Outlook: the pharma sector in 2022 and its challenges on attracting and retaining talent
Marco, thank you very much for joining today’s interview. From your perspective as the General Manager of Chiesi Mexico, can you please outline the main challenges that the pharma sector faces in 2022?
Thank you very much for inviting me to this forum. Speaking specifically about Mexico, in the past three years we have witnessed several changes in the health sector, particularly related to the government procurement strategy of medicines. Some examples are the Q3/Q4 tender of 2019, the national unique tender from 2020, the UNOPS international tender in 2021 and the creation of the Mexican Health Institute (INSABI).
Even though changes are always welcome and represent an incentive to improve, there are also downsides. Having too many changes in a short time frame can lead to less clear information and hamper the operations of medicine procurement in Mexico. Despite this, in Chiesi we remain confident that there will also be benefits in the future. I envisage two important changes that will allow us to consolidate what we have achieved between 2019 and 2021.
First, the advantages of centralization and concentration of all State and Federal institutions in one unique national tender. Second, the transparency and temporal regularity in the medicine acquisition process. I consider both changes to be positive and to happen in 2022.
With regards to the private sector, we all know this is a 100% out-of-pocket sector. This means that the patient pays medicines entirely with their own money. The expectation by 2022, in a market as big as Mexican, is a double-digit growth both in terms of volume and value.
In this context, how do you think that the COVID19 pandemic affected the working culture of companies like Chiesi?
Middle-sized companies like Chiesi have demonstrated more flexibility and resilience to the crisis period generated by the pandemic, which I consider can be divided in two phases. The first one is related to the crisis, which happened during the lockdown and fear was on everyone’s minds. The second stage is the one we are currently living in, or the periods in-between COVID waves. In this phase, we need to continue doing business under a different perspective and an operation model substantially different to the one we had prior to the pandemic.
We have detected in Chiesi a big sense of affiliation to the company. These times have generated a strong sense of confidence between the company and the collaborators. Confidence and a sense of belonging were undoubtedly the key to Chiesi’s success in this difficult period.
Fortunately, we have continued our investment and onboarding projects – we never stopped. Even in the toughest moment of the pandemic, we managed to continue our onboarding processes virtually. We have also placed a lot of emphasis on implementing well-being initiatives for our collaborators. The objective has always been to improve the physical, professional, and psychological health of our employees.
Finally, we have continued to stick to our corporate values which are shared by our big team. Chiesi is a family company that has deep values rooted in its people. These values have allowed us to keep the team together and to achieve big results in the past two years.
Do you think this reaction was also manifested across different representations of Chiesi in LATAM or do you think this phenomenon was exclusive to Mexico?
What we have detected in Mexico has been shared on a group level across all the countries where we operate. Ultimately, Chiesi’s values are well fixed on every collaborator. Even in periods of crisis and emergency, such as COVID19 in 2020, values were important to keep cohesion within the team despite several changes in our employees professional and personal life.
Did you find any challenges or obstacles finding relevant talent for your company? Where do you source your talent?
The most important topic to address is talent attraction, as retention has not represented big difficulties. The need for talent has evolved in the past two years of the pandemic and will continue to evolve in the pharma sector.
The traditional model of marketing and sales of pharma specialties is not the same as in the past. Talent attraction can be a very big challenge because of the availability of new talent in the labor market. We are looking for hybrid profiles, which are sometimes not found easily in the market. The alternative is to develop internal capabilities through investments in upscaling talent that already exists within the company.
What type of professional competencies or skills will be required by companies like Chiesi in the future?
The required competencies, both hard and soft, will be significantly different in the future. For instance, the use of digital technology and the ability to do remote engagement with health professionals and clients are two of the most important skills in this new working scheme.
The most important research firm of the pharma sector in Mexico published a study yesterday related to the penetration levels of remote medical visits. It was clear that 1/3 of the medical universe in Mexico is well available to receive remote visits. This is a crucial element to consider.
This is also a platform where professionals will work in the immediate future. For this reason, the entire industry is trying to find out if internal talent in customer facing positions (marketing & sales) can have the potential for a transition to a new normality.
There is also an impact in non-customer facing positions, particularly in terms of leadership. In this case, I see a shift towards a culture of trust away of the culture of control, a transition from yearly objectives to short-term objectives and an evolution from institutional feedback to continuous feedback.
These are the changes that make us look within our internal talent abilities, competencies or skills which are necessary to keep working in an efficient way, which is different to that before the pandemic. If companies want to continue being competitive in the market, these skills necessarily need to be taken in consideration.