By Ramona Sequeira, president U.S. Business Unit & Global Portfolio Commercialization, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company
The signs of spring and the accelerating vaccine rollout are bringing hope to many. And yet each day we’re confronted with a challenging and painful news cycle that repeatedly surfaces difficult memories and raw emotions for so many individuals – gun violence, ongoing social justice protests, the Chauvin trial verdict, and the recent attacks on members of the Asian community. Any one of these issues is difficult to digest and process. Put them all together and we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed. It can be tempting to turn away. It might be necessary to retain some distance to preserve our own emotional wellbeing.
And yet we can’t turn away completely. Because we know from experience that when tragedy and injustice hit you or your community directly, it feels very different. It becomes personal. As a colleague recently shared with me, these events are bringing increased stress, pressure and anxiety for many, including black and Asian individuals, their families and their communities.
As a company, there is no right way to respond when tragedy hits. Certainly we can empathize and bear witness, but I believe we must go further. We must also allow that the experience for some may be more intense and more painful because of their personal history or that of their family or community.
The employer-employee landscape has made a rapid and dramatic shift over the past year. It’s now incumbent upon us to recognize that every employee who makes up our work community comes from a community outside the walls of our organization.
And at any given time, employees may be feeling extra stress, anxiety and pressure as a result of these external events. Not only must we provide access to important employee assistance programs and other benefits to support them, we must also let them know they are valued and recognized not only for their talent and contribution to the business, but also for their stories, experiences and personal history.
Personally, I admire the courage of those who have shared their stories with me over the past year and value the insights they have given me.
At Takeda, we believe that no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may be, each of us has a responsibility to reach out to those who may be most impacted by these events. It shows we are aware. It shows we care. It shows we are available and value each individual’s unique experience, even if they don’t wish to talk about it. From what I’ve heard from my colleagues, it makes a significant difference in their sense of belonging and value to our organization.
We also actively encourage those with a personal desire to take action and do more in response to these events, to do so. We have multiple employee resource groups with opportunities for members and allies. We encourage employee volunteerism and offer paid time off and a volunteer grant program. We also offer a generous matching gift program to amplify employee donations to the eligible charities they support.
Aside from individual action, we are acutely aware that as a leading, global biopharmaceutical company we must also take organizational action. Takeda recognizes the time is now for us to do more to advance greater diversity, equity and inclusion across our organization and within our communities – for our employees, for our customers and for our patients.
That’s why we’ve created a Center for Health Equity in the U.S. to build relationships and support programs to help address social determinants of health. We are working to identify the root causes of health inequity within the healthcare ecosystem as well as the communities most impacted by these issues across the country.
Last year, we created a new role to oversee DEI in the U.S. and put together a DEI Council overseen by my executive leadership team. We have nine pillars, including recruiting and retaining talent, patient engagement and vendor selection. Business leaders involved in all nine pillars are working to embed DEI practices, policies and metrics across our business in an integrated and coordinated way.
Knowing that true change is leader-led, ours have stepped forward within their respective businesses to take action by initiating internships, launching new trainings, holding open and honest conversations about inclusion, unconscious bias and race, and much more.
This is just the beginning. It takes time to create sustainable change, so we are committing the resources to accelerate our efforts both inside and outside Takeda. We are determined to show that commitment each day through our actions of Patient Trust Reputation Business – always in that order.
I am proud to say that I’ve seen Takeda at our best this past year. I believe it’s because we have a culture that combines genuine caring with the ability to see the big picture; we focus on the things that matter most for our employees, our customers and our patients. Our difference lies in our ability to keep it personal – in our words and through our actions.
That personal touch is what allows us to come together, even when we disagree, to collaborate, solve problems and innovate. It’s how we earn and continue to build trust – with each other, with our partners, with our customers and with our patients. It’s why I continue to be hopeful, knowing we have what it takes to build a sustainable business grounded in our values and enabled by our culture.
As we’ve seen over this past year, the complexities of the world we live in are many. But so too are the opportunities to continue to learn, grow and become stronger as individuals and as organizations. We can show others that keeping it personal is a path toward building employee engagement, sustainable growth and long-term success.