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Video Brief – Parexel’s Jonathan Shaw on Digital Transformation



Welcome to the HBR video brief. I’m Todd Pruzan, Senior Research and Special Projects Editor at the Harvard Business Review. Today I’m here with Jonathan Schaf, CIO of Parexel, one of the world’s largest clinical research organizations. Jonathan has over 30 years of IT experience and joined Parexel in November 2022 to lead the development of innovative technologies and solutions to meet customer needs in an ever evolving and growing clinical trial environment.

Jonathan is here to talk about the importance of digital transformation and its impact on the research industry, as well as the impact of modernized technologies on clinical trial patients. Jonathan, thank you so much for being with us today.

Jonathan: Thank you very much for inviting me. I am very happy to be here and I appreciate that you asked me to do so.

TP: Thank you, Jonathan. What is a Clinical Research Organization (CRO) and how has technology changed the industry?

DS: That’s a great question. First of all, CRO is a contract research organization that provides clinical trials and research services primarily to pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and sometimes to non-pharmaceutical and non-biotech companies. CROs typically test the safety and efficacy of new drugs, vaccines, and other medical procedures, such as medical devices, before they are made available to patients. So this process includes early clinical research, also known as prehuman research, and what we like to call first human research.

The CRO industry is relatively young – it started in the 1980s. Although there were tools such as Microsoft Excel, some databases, and of course pen and paper, for many years there were not many technologies that supported clinical research. But if you look back from 2010 to 2011, there’s a whole industry that has coalesced around contract research and pharmaceutical research and development in general, and it’s really expanded around the world.

TP: So what does digital transformation look like at Parexel? What are you trying to achieve?

DS: You know that there are two macro problems in our industry. One of them is finding and retaining patients in clinical trials (and it is very expensive to take this into account when developing a new drug). Therefore, at Parexel, we use a patient-centered approach for this. And in my role as CIO, I see the importance of empowering our teams with the best tools and technology, and the compelling opportunities that I call them digitized to streamline and improve the efficiency of the entire process.

An example would be investing in the use of real evidence, such as electronic medical records and electronic claims, or real data. This means using people’s social activity data to help us find patients. The second problem is finding places to conduct clinical trials, as participation in clinical trials requires patients to be referred somewhere to actually participate. So, we are looking at how to combine these two things with the help of technology.

TP: Good. So, Jonathan, what does all this technological innovation mean for patients and their communities?

DS: The work we do ultimately allows us to achieve the goal of providing a safe and effective therapy or treatment for them. We want to make it easier for patients to participate in clinical trials. We want to raise awareness and educate people that participating in clinical trials can help produce clinically relevant results that can reach patients faster, as we saw with pre-COVID therapy during the pandemic, right? So whether it’s orphan drugs, rare disease therapy, CNS therapy, or oncology, we want to use technology to bring these patients, researchers, and the work we do at CRO together so we can get these vaccines and treatments to market faster. .

TP: Well, Jonathan, thank you so much for the great conversation and all your ideas today.

DS: Todd, thank you, I really enjoyed it. This is a great way to convey the message that being in this industry is important for our health and the impact it has on our daily lives. Thank you very much.

TP: To find out more, click on the link below.

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Why some companies say “diversity and belonging” instead of “diversity and inclusion”



Woodward is a 153-year-old aerospace company that required its male employees to wear bow ties in the 1990s.

So Paul Benson, the company’s director of human resources, knew that creating a company-wide program for diversity, equality, and inclusion would require dramatic changes. “Look at our organization chart online and we are a snow-white leadership team of old men,” he said. But the employees strove for a more inclusive culture.

“People want to feel like they belong,” Benson said. “They want to come to work and don’t feel like they need to check themselves at the door.”

Last summer, Mr. Benson began looking for a diversity consultant who would be up to the task. He hoped to find a familiar former leader “who saw the light.”

Instead, a Google search led him to a black comedian and former media personality named Karit Foster. She is the executive director Reverse Solutionsa consulting company that rethinks traditional diversity programs.

Ms Foster said companies must fight racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism in the workplace. But she believes that an overemphasis on group identities and a tendency to relegate people to “victim or villain” can rob and alienate everyone, including employees of color. She says her approach allows everyone to “make mistakes, sometimes say the wrong thing and be able to fix it.”

Mr. Benson was convinced. He hired Ms. Foster to be the keynote speaker at the Woodward Leadership Summit last October.

