Skill Gap Can Be Filled Quickly, But Leadership Gap Can Be Devastating

"We truly believe that every generation of employees adds valuable quality and diversity that ensures a cohesive work environment", says Sonal Jain, Johnson & Johnson


Sonal Jain, Head of HR, Supply Chain and R&D, Johnson & Johnson India talks to BW Businessworld about a variety of topics ranging from skill gap, diversity & inclusion and managing the workforce. 

Since there is a lot of talk about the skill gap in the market, how difficult is it for you to hire the right candidates meeting your requirements?

While hiring the right candidate can be as challenging as it can be or as simple as it can be, our defined J&J Candidate Charter helps in setting the tone and expectations for all the involved stakeholders internally and externally. We are committed to identifying top talent and providing an exceptional candidate experience and engagement. Our job requirements balance skills, leadership behaviors and competencies to be successful in the role. 

Using technology and strong acquisition partners, we ensure an efficient and fair application process. We have platforms like J&J Shine SHINE, Johnson & Johnson’s new Talent Acquisition experience, designed to give candidates full transparency on their applications, helpful content to prepare them for interviews, and real-time support that help us add value to the careers of potential employees – whether it’s with our company or someplace else. Through this platform, we provide a package of learning resources for successful interviews such as the do and don’ts, addressing skills gaps, building connections with career coaches during the recruitment process, etc. This helps us engage with our potential employees from the very beginning and recognize our role as leaders of personal and professional development.

We follow a robust multi-stage selection process to hire candidates like interviewing on our leadership Imperatives, credo alignment, right functional skills not just for today but for future to be a true Johnsonian. A gap in someone’s knowledge or skill set can often be filled relatively quickly, but a poor value fit or a leadership gap can do enormous damage. Once the recruitment process is concluded, we invest in the robust onboarding process for first 90 days, variety of structured learning and development initiatives and help employees understand the culture of compliance since we work in the healthcare sector. All of this together, help them to understand the organization’s culture, build the right skills necessary for their role in the company.   

How does your organization adapt to meet the requirements of a changing workforce?

Diversity at Johnson & Johnson is about your unique perspective. Inclusion at Johnson & Johnson is about creating a deep sense of belonging. Our mission is to make diversity & inclusion our way of doing business.  

Our people processes and practices are equipped to ensure we are inclusive to our Diverse Workforce which includes everyone – all backgrounds, beliefs and the entire range of human experience—coming together. India has one of the unique privileges today to have a multi-generational workforce which contributes to the multi-facets of our business. We truly believe that every generation of employees adds valuable quality and diversity that ensures a cohesive work environment.

Today 50 percent of our workforce in India is millennials. To understand the needs and engage the millennials, we have Employee Resource Groups who work together to make J&J the best place to work. The young generation is mentored by the senior leaders and senior leaders get reverse mentored by the youngsters to create a win-win for all employees. Our reward philosophy is to deploy reward programs which will engage, retain employees across groups who will drive results for our patients, customers, and shareholders. 

How can organizations lead the way in learning and close the skill gap both for their employees and for their organization at large?

Every day, our more than 130,000 employees across the world are blending heart, science, and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity. This means we are attracting and retaining talent who strives to be a part of this purpose and make an impact on humanity. With Credo at the center, the skills to create this impact are both on the functional and leadership areas.

Our learning journey has a portfolio approach for developers to bridge the gap. Step one is to create insight and reflections – at the organizational level, our aim is to assess requirements by our customers in short and long term, our competitive advantage and differentiators and where do we stand today. Similarly, at individual levels, this is achieved through various tools like performance feedback, 360 degrees feedback, Disc assessment & Role transition assessment.  

Step two is creating experiences across a variety of roles through movements, projects, and international assignments.  

Step three is providing exposures through networks, mentors, shadowing, J&J TEDX series and bringing learnings and insights from outside in.  

Step four is to create platforms of programmatic development through global/regional/ local curriculum, e-learning which includes platforms like Harvard Manage Mentor and functional programs.   

We believe this is a continuous process and helps both organization and employees to advance its capabilities for impacting the health for humanity.  

Our engagement with the employee starts right at the moment they join  - from inputs during probation to performance cycle feedback, from online self-assessment on functional & leadership competencies to manager validation and from 360 degrees inputs and scientific tools to assess and coach to mentors and guides to handhold and support. Learning for us is an accepted way of life for every employee and the same is communicated and imbibed at multiple touchpoints.

Why do we need to rethink about women in technology?

We believe women are powerful catalysts for change – they are leaders, innovators, and propellers of healthy people and healthy communities. 

Launched by Johnson & Johnson in 2015, WiSTEM2D stands for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing, and Design. With the objective of increasing representation of women in science and technical fields, a multifaceted approach has been implemented to support and inspire girls and women of all ages in their pursuit of STEM2D studies and career. With this foundation, they are primed to make valuable contributions to their communities, companies, and the world in the decades ahead. 

We have ‘Women’s Leadership & Inclusion (WLI)’, an initiative to ensure a more inclusive culture that promotes gender equality and advances women leadership. Within the organization, our commitment is to ensure we have an infrastructure and policies which support a world-class working environment like having daycare facilities across sites (in progress), POSH committees, flexible working which can be used by both males and female employees.  

Our continued focus on women in technology has helped us to reach 33 percent of staff roles in R&D and 20 percent in Supply Chain.

Do we need to put more in R&D to bring in more and specialized jobs?

Across the regions where we operate, our employees are working on breakthrough innovations every day – creating new benchmarks in the area of consumer products and services, new technologies to make surgeries safer than ever before and new treatments to combat the most pressing pandemics in the world.  

Our pharmaceutical sector, Janssen’s goal is to be a transformational innovator. This has only been possible with our commitment and investment to Research and Development across the world. In India we have two R&D global centers for two important sectors in J&J - Pharmaceutical and Consumer - where our teams provide intelligence to our global R&D teams, supported by generalized as well as specialized roles to cater to the local needs of innovation and execution.  

Being amongst the top 10 companies in the world with the highest spending on R&D, we invest around 11 percent of our revenue in it.  This helps us to keep innovating and creating sustainable solutions for issues plaguing healthcare globally and at the same time collaborate across industries to create the new frontiers for tomorrow. This does bring into spotlight roles that are super specialized and focus on the future.

How different is managing workforce in India vs global MNC?

In today’s VUCA world managing workforce in India company Vs a global MNC requires a different approach in a few aspects which is driven by context and impact but broadly remains consistent around creating a world-class employee experience who can impact the customers and consumers as per their need. Some of the global landscape helps the organization to learn fast with diverse experiences of different countries/context and maturity of the business models which are evolving every day with changing customer’s needs, while at the same time, local organizations have the strength of localization. In any global MNC, the important aspect is to have a global strategic framework and at the same time ensure local customer needs are met and addressed in an agile manner. 

Many aspects of workforce management remain consistent across Indian company or a global MNC which is around world-class employee experience through attracting and selecting the right candidate, retaining and developing them through tools and frameworks and ensuring a high-performance culture which drives sustainable and continuous business growth. 

The beauty of India is that there will always be some cultural, economic and social drivers intrinsic to this country that necessitate us to come up with creative solutions. Be it around different business models, huge opportunity in our e-commerce journey, high focus on Make In India or a high percentage of youth led by a purpose, we have got enough opportunities to design innovative employment models, optimize structures, collaborate with government on many path-breaking initiatives ensuring each of us has an opportunity to truly push boundaries and make a difference, one step at a time.

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skill gap women in tech diversity workforce R&D jobs


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