Recognizing the importance of millennials in shaping today’s business environment, Hikma Pharmaceuticals created a board that translates their ideas into action.
By Dina Al-Wakeel
Lana Ghanem is the Managing Director of Hikma Ventures—the corporate venture capital arm of Hikma Pharmaceuticals—and head of the company’s Innovation and Leadership Board (ILAB).
Established in April 2016, the ILAB has three objectives: attracting and retaining talent, making sure the executive team are up-to-date when it comes to technological advancements in health care, and improving processes within the company.
Ghanem hopes this new initiative will propel Hikma into the digital economy.
What is the concept behind Hikma’s ILAB?
At Hikma, we have the board of directors and the executive committee with the CEO taking part in both. However our CEO Said Darwazah felt there was a disconnect between him and the younger generation within the company, so we decided to establish a board or a committee that consists of around 16 members who come from different departments and different regions across Hikma. We have members from Jordan, the UK, Portugal and the United States. We are all under the age of 35, so it’s basically a millennial board. You feel motivated to be part of that committee that gets exposure with the senior management and meets with different executives on a quarterly basis, the CEO included.
The second incentive of being part of this is you’ll be able to come up with projects and implement them within Hikma. We had around five projects over the past year, one of which was called the Hikma young professional excellence program, which is a two-year rotation program. The idea behind it was for candidates to undergo a two-year rotation across different departments and regions. Another project was the iTech, which features digital health startups, like Altibbi and 3D MENA. Under this initiative, the entrepreneurs come for an hour to present their work to Hikma’s staff. It’s open to all 8,000 employees and is live streamed on our Facebook page allowing employees to interact with these startups to make sure that solutions will incorporate things beyond the pill going forward. We need to be innovative—this is where the future is. We also started a program called the ambassador program to prevent brain drain within Jordan and it will be implemented in other countries as well. We did a pilot this summer whereby we approached the Kings Academy, Amman Baccalaureate School and Montessori where we presented Hikma and what it offers to grade 11 students. We spoke to them about our career paths and opened up an internship program for two weeks. We are a global company that’s listed on the London Stock Exchange and if you work for Hikma you’re not confined to Jordan or the Middle East. It’s a story to be proud of. It’s educating people about companies like Hikma and what they can offer. So if they leave for universities they will think of coming back.
Why did you feel the need to give younger employees a voice within the company?
We think that while millennials are unstructured in the way they think, they want avenues whereby the can voice their opinion. They just don’t want to be confined to a certain structure. They want to be part of that change and given all the technological advancement that’s happening worldwide they need to be part of the workforce. It’s good that our CEO is aware of that because we came up with so many projects that benefited the company. One example is to use 3D printers to print spare parts in the factory. We want to eventually create a Fablab within Hikma because sometimes it takes so much time to order spare parts from a vendor so you are saving time and costs. It’s not easy given that each one of us also has a day job within the company.
Why should other companies follow in Hikma’s footsteps and establish a similar program?
I think there are quite a few companies that are progressive in the way they think. So I know that for example Nuqul group, Fine Holding Company developed a millennial board but they consist of internal and external people and I’m part of that board. So I think a handful of companies are aware that they need to innovate and include millennials.
How do you want this ILAB to develop within the company?
Any new concept that is implemented faces some pushbacks and for us we were lucky because we had the support of our CEO and we got individuals from the board of directors from London to sponsor it too. That’s why people took it seriously. But one thing that we’re focusing on now is on Hikma going digital. We want to become more of a healthcare provider as opposed to a pharma manufacturer. This means working with different departments across different regions to make sure that we’re well placed to be as competitive when it comes to manufacturing and providing solutions. We are investing in startups that are working on innovative solutions that could supplement our own business line, be it in telemedicine, wearable technology, or big data analytics.