Lets talk!!

Lets talk!!

Indian pharma companies are keen to adopt more active communication channels with their eye on long term success. Usha Sharma reports…

In today’s global competitive business environment, effective organisational communication, whether internal or external, plays a significant part in the success of the organisation. Employees look at communication as a life-line that connects them to those higher up in the ‘power structure’. Similarly, when businesses speak of ‘real time dissemination of information’ to key target groups like investors, employees, consumers and the public at large, clear communciation of the vision or business strategy is essential to make all these elements feel like partners in the success of the organisation. Achieving this synergy and tapping the potential of various players requires communicating and engaging all stakeholders so that everybody in on the ‘same page’. This has only become more crucial as geographical boundaries disappear and time zones blur.

Highlighting the importance of effective communication channels within the organisation, Ashok Priyadarshi – Head HR, Alkem Laboratories says, “Overall, the corporate world has become more complex than ever before. Knowledge, learning and innovation have always been critical to an organisation’s sustainability, but with employees often being widely distributed geographically, communication technologies and networks are essential for the accomplishment of a company’s strategy.”

A model communication channel

From a HR viewpoint, Priyadarshi spells out that effective communication within the organisation focuses on openness in communication between senior management and employees, resulting in improved employee engagement and productivity. In a cross-cultural environment, he stresses that building and maintaining rapport for business relationships depends on the effective use of language and understanding differing communication styles. These and other aspects are discussed to bring about awareness and foster better communication at all levels of the organisation.

Just as employees expect the management to provide timely and clear communication on all aspects of business, it is equally important and necessary for the management to have their finger on the pulse of their employees’ needs as a happy employee is naturally a more productive employee. Thus well established channels of the communication within the organisation, are critical for the longevity and extensive success of the organisation.

So how do pharma companies go about putting in place such communication channels? According to Surina Iyer, Assistant Vice President –HR, Inventia Healthcare , “Communication flow is not just ‘top down’ in a hierarchy. Effective and unhindered ‘bottom up’ and ‘lateral’ communication between peer groups can really transform the face of an organisation. Communication happens 24x7x365, right from a new joinee announcement to rolling out performance management to spreading fun and good humour to the serious business of building culture – communication runs right through.”

Determinant of success

“A company’s communication strategy upward, downward, inward and outward determines its success. In current years, communication is considered as one of the basic management functions and is viewed as a separate support function like information technology, human resource or finance and accounts”

– Adithya Bhat Managing Director

Protiviti Consulting

“Communication flow is not just ‘top down’ in a hierarchy. Effective and unhindered ‘bottom up’ and ‘lateral’ communication between peer groups can really transform the face of an organisation. Communication happens 24x7x365, right from a new joinee announcement to rolling out performance management to spreading fun and good humour to the serious business of building culture – communication runs right through”

– Surina Iyer
Assistant Vice President –HR Inventia Healthcare

“Organisation culture certainly influences communication. But to make any demarcation between Indian and MNC pharma company entirely depends on how each organisation pursues and emphasises the importance of communication; the values it puts forth and conveys to employees”

– Ashok Priyadarshi Head HR

Alkem Laboratories

In fact, of late, communication has evolved into a separate functional area. As Adithya Bhat, Managing Director, Protiviti Consulting says, “A company’s communication strategy upward, downward, inward and outward determines its success. In current years, communication is considered as one of the basic management functions and is viewed as a separate support function like information technology, human resource or finance and accounts. “

Today the most pressing organisational challenges — leadership, empowerment, shaping organisational culture, building effective teams and managing change — hinge on communications activities. Most management problems arise because of lack of effective communication. Employees cannot produce effective results if they are not clear what is expected from them.

Effective top-down communication has to therefore ensure that employees understand the mission, vision and philosophy of the company thereby defining their role and responsibility which is what ultimately results in job satisfaction and high employee morale. Milestones of the company, organisational changes etc need to be communicated internally. Intranets, e-mails, open house, in-house publications, annual functions etc are the various components of the internal top-down communication mechanism.

