John Mitchell
Managing Partner of the Healthcare and Life Sciences Practice
Heidrick & Struggles
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View from the Top

Human Capital Key to Global Competitiveness

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 15:24

Q: How is the healthcare practice in Mexico different from your previous global experience?

A: Our colleagues in Mexico tend to be more generalist, enabling them to work across different practices. Even though they may not be as focused on healthcare and life sciences, they can work in consumer or industrial areas, as the vast market size inhibits them from focusing on a single specialization area. Notwithstanding, this type of behavior varies around the globe. For instance, in the US and certain European markets, in-depth specialization is the norm. The Mexican healthcare market is quite different from the rest of the world. In the past, foreign companies entered the country to manufacture their products, as the country offered high-quality standards at competitive costs. In addition, Mexico’s strategic location made manufacturing activities for specialty products and generics much more appealing.

Q: What are Mexico’s strong suits in the healthcare industry?

A: Mexico’s talent pool is highly fluid, as people frequently explore the marketplace. This allows healthcare professionals to acquire on-the-field experience in multiple areas and markets, which is extremely important and adds value to the industry. In markets where there is more specialization, employees will focus only on one area, such as medical technology or biopharmaceuticals. People are very polished in the healthcare industry. At this point, there are strong concerns on the topic of the single payer system and what actions will the government take to promote healthcare in the country. The government may decide to follow the example of other economies around the world where medicine is subsidized, leading to a healthier workforce, which is in a better position to help the local and global market. In Mexico there is a positive attitude for the healthcare market especially after the growth of generics. Nowadays, Big Pharma is launching considerably less innovative products and what we are seeing from them is an increase in the number of mergers and acquisitions

Q: How are you addressing the need for human capital and the development of Mexican talent?

A: Big Pharma used to bet on Mexican-bred leadership to oversee local operations and companies had a really strong Mexican leadership. Now, leadership comes from other parts of the world. However, what we are looking for in terms of quality and talent does not differ. We are looking for leaders, people who can inspire, who are culturally adaptable and who have strong experience and a proven track record of success. We are also looking for a flexible workforce.

It is necessary to embrace diversity and be clear about business objectives, values and ethics. In the pharmaceutical sector it is necessary to closely scrutinize safety and to ensure compliance with the entire regulatory environment, which may be expensive and difficult to navigate. Thus, it is necessary to establish compliance policies and methods and to ensure that employees understand and follow them. The pharmaceutical industry handles products which deal with life and death.

Q: Taking into account that Millennials are shaping their work environment, how should pharmaceutical companies adapt to remain competitive?

A: The Millennial generation is extremely strong, and different from the Baby Boomers. They are the largest generation at this point. This segment is much more interested in their quality of life and base their decisions on the work environment and experience. We have seen some companies completely change their workforce and work environment for them. For instance, previously personal offices for leadership roles would take about 80 percent of the space in an office. Now, these offices only take 20 percent while the rest is open space to allow employees to communicate.