Pathik Divate, CEO at Jehangir Clinical Development Centre & Director at Linq Labs

Pathik Divate is a Chartered Accountant and MBA from Thunderbird – The Garvin School in USA. In his 20 years of work experience, Pathik has worked in three industries and across six countries. He is the co-founder of Jehangir Clinical Development Centre Pvt. Ltd. (JCDC) which is a well-established clinical research centre in Pune. Under his leadership, Pathik has taken JCDC from a five people team in 2007 to over 80+ people currently and acquired numerous accolades including the best research centre award by ISCR. JCDC works with over 70+ clients including all the top 10 pharma companies worldwide. Moreover it works with nutrition,  consumer healthcare companies, start-ups and public health institutions such as the WHO. He was honored with the Top 100 Healthcare Leaders Award by the International Forum on Advances in Healthcare (IFAH) in Dubai in December 2019. In 2015 Pathik co-founded a new venture called Linq Labs® which is a niche bio-repository, cell biology and molecular biology laboratory.

Here are his key experiences in the industry in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic and WFH situation.

What is the impact on employee performance in the pandemic situation?

We are really different from an IT company, we are a healthcare company and our offices are within hospitals as we are into clinical research. Work from home is not completely possible for us. So we have implemented work from home for some roles, where it is a backend and paperwork job.  For our primary operations our people have to come to work. So we have taken requisite permissions and our office has been open since 28th April. We have been working right throughout the lockdown. We have different challenges because our employees have been coming to our work so we had problems where their parents were not very happy, we also had some attrition issues. Some housing societies where our employees live were unhappy that they are going out of the building. So we had various challenges. We had to engage with our employees to make sure they are okay and happy, we had to talk to their parents wherever required so we had a lot of HR practices had to be implemented to ensure that the employees were motivated.

Have you taken any proactive measures to maintain employee performance?

An important point when people are working from home is to measure the performance. There has to be a clear communication as to what is expected every day from an employee to be achieved and at the end of the day whether what was decided is actually achieved. So we had daily huddles where we mostly were on a zoom call or conference call to make sure that the whole team is aligned on what is expected to be done,whether they are on board or they are facing any constraints to achieve what is planned.

Will there be any changes to existing appraisal methods? Process & Frequency?

Yes there have been changes. The annual appraisals were due in April but we had to request employees that we may have to postpone the appraisal for some months because of the uncertainty. So yes, there have been changes.

Do you think formality feedback or regular performance check in will make a difference on the employee performance?

Yes, it has to. There has to be a two way feedback, a continuous feedback. There has to be a mechanism where performance is evaluated and it has been communicated in the right way. Not just, the negatives but also the positive feedback. So whenever there is a good performance of an employee, appreciation and feedback must go to the employee. Also for any reason the employee is not able to manage or cope up then feedback has to be given as well. During the lockdown, when some people were working from home we had to be a little bit of both (tough and lenient). We had to, of course, monitor them and at the same time understand that some of them may have household responsibilities as well. So we have to be a bit sensitive about these aspects. We had to be firm yet gentle with employees. Sometimes, there are certain things which could not be achieved, we had to be understanding.

With employees and managers all away from each other, what steps are being taken to ensure clarity on work objectives/goals and their priorities?

First of all, there has to be great clarity in terms of the job description. Employees have to understand what is expected from them. Exactly what task and activities each employee have to be done. It has to be very clearly told especially for new employees. We have had new hires during the lockdown, and their appointment was not face to face. It is very important that the expectations are conveyed. The training of the job has to be done well. When this clarity is achieved, then there has to be periodical monitoring of activities done on a – daily, weekly, monthly basis, Without being imposing there has to be periodic monitoring and oversight.