Similarly, employees should have a mechanism to transmit information back to the top (management) and this is done through various forums like 360 degree feedback, interactive performance appraisals, mentoring programmes, Open Houses, Hotlines or through sharing ideas through monthly contests.

Communication with external parties’ like customers, vendors, public at large could be in form of pamphlets, brochures, updates on Internet, advertisements in different types of media, trade journals or at annual general meetings and through annual reports. Inward communication from external stakeholders is in the form of customer/ vendor feedback channels, confidential hotlines, letters to investor relations and generic email ids which need to be are reviewed and responded to in a timely fashion.

Sharing his observations, Prakash Shanware – President Human Resources, Ipca Laboratories ,” In any organisation the communication has to be timely, clear and transparent for both insiders well as for for outsiders. Internally, it is necessary that the company’s policies are known to the employees and are implemented strictly.This avoids unhappiness and discrimination which are counter-productive in building an open culture in the organisation.”

Benefits of clear communiation

Clear and transparent communication contributes to the a brandimage of any organisation both internally and externally and hence it assumes a very important role. Policies, processes and procedures are laid out but they become relevant only if it percolates within the organisation.

Ketan R Patel, Chairman and Managing Director, Troikaa Pharma highlights that for an employee, clarity of his rights and his duty towards the organisation is a quite motivator. The company’s polices should be as clear as black and white, which means that an employee should know his rights as well as his duties. There should be no grey area; nothing should be left to interpretation. But quite a large number of problems arise due to the lack of a system and clarity with regard to policies. Thus the HR department has to then step in and is “mostly perceived as a problem solving department when in fact, the predominant purpose of an HR department is to develop people through in-house training. This can happen only if day-to-day problems are at a bare minimum.”

Highlighting the link between good communication and productivity, Akkshay Mehta, Managing Director, Mission Vivacare says, “If matters are communicated properly internally, it enhances smooth operation of processes and also boosts performance of the organisation. It highlights the professionalism and trustworthiness of the organisation. Good communication builds the reputation and credibility of an organisation with the external world. ”

Changing communciation cultures

“It is important to have channels created in the first place. That will ensure that the ‘vital nutrient’ does not end up accumulating at one place and at the same time account for meaningful flow. Organisations must take care that as time progresses and with changing business scenarios, these all-important channels do not get clogged”

– Akkshay Mehta Managing Director

Mission Vivacare

“Interactive ideas are ideas born out of interactions between people within the organisation as well as those generated through interactions outside the organisation. Such ideas can flow upstream if they are documented by way of minutes of the meeting wherein the idea was floated. Downward and upward communication should go hand in hand to achieve the organisation objective”

– Ketan R Patel
Chairman and Managing Director Troikaa Pharma

“Internally, it is necessary that the company’s policies are known to the employees and are implemented strictly. This avoids unhappiness and discrimination which are counter-productive in building an open culture in the organisation”

– Prakash Shanware President Human Resources

Ipca Laboratories

With the number of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) between MNC pharma and Indian pharma companies slated to increase, it is only pertinent to compare the communication cultures existing in both types of organisation.

Traditionally, owner-driven organisations often drew a veil of secrecy over certain areas of the business and key functions were handled by family members. But today, with their eye on the long term benefits, these same companies are adapting to global communication models in order to attract better customers and employees.

Mehta makes the point that, “It is important to have channels created in the first place. That will ensure that the’vital nutrient’ does not end up accumulating at one place and at the same time account for meaningful flow. Organisations must take care that as time progresses and with changing business scenarios, these all-important channels do not get clogged.” Iyer says, “In owner driven companies, the communication culture is influenced by the demonstrated values and management style of the top management. Communication in such companies tends to draw its quotient from the relationship style and the pattern nurtured over the years in the company. But things are changing fast in the Indian context. Today, professionally-led companies are more focused on both results as well as processes and hence, they have more balanced communication across the organisation. They emphasise meeting expectations as per the assigned role and targets and hence, the communication culture revolves around performance – its development and sustenance, its success and failure.”

