Global biopharma giant Takeda is almost 250 years old. Since 1781 it has been driven by its values: fairness, honesty, perseverance, and integrity.
Takeda brings these to life by putting patients and the planet first. All of the pharma giant’s employees live and breathe these values by delivering on Takeda’s commitment to bring better health for patients and a brighter future for the world.
“Across Takeda our people feel a deep sense of pride in the work we do, no matter the level or role, and that comes through each day,” the employer’s vice-president and head of global talent acquisition Jimmy Zhang tells UNLEASH.
“The commitment to patients and our values is obvious. We keep our mission at the core and operate with care and attention.”
Therefore, it is no surprise that Zhang believes the people is what makes Takeda a special place to work.
Takeda and the COVID-19 pandemic
The pharma sector was on the frontlines during the pandemic. While the likes of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna dominated news headlines around COVID-19 vaccines, Takeda was also going above and beyond in the fight against the viral pandemic.
In addition to offering up its manufacturing and supply facilities to help Moderna and Novavax to manufacture their vaccines at speed and scale, Takeda co-founded the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance and worked with its competitors to develop plasma-based therapeutics to treat COVID-19.
The company also assessed whether its existing medications might be effective at treating the viral disease, and worked in partnership with research and development groups and consortiums to share knowledge and expertise.
UNLEASH was curious what impact the COVID-19 crisis had on Takeda’s workforce; many of whom were on the frontline and could not work from home. What has the past three years looked like for Takeda and its employees?
Zhang shares: “The pandemic forced us to become agile and rethink how we engage our remote, hybrid and onsite workforce”.
With the help of employee listening tool Perceptyx, “we really leaned on employees to tell us what they needed and what was most important to drive the decisions we made around people experience”.
This led Takeda’s HR leadership to focus on finding opportunities for intentional connection and flexibility, as well as empowering managers and employees “to make the decisions that made the most sense for them and their situation”.
The importance of data and tech in recruitment
Switching to fully virtual recruitment during the peak of the pandemic was not a major challenge for Takeda; “because of our global remit we have always taken part in virtual recruitment to some extent”, explains Zhang.
During the pandemic, Takeda dialed up its use of recruitment tech, including Microsoft Teams, HireVue and Paradox – the pharma giant is still relying on these tools, but is taking a “flexible approach to interviewing candidates”, which is a mixture of in-person and virtual interactions.
Takeda also relies on talent intelligence data and analytics tools to help with “competitive research, external insights and other market intel to lead the recruitment approach both proactively and reactively”.
Technology “helps us to identify gaps and pain points during the candidate’s journey. Using this data, we can take concrete action in addressing these matters and continuously refine how we engage with talent”.
Standout tools for Zhang are SeekOut and Terrain Analytics for external analysis and insights, Martec to help Takeda tailor its recruitment content to its audiences and Suvale to better track candidate experience in the recruitment process, as well as improve hiring manager and recruiter relationships.
Clearly Takeda is ahead of the game on the use of data and analytics in recruitment – but it is not resting on its laurels.
Zhang shares: “We are also increasing our internal analytics capability to understand the quality of talent in the market and predictive capabilities around market sensing.”
The good news is that effective people analytics is positive for business bottom lines – it not only improves the quality of the hire, but also drives business efficiencies and retention, as well as improves diversity, equity and inclusion, and belonging.
The future of tech at Takeda
Given the central role that people analytics plays at Takeda, it is no surprise that the pharma company’s attitude towards the Great Resignation, and the resulting war for talent, is data-led.
In line with the rest of the sector, Takeda saw a “slight surge in exits in 2021 [and] into 2022”, notes Zhang. “The trend is normalizing and dropping slightly below the pre-pandemic”.
“We were able to leverage machine learning to identify retention hot spots in the business”, in order to “be proactive in the retention programs and initiatives we pursued to create a better overall people experience”, adds Zhang. This model was built internally, but “we did use a tool called Immuta to mask sensitive data before we used the data in the model”.
Beyond retention, “Takeda has been pushing to be more innovative in the talent acquisition space to help us anticipate and prepare for…trends within the external talent market”, states Zhang.
This explains why the employer is “doubling down” on talent intelligence capabilities by investing in new tools and building internal capabilities.
Looking to the future, Zhang thinks “cognitive AI assistance with reinforcement learning techniques will become big in the next [few] years. We are already seeing the advancements in the space with ChatGPT and ParadoxAI”.
He concludes: “I do believe we will start to move from a completely supervised machine learning environment to virtual assistants being able to handle basic decision-making”.
For Zhang, UNLEASH America is a great opportunity for him “to learn more about technology innovation” in the world of HR.
If you want to do the same, including gaining more insights from Zhang himself, then you can grab a ticket for the International Festival of HR here.
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