10 reasons why more cultural intelligence is needed in the pharmaceuticals industry
| By Sue Bryant
Why is cultural intelligence a skill needed in the pharmaceuticals industry?
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most powerful in the world. But does it represent the diverse populations whose lives it affects? The days when leading pharmaceutical companies were run by mainly Caucasian males, and sales strategies and marketing campaigns were directed at a white, one-size-fits-all audience are long gone. In today’s diverse climate, cultural intelligence is everything. Why? There are several reasons. Consumers are better informed about healthcare and are more demanding; they want to feel understood and spoken to. Personalised medication in the US means individuals expect more closely targeted messages. Better understanding globally of healthcare decision making means marketing can be tailored to specific groups and mindsets. Improved knowledge of how different population groups perceive health and illness is another way that pharmaceutical companies can tailor their communication.All of these factors are elements of cultural intelligence, which can sometimes be overlooked in a highly regulated field like the pharmaceutical industry.Cultural intelligence in the workplace is just as important as in the marketplace. The pharmaceutical industry needs to innovate and disrupt, which can only be done by creating a more diverse, forward-thinking workplace. Work forces should represent the company’s customers and patients, too – otherwise, how can the company concerned be perceived as being in touch with different consumer groups?
10 reasons why cultural intelligence is vital to the pharmaceutical sector
- The pharmaceutical and biotech industries affect all populations worldwide. Reputation and ethics are everything. Embracing diversity and demonstrating intelligent cultural understanding are two important factors in any corporate social responsibility programme. The diversity of a company’s workplace should reflect the diversity of its market – or consumers may not take that company seriously.
- In order to attract top talent and be competitive, pharmaceutical companies need to demonstrate their understanding of diversity. This talent needs to be retained; if different ethnic groups or LGBTQ employees do not see representation at all levels of the company, they may leave for a more enlightened employer.
- Cultural intelligence helps develop an in-depth understanding of working styles in other cultures – and in the pharmaceutical business, the supply chain and distribution network cross many cultures. A culturally intelligent workforce will demonstrate better tolerance, trust and understanding of global colleagues. Cultural differences become strengths in problem solving, rather than obstacles, while improved collaboration drives the ability to respond quicker to market changes.
- Developing a strategy across the whole company of improving cultural intelligence can encourage closer integration across offices worldwide. A culturally aware workforce is able to work effectively in virtual teams when everybody, metaphorically speaking, understands the same language. Creating a common language and understanding is both effective in business and unifying for employees. It also encourages the sharing across the company of best practices.
- Being culturally aware helps individuals to recognise areas of their own communication that could be improved, to make their daily interaction with international colleagues more effective, and more enjoyable. How emails and memos are worded, for example, and whether and why, with some cultures, face-to-face brainstorming is preferable to a WhatsApp group.
- Culturally sensitive leaders make better managers. They are able to better understand the dynamics of a multicultural group at a meeting, for example. They are better at negotiating with other cultures, and at conflict resolution between cultures.
- Cross-cultural training is essential for globally mobile employees and their families; it will reduce culture shock and make the individual more effective and better poised to integrate with their new workplace.
- Individuals with cultural sensitivity make better collaborators – essential when working in development teams across cultures. Sharing successes and failures is essential for driving innovation and building trust.
- Understanding the behaviour of diverse markets is essential for the pharmaceutical industry in order to target messages that appeal to the cultural values of these markets, whether they are LGBT, Hispanic, Asian, mature or millennial.
- Better cultural understanding helps individuals come across as more authentic. Playing lip service to cross-cultural working, marketing and sales is not enough. A genuine appreciation of other cultures is essential, for example, understanding how different cultures view health issues, aging and death will impact how Pharma companies approach sales and marketing in specific regions.
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