Iyer offers a balanced view of both styles, saying that while Indian pharma companies as well as multinational (MNC) pharma companies are objective and transparent in their communication, differences do exist. “Typically, Indian pharma companies are more result driven while MNC pharma companies are more process oriented. In the latter, risk and safety measures are critically evaluated since its impact can be global and dangerous. Gradually, the gap between the two has decreased and as of now there is no significant difference between the communication cultures of the Indian and MNC pharma companies.. Even Indian pharma companies have adopted open and transparent communication policies that enable the free flow of information internally as well as externally. Rather than the information being centralised and limited to a few, it is available to all members of the organisation, which in turn reflects in the external communication of the organisation.”

She further stresses that, “To gain competitive advantage, Indian companies tend to be more aggressive and short term focused and less pragmatic. The culture of communication in such companies is likely to be more authoritative and closed. Boss supremacy prevails and hence, the communication is likely to get influenced by the people on the top”.

Considering the diversity in MNC pharma companies, they ensure that there is clear policy and procedures across functions and employees are provided training on a regular basis. This also ensures that there are clear methods of action to deal with deviations. Being more objective helps in unhindered flow of communication across organisational levels.

Priyadarshi is of the opinion that “Organisation culture certainly influences communication. But to make any demarcation between Indian and MNC pharma company entirely depends on how each organisation pursues and emphasises the importance of communication; the values it puts forth and conveys to employees. In the long term, this will certainly play a critical factor for curbing the misuse and promoting communication effectively. Along with this the clarity and channels used to communicate matters a lot. For example the clarity in policies to employee will certainly save time to focus more on work instead of spending time in getting clarifications.

Bhat comments, “Currently the communication cultures of Indian MNC’s and foreign MNC’s are at par. The communication culture in Indian MNC’s has evolved over the past decade whereas they were matured in foreign MNC’s and was deployed as such in their Indian subsidiaries. However, there is scope for improvement in owner driven companies as downward or upward communication is seldom encouraged. Decisions are taken at the highest level and hardly any delegation of authority is seen in such companies. Having said that, considering the growth in India, owner-driven companies are seeking investments from strategic / private equity investors to fuel their next growth phase which is leading them to be more open and transparent in their communication.”

Organisations have only just begun to appreciate the benefits of upward communication. This communication originates at the lower level of the employment hierarchy and is then communicated up through the line. Organisations encouraging upward communication believe that everybody is capable of generating thoughts and ideas which may help the organisation to progress, particularly when they are working closely in the area where that idea is applied. Upward communication may increase motivation and make employees feel valued and respected whilst enabling managers to understand how employees are feeling. Furthermore if problems occur, they are more likely to be identified earlier by those working closely in the area that they occur.

Patel suggest, “Interactive ideas are ideas born out of interactions between people within the organisation as well as those generated through interactions outside the organisation. Such ideas can flow upstream if they are documented by way of minutes of the meeting wherein the idea was floated. Downward and upward communication should go hand in hand to achieve the organisation objective. This will also add new dimensions in terms of innovation and creativity.“

Sanware simplifies, “A regular flow of information to employees and vice-versa through various avenues, should be encouraged to keep the employees engaged with the organisation. Open communication also helps in getting issues to the surface.,If communication channels are not well established, issues remain simmering and since they do not reach the management they are not addressed. This affects the morale and commitment of the employees.”

It is through the communication that employees submit their work reports, comments, grievances and suggestions to their seniors or management, hence there should be proper training given to employees to improve their communication skills.

Also change demands credible communication for corporate survival. Hence it is important to ensure credible communication in the organisation otherwise the employees will remain out-of the loop and in time become rigid and sluggish. The organisation itself risks the chance of stagnation, bound by outdated structures, forms, rules, roles, and accountabilities. Smart organisations are those which do not just hear, but also listen. Smart employees, for their part, are those who follow suit. And for success, both need to be tuned to the same frequency, at the same time.

u.sharma@expressindia.com