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Pfizer perks up for city digs

Posted 10 October 2019

As Pfizer heads towards the one-year anniversary mark at its new Barrack Place headquarters in the Sydney CBD, the company's HR boss says the move is providing fresh benefits for staff.

Gaya Srikumar, Pfizer's human resources director, ANZ and Korea, told Pharma in Focus moving had been a "phenomenal experience" and the new "open environment" was allowing for more spontaneous collaboration that wasn't as easy in the more spread out, structured campus-style at the company's previous West Ryde location.

"It really feels like we've broken down barriers. You can come into work and sit next to someone you've never spoken to before. It's a more open and collaborative environment," Srikumar said.

"And it's not only within Pfizer; it's helped us engage more broadly with other stakeholders, hosting panels and programs and being closer to the community."

The company previously said its new digs helped it win the talent war, with Srikumar saying Pfizer was now on a diversity and inclusion mission.

Pfizer's Gaya Srikumar

"We want people to be able to bring their whole selves to work and talk about their strengths and life experiences," she said.

And she says this is not only a 'nice to have'.

"There's a business case there", she said, referencing a 2017 BCG study which found that companies with diversity within their management teams had innovation revenue of 45 per cent - higher than those with less diversity.

Areas where the company is dedicating particular energy are LGBTQI+, disability, gender and its CARES CSR program. 

One initiative has been to hold internal small group discussions to understand people's 'lived experiences' of areas like disability, Srikumar said.

"I have been deeply moved by some of the personal stories people have told about themselves or family members. They really are touching," she said.

"It really helps bring the perspective that we are all human and develop an empathetic community here at work."

Focus groups discussions are also used for areas like career growth and development.

Pfizer has held training, she said, to create a more inclusive workplace, for example in unconscious bias and Pfizer Australia has hosted exchanges from other country offices - something Srikumar says has been great for sharing best practice and experience and also supporting a cultural exchange.

On the gender front, Pfizer has updated parental leave policy language to be primary and secondary carer, rather than mother and father. The company has also broadened language to include more diverse family types such as same-sex parents and adoptive parents, Srikumar explained.

And in addition, Pfizer has also tackled the issue of domestic violence by offering 10 days of paid leave, she said.

"Sometimes, it is the simple things - like the banner we have in our office to say we are an open and inclusive environment. It's a minor thing but very powerful," Srikumar said of Pfizer's diversity and inclusion initiatives.

"Little signals can make big statements."

Alexandra Vanags

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