Priyank Parakh, Director of HR at Haleon, spoke with All Things Talent about the company’s recent demerger, the importance of effective demerger communication and employer branding, and competing for top talent.
Haleon was formed last July after the Consumer Health section demerged from GSK. Can you please give us a summary of the business since the demerger and explain how the workforce increased?
GSK has a long history with its customers, both globally and in India. We have done exceptionally well with Sensodyne, Crocin, and other products in India. As a result, we continue to be the world’s leading consumer healthcare organization. Everyone at Haleon understands what we stand for when it comes to catering to our customers’ everyday health. Thus, we serve consumers and maintain our brand’s power. Haleon is also listed on the London Stock Exchange.
A strong brand supports us throughout this journey. We continue to meet our customers’ daily health needs and have strong three-digit growth.
Did you have trouble communicating with your employees when you demerged?
Haleon and I share the same personal philosophy: How can we really engage people in a topic when there is change and uncertainty by talking about it? We stated to employees that by demerging, we would unlock the potential of both organizations – pharma business and the consumer.
That gave employees a lot of faith since stakeholders view these spaces differently. R&D investment and market development differ greatly. That sent a very obvious message throughout the entire organization. The second part is about how we can all participate in this transformative journey together to create something we will live and work with. As a result, Haleon issued ownership shares to all permanent employees globally.
We’ve built a lot of camaraderie by embracing what we’re building. Employees took ownership of the change and were in the arena as a result.
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GSK has a brand recall. The consumer health unit is now called Haleon. Does it affect the brand’s employer appeal?
Not really. It is very critical to attract the right talent, which we have been doing well. GSK is a very strong household name and a great employer with a great legacy. That was definitely our USP. The world is getting transformed at a rapid pace today. When I started my career, we aspired to work with big brands and companies. However, young people today prefer newly formed businesses. Therefore, the GSK core remains the same, however, the Haleon name offers us a very vibrant and futuristic identity.
‘Hale’ comes from health and ‘Leon’ means strength. It really builds and brings together the narrative of a consumer health company that caters to the everyday health of an employee. So with that narrative, we are pretty much convinced at this point to carry the legacy forward. Having said that, it’s a journey for us. But how do we approach the larger target segment?
With the power of that brand, I’m trying to show Haleon as a continuation of that legacy, but in a very futuristic way. We’ll take it slow to keep our customers happy and attract talent with our new brand identity.
How has Haleon’s EVP changed since the demerger? Do any common practices remain?
Absolutely. We’ll keep doing the people practices that we’ve been doing. However, we are continuing to develop and change some of those practices.
For example, we are in the space of respiratory care with Otrivin. We’re working with our team to pioneer projects like pollution capture pencils. We are visiting schools and encouraging children to use some of these as well as other cleaner initiatives and learning opportunities. Some of these are available to people through the Haleon Experience. Some of these are outside the categories in which we compete. We would like to keep some of our key people practices, which we are proud of.
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You mentioned talent movements. Is there going to be a balance between internal and external hires?
We balance that well. We’re clear about developing internal talent. For GSK and currently Haleon, it has always been a source of talent. We’ll keep doing it and giving people opportunities to do so.
We’ll keep hiring external talent for capabilities we don’t have and in capacities or profiles, we want.
Recruiting unique talent is the third. Therefore, these are some of the pockets where we continue to scout talent and experiment with these capabilities and competencies.
“We are building a massive global capability centre, which is based in India, to support the global Haleon centre. These centres can cater to multiple requirements across the globe, whether it’s in tech, space, finance, or procurement space. It was a completely new learning experience for us since we have been a core FMCG firm and now we are getting into the industry that is building, and these support services are also new to us.”
What is Haleon doing to acquire capabilities?
To support the global Haleon centre, we are building a massive capability centre in India. These centres can meet global tech, space, finance, and procurement needs. Since we were a core FMCG company and now we’re entering the growing industry and using these support services, it was a new learning experience for us. We ended up hiring people from all over the world and gaining a lot of very cutting-edge skills in the process.
How many employees joined Haleon after the demerger and how many remained with GSK?
In India, we have always had two separate businesses. Historically, both companies were publicly traded before divesting. Thus, the work was clear in building the organization and global separation. What also helped was Haleon’s strong alignment with global consumers. Therefore, globally, it would have over 20,000 employees. As of today, there are roughly 1000 workers in India on the commercial side and in the global capabilities centre.
HR was clearly separated because both organizations have always had different needs. However, both organizations have built capabilities around functions like procurement.
This means there were not many shared resources when the demerger happened, which would have been a tricky situation to be alienated and then develop a separate strength over there.
There are tangled elements that pose a challenge. For example, when GCC was built, it was built together. Now we’ve put in a lot of effort to separate those from GCC.
There were policies that had synergy, like a combined board. It would be appreciated if we had to create a separate entity for each business. That is exactly what we are doing right now; global isolation and ripple effects will always exist. That continues to be there because we work in a very multinational matrix organization.
Also read: Top 5 On-Demand Job Roles And Their Salaries in GCC: Report
How strong is Haleon’s core business facing employees and GCC employees?
At this point, you can say 70–30; 30% is GCC. We are in the build-up phase. Since we just separated, this year’s expansions will show you how we evolve. We’re building capacity to serve the larger organization, and this year is crucial.
