, Johnson & Johnson Medical India. Sahni is one of their many employees who worked night and day to ensure that patients and doctors got the equipment they needed.
Though the medical devices sector was impacted—as patients deferred non-critical medical procedures during the lockdown—the consumer health brands and its pharmaceutical business continued to do well. “In 2020, our global consumer health business launched 180 innovative products and increased ecommerce reach by 55 percent,” adds Makkar.
Though supply chains were disrupted, Makkar says, “Our shift to a digital-first mindset was a competitive advantage, bringing us closer to our customers, enabling us to better serve our consumers and health care professionals, and creating value for our brands.”
From the very beginning, Makkar recalls, it was clear that the way the leadership reacted and communicated would shape the way employees responded. “We organised dozens of town halls to ensure we reached out and reassured our employees,” he says.
“Our Credo defines our responsibility to our employees,” says Emrana Sheikh, enterprise HR head–India and South Asia. “Even prior to the pandemic, a variety of flexible working arrangements were available to employees. Therefore, at the start of the lockdown, we were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and support our distributed workforce with capabilities to work anywhere.” As employees settled into remote working for the long haul, Sheikh’s team revisited employee well-being strategies and engagement models.
Benefits like ergonomic furniture, reimbursement of home gym equipment and activity trackers, Covid care packages and enhanced leave policies were provided to employees. “Additional insurance cover and special medical coverage were offered to support their financial health, at no cost to our employees and families, to help cover expenses related to health care and hospitalisation during these times,” adds Makkar.
Apart from physical well-being, emotional and mental support in challenging times like these are critical. Globally, Johnson & Johnson rolled out telemedicine assistance in addition to its existing employee assistance programme to resolve physical and mental health issues. “They have access to confidential support from counsellors via phone, as well as a chance to attend virtual fireside chats with psychologists,” says Sheikh.
Apart from over 100 different webinars for employees and families covering all forms of wellness, Johnson & Johnson India also has an employee resource group called ‘Mental Health Diplomats’ which leads programmes on mental well-being. “All these offerings are a message to employees that they matter. Improved morale is a natural outcome of these investments,” says Bhavna Dalal, founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a leadership development company based in Bengaluru. Due to this people-first approach, Johnson & Johnson has an attrition rate of only four percent, as per data provided by Kincentric.
Apart from keeping the well-being of its employees a priority during these times, Johnson & Johnson was also one of the first companies in India to volunteer support to the government, frontline health workers and communities to help manage the outbreak by donating surgical masks, gloves, face shields, personal protective equipment kits and hand sanitisers. “We helped the Indian government by supporting the manufacturing of high-quality Covid-testing swabs within seven days—from conceptualisation to production—at one-tenth the price of imported swabs,” says Makkar.
According to Sheikh one of the key reasons for Johnson & Johnson India being one of the Best Employers is its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Sheikh elaborates, “Some of the inclusive benefits include global parental leave for all new parents [maternal, paternal, adoptive or surrogacy-assisted], gender-neutral policies for heterosexual and same-sex spouses and transgender-inclusive and same-sex partner health insurance coverage.” For women transitioning back to the workplace after a break, Johnson & Johnson India, also has a paid returnship programme called ‘Re-Ignite’.
Dalal explains why diversity and inclusion are critical. “A great culture rests on some fundamental values such as respect, empathy and appreciation. A diverse workforce cannot exist if these values are not impressed upon and embedded deep in the organisational tapestry.”
(This story appears in the 26 March, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)