Biocon’s Head of HR on the importance of C-suite sponsorship and a positive online experience
Part II of our interview series on employer branding features India-based biopharmaceutical firm Biocon Ltd., another company that is enjoying a great deal of member interest on the LinkedIn platform. Ravi Dasgupta, Group Head of Human Resources, has been in the industry for 25 years and with Biocon since 2007. He offers a different perspective on the employer branding process, and practical tips that should be relevant in any market.
Describe Biocon’s company brand and its relationship to your employer brand.
The two are closely related: as a company we are known for our affordable innovation, cutting-edge research and global alliances. As an employer we are known for our challenging and fast-paced environment, fulfilling projects and excellent growth opportunities. The finest minds in Indian biotechnology work at Biocon, and we are the first choice for diaspora looking to return home but stay in the industry.
The iconic Biocon brand is also very closely linked to our CEO Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who built our half-billion-dollar company from scratch in just 32 years. She is still our leader, and the ultimate ambassador of Biocon’s innovative and entrepreneurial image. Just as Kiran has done all along, employees are expected to take ownership and run with things, something that sets us apart from the competition.
All of these factors contribute to making us a fast-growing and well-respected company with a long line of eager job candidates.
For how long has employer branding been a significant part of your recruitment strategy?
It always has, but even more so in the past few years to support our rapid growth. Since I started our headcount has tripled to over 6,000, and last year our bottom line grew 17%. We are continually moving up the value chain and getting into new business areas too, which requires us to bring on highly capable individuals with in-depth experience who can take charge from Day One. Our excellent employer reputation is critical to attracting these top-quality hires.
How would you describe the impact of a strong employer brand on Biocon’s business?
It certainly has an impact: for example we see very high activity on LinkedIn and on our company website. In areas such as research and development, our fast-paced and challenging work environment translates into single-digit attrition from the start. But we work in a very volatile market, so some groups such as production and sales have a fair amount of attrition in the first year. However once these employees become accustomed to the environment and realize our superior growth opportunities, attrition is low.
What were the first steps you took on your employer branding journey at Biocon?
One of the first things I did was conduct a study to understand our hires from abroad. We surveyed 50-60 employees who had returned to India, asking what made them come back, and what they liked best about Biocon. The research helped us better understand this sub-set of employees, and then we used these findings to position ourselves to prospective employees in similar situations.
Our bi-annual survey is another way we get employee feedback. We do it every other year in order to take the time to learn from it and make impactful changes based on the results. We look at the value proposition and culture perceptions of our loyal employees and use this messaging to help condition candidates and new hires.
How do other senior executives feel about employer branding?
Our CEO Kiran challenged me to build a world-class organization by bringing in the right kind of people and setting up the right kind of processes. Her support is integral to upholding our favorable reputation as an employer. She is extremely driven with an incredible entrepreneurial spirit, and is highly invested in maintaining the brand. She wants to make a mark on the international stage and prove the merits of ‘Made-in-India’.
What are the most important things you’ve done on LinkedIn and elsewhere to boost Biocon’s employer brand?
Many of our success stories start with candidates requesting to join my LinkedIn network: I get about 25 a day, most of whom then follow up regarding job opportunities. I have various prepared messages drafted to help me manage the high volume.
My team members maintain large networks and an active presence online too. Even when LinkedIn was just establishing its presence in India, our recruiters were already using their personal profiles to source talent and build relationships. Our recruiters and employees are active in LinkedIn groups too. People who work at Biocon are proud of that fact and like to advertise us as their employer, so nearly 3,000 of our employees are on LinkedIn. We’ve enhanced our presence with the Career Page product and now also engage with candidates as they interact with our employees via Work With Us. In addition, we’ve also started building more of a presence on Facebook and Twitter.
We also get the opportunity to speak at international conferences around the world, and use them to represent our brand offline and connect with prospective employees in person.
If you were building an employer brand from scratch, where would you start?
First, identify what the organization offers that is different from the competition. Interview or survey employees and find out what attracted them to join and remain at the organization. Next, use these findings to define your employer brand, and take the messages back to prospective employees as a way to attract them. Reiterate the brand promise in all communication and interactions with candidates, employees and other stakeholders, and across all channels including social media, campus interactions, industry conferences, and print and digital communications.
Remember the employment brand must be in sync with the reality on the ground, otherwise new hires will become quickly disillusioned and jump ship.
Lastly, can you summarize the importance of a strong employer brand to Biocon?
With a strong employer brand, a candidate gains more than just a job; they gain confidence and an identity that is connected to the company’s. It helps us attract the best candidates without necessarily paying the earth to get them.
1. Take advantage of senior-level engagement and sponsorship:
- Understand the personal brand of the CEO and any other relevant senior executives and how they may extend to the employer brand.
- Make sure the employer brand is aligned with the company’s heritage when applicable, and long-term strategic goals.
2. Create a positive online experience for candidates:
- Build out your own profile and network to both inform candidates and serve as a model for your team and other employees.
- Answer all candidate inquiries. Adapt responses from templates if needed.
- Engage in groups and discussions on LinkedIn and other social media.
- Leverage the passion and commitment of existing employees with features such as Work With Us, and showcase your brand to a captive audience with Career Pages.
Do you have a best practice to share? Tweet your thoughts with #employerbrand. We want to hear from you!