One key challenge is HR cost escalation. During and after Covid, a lot of digitization has occurred. Could you explain the HR cost escalation, how it was addressed, and whether any innovation occurred?
HR, as a team, is also significantly evolving in the right direction. Employee contact and connect have increased significantly, and the talent marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive, so HR business partnership capabilities must increase.
On the other hand, we are also restricting standard or non-value-added HR deliveries in a very tech-focused way.
HR tech must evolve and become more intuitive and progressive. Thus, HR business partnering is becoming more strategic, and we are also working on that.
We’re improving employee experience and services while controlling costs. The good news is that we can balance that with many tech interfaces and so on.
Are these HR Tech investments limited to India, or are they a global phenomenon?
These are mostly globally driven. However, if there are very clear India-specific requirements, we will continue to invest. The company is also empowered to invest in areas that are country specific.
What employee insights and experience outcomes have you gathered?
We regularly survey employees. A global employee engagement survey is an example. There are several indicators. Now that’s quantified.
Thus, we will consider each and every piece of data as well as the opinions of the employee regarding what they want to say, do, and change. So that’s what leadership is all about, and it’s where we gain more and more insights.
There are open channels where it’s a very transparent, fluid conversation between employees and managers. And then there is a definite interface with HR. As a result, you will notice that things come to light very quickly in our setup, which benefits us as well.
For example, most organizations are struggling to bring people back to the office. We are not because the pull is so strong, and employees’ desire to work with us is so strong. To be honest, I did not agree to any flexible work policies.
We just brought up some guidelines, took them to employees, and engaged with them to know the best way forward. People understood that the rules said you could be flexible, but it was up to the employee and their manager to decide.
Also, we keep doing pulse surveys to see if there’s still a need for the policy. Normally, these are done annually or biannually, but with the change of guards, this is our first Haleon survey. Previously, it was known as the GSK survey. Hence, we’ve recently finished one survey and will hopefully have another in six months.
“HR, as a team, is also evolving significantly in the right direction. On one hand, employee contact and connect have increased significantly; the entire talent marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive, and thus HR business partnership capabilities must increase significantly. On the other hand, we are also limiting non-value addition or standard HR deliveries in a very tech-oriented manner.”
You said employees got some ownership shares. Is the ownership of the international business?
Haleon is listed on the London Stock Exchange. We have ownership stocks to encourage this wonderful act of co-creating ownership at different levels. Hence, we are all shareholders of Haleon now, and that brings a lot of ownership amongst all the employees to build the company. Then there’s LDI and other stock programs like ESOPs.
We are not listed in Asia, Haleon is a global entity. All permanent employees, around 20,000 people, have shares in the globally listed entity.
How are you attracting first-time job seekers, experienced job seekers, and career changers?
One out of four people in India uses Eno. Sensodyne has been an absolute case study in terms of penetration and catering to India’s sensitivity demand. That’s the kind of penetration we’ve achieved. So for a brand manager who wants to be at Sensodyne, it’s like a dream brand to work on. Therefore, everyone in the marketing or brand sector is well aware of some of these companies because they are amazing case studies of growth, build-up, penetration, and so on.
Everyone knows the kind of working environment GSK has always had, they look up to us and look forward to working with us. They are now curious to know what a new Haleon would be like.
You will see individuals talking about the Haleon experience as we move forward, and it is, once again, a global initiative. As a result, we’ll make progress on this as well.
Also read: Talent Branding, Navigating Attrition: How Infosys is Making ‘Work’ Work
How do you communicate your vision to the potential candidates at Haleon?
It’s not only about us choosing the candidate; it’s also about the candidate choosing us. We strive to establish a platform where we can have open conversations about our brands. Everyone is aware of oral health, digestive health, respiratory pain, and now health and well-being. In all of those categories, they have either direct or adjacent experience. So, when they sit for the interview, we have extremely meaningful conversations about what we can achieve together.
When our recruiters reach out to people, they have a very clear understanding of what they want from a candidate. They have transparent communication, like, what do we do? What kind of structure do we have? What kind of job roles do we have? That conversation builds people’s confidence and the relationship becomes very meaningful.
Author: Priyank Parakh comes with experience in high-impact leadership roles in MNCs and Indian conglomerates in the Consumer Goods/Durables and Healthcare sectors.
Headquarters: Weybridge, England, UK
Year of Incorporation: 2022 in India as a demerged entity
Number of employees: 22,000+
Brian McNamara – Chief Executive Officer;
Keith Choy – President, Asia Pacific CH Executive;
Navneet Saluja – BU GM, India Sub-Continent;
Anurita Chopra – BU Marketing Lead ISC;
Rupendra Yadav – BU Sales ComEx & Expert Lead ISC;
Priyank Parakh – Director HR, ISC;
Shanu Saksena – Head, Ethics & Compliance ISC and Wider Asia;
Ashish Pandey – Head of Digital & Tech, ISC;
Nitin Mathur – EVP, Finance
Business Line: Deliver better everyday health with humanity
Key HR Factors:
-Haleon is offering up to 40 preventive healthcare services free of cost to all employees and their dependents.
-Our progressive parental leave policy is a leading example of how we truly care for our employees.