Best Practice

Praise for industry volunteers transforming lives

Health Industry Hub | December 16, 2019 |
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Corporate volunteering programmes enable employees to both support society’s most pressing challenges and develop and enrich themselves.

Health Industry Hub had the pleasure of interviewing GSK’s Monique George, Respiratory Brand Manager (on secondment from Sales Manager) and Lisa Worthington, Commercial Quality Manager who returned from their PULSE volunteering program assignments.

The PULSE program, established in 2010, enables GSK employees to volunteer full-time with partnered NGOs for three to six-months, either internationally or locally.

Health Industry Hub: Why were you inspired to get involved in the PULSE volunteering program?

Monique: Making a difference is what motivated me to step into the pharmaceutical industry. Change, challenge and growth have been fundamental in my life, both professionally and personally. To make a true difference in the community is the best way I can put these values to good use. This led me towards GSK’s PULSE program.

Lisa: I was at the point where I was looking to develop my skills and experience. I wanted to challenge myself outside of my comfort zone with an opportunity to give back to the community.

Health Industry Hub: What are the most memorable moments of this experience?

Monique: My assignment with Leonard Cheshire in Zambia assisted in uniting the neighbouring countries to work together for the first time in supporting access to education for disabled children, by providing assistive devices, medical support and rehabilitation.

During this time I worked with the single audiologist in Zambia who trained locals in becoming audiologist to provide better healthcare. We conducted a hearing assessment roadshow and saw was over 850 kids. Some kids were hearing impaired severely limiting future prospects. In seeking a quote for a hearing aid, my curiosity led to many questions with the outcome that in fact some of these kids had a foreign body in their ear and once removed life completely changed for them. It was a truly emotional experience.

Lisa: In working with Save the Children I came to realise how lucky we are in a country like Australia and how many things we take for granted in terms of the standards of healthcare and the availability of medicines. I became familiar with some of the challenges that an NGO faces with their supply chain, getting vaccines and medicines into remote areas, and potential issues around falsified and substandard medicine.

In a large organisation, you have systems, processes and support teams that you can reach out to for guidance. An NGO has to do their best to maximise impact with very limited resources and support.

Health Industry Hub: How did you personally develop as a result of this volunteering experience?

Monique: It taught me how much you can do with so little. I think we really over complicate what is possible even though we have many resources available to us. You can absolutely make the biggest difference if you make a commitment and you are determined to not let anything get in the way. This will be ingrained in me. Also, I learned that curiosity really pays off. Asking the question; why, how and what’s going on? That’s where you can really change yourself and change others around you.

Lisa: It really helped me put things in perspective about what is important in life and how so many of us often get caught up in trivial matters. When you look at what people are dealing with in other communities and the challenges they face in terms of having access to medicines and being able to get to see a healthcare professional, it gives you a very refreshing perspective.

Health Industry Hub: How is the GSK senior leadership team in Australia involved in PULSE?

Monique: The direction of PULSE came from one of the senior leaders as a starting point. Endorsement and support came from my direct line manager, their manager and the GM. A six- month displacement from the local GSK office is a significant undertaking for the volunteers and the team members left behind with the additional workload.

Lisa: The support from across the business and the leadership team has been fantastic. There is a tremendous amount of support that is provided before, during and after the PULSE assignment, particularly with re-entry into the business.

Health Industry Hub: What do you see as the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) with regards to employee engagement and employer branding?

Monique: It surprised me how much it meant to my sales team to hear more about the PULSE experience. Hearing what GSK had invested in and the impact in the world made them feel proud of working for the company. I see this reflected in the recruitment process, especially with the younger generation seeking to join GSK.

I also saw the impact of community engagement and CSR in Zambia. During the assignment we worked with the European Union and in communication with government officials there were comments on GSK’s investment in the community programme. It had a positive impact on their perception of the company and the industry.

Lisa: It’s great to see that you can provide your skills and expertise, and make a difference in the community. It doesn’t just have to be based on a financial contribution. I have similarly had a lot of interest internally from various people across the business in learning more about PULSE and potentially being involved. There was also a lot of interest externally working with the NGO in terms of the great opportunity provided by the business for employees to gain experience and be able to give back to the community.

Health Industry Hub: Why would you encourage others to be involved in CSR and volunteering?

Monique: The first thing I would like colleagues to consider is Why are they here? What was it about the healthcare industry that made them want to step into it? There is a real motivation that aligns with social responsibility whether it be corporate or not. We need to break down the barrier that social responsibility has to be a huge commitment. Every small step counts. It’s really linked to who you are as a person and what difference you want to make in the world.

Lisa: My experience has taught me that volunteering comes in all shapes and forms. Each individual can determine how they wish to contribute. Volunteering for the greater good is essential in improving society and it is personally fulfilling.

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