Shortly after taking the stage, she asked everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands in response to a series of provocative questions: Did they ever lock their car when a black person walked by? Did they think that, yes, Jews really know how to handle money? Have they questioned the intelligence of a man with a heavy southern accent?

People hesitantly, even frightened, raised their hands. By the time Ms. Foster had finished, almost all of her hands, including her own, were up.

“Congratulations. You are certified people,” she said. “It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about knowing when bias comes into play.”

Mr. Benson felt relieved. “I was sitting at a table with someone who started it all with their arms crossed,” he recalled. “His body language said that this dude is not a believer. Halfway through, he laughs and claps.”

Ms. Foster, he says, helped people “feel good with themselves, like you haven’t been an activist or been on this journey in the past, but let’s see how we can move forward.”

In other words, she helped them feel like they belonged in the conversation.

The issue of ownership has become the latest focus in the developing world of programs for corporate diversity, equity and inclusion.

Interest in creating more inclusive jobs has skyrocketed since the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Many corporations have turned their attention to addressing systemic racism and power imbalances—things that have kept boardrooms white and employees of color feeling excluded from office life.

Now, almost three years later, some companies are changing their approach to DEI, even renaming their departments to include “affiliation.” This is the DEI-B era.

Some critics are concerned that this is done to make white people feel comfortable, not to address systemic inequalities, or that it simply allows companies to prioritize coexistence over necessary change.

“Belonging is a way to help non-marginalized people feel part of the conversation,” said Stephanie Creary, associate professor of management at the Wharton School of Business who studies corporate strategies for diversity and inclusion.

She believes that the abstract focus on belonging allows companies to avoid tough conversations about power—and the resistance that those conversations often generate. “The concern is that we are just creating new terms like belonging as a way to deal with this resistance,” Ms Creery said.

Ms Foster argues that, as a practical matter, there will be no justice if the people in power – “white straight men” – feel left out of the conversation. Traditional DEI practitioners “most want to enroll the people they isolate and honestly ostracize,” she said.

An unbiased non-profit business for America recently gave an interview more than two dozen executives from 18 companies and found that this is a common theme. “The way they deployed DEI exacerbated divisions even when dealing with important issues,” said Sarah Bonk, founder and chief executive of BFA. “It caused some hostility, resentment.”

That’s why companies like Woodward are now hiring consultants who specialize in “belonging” and “building bridges.” They come to the aid of executives who fear that national divisions are infiltrating the workplace, threatening to drive a wedge between colleagues and making everyone feel uneasy and defensive.

Professor Creary agrees that these are real problems. “I see that corporations want the conversation to be about how allowing all of us to thrive will help us all together,” she said. But she worries that “belonging” provides cover for people who prefer to maintain the status quo. “There is still a large percentage of people who have zero-sum thinking,” she said. “If I support you, I will lose.”

The obsession with belonging is the result of a widely held corporate standard: to give your all to work. If you have the opportunity to work anywhere and freely discuss social and political issues that are important to you, then ideally you will feel like a part of your company.

The principle of “Employ your whole self” dates back before the pandemic, but has become something of a mandate in its midst, as companies struggled to stem the tide of layoffs. They also responded to concerns that many people feel excluded from work. According to the 2022 think tank report coralroughly half of black and Asian professionals with a bachelor’s degree or higher do not feel part of their job.

Last year, the Society for Human Resource Management conducted its first corporate affiliation survey. Seventy-six percent of respondents said their organization prioritizes ownership as part of their DEI strategy, and 64 percent said they plan to invest more in ownership initiatives this year. Respondents said that identity-based communities, such as employee resource groups, helped strengthen belonging, but mandatory diversity education did not.

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, wishes we didn’t talk about identity and belonging. “In a time of growing political polarization, many people’s personalities do not match those of their colleagues,” said Mr. Heidt, a self-described centrist. “I have heard from so many managers. They can’t take it anymore – constant conflict over people’s identities.”

In 2017, he and colleague Caroline Mel launched Institute for Constructive Dialogue, the main product of which is the educational platform “Perspectives”. The tool uses online modules and workshops to help users understand where their values ​​come from and why people from different walks of life can have opposing values.

In 2019, CDI began licensing Perspectives to corporations. The annual fee is between $50 and $150 for an employee license. Companies can also order a live workout menu for $3,500-$15,000 for a full day.

Allegis Global Solutions, a workforce solutions company with 3,500 employees, was one of the first.

The platform has already helped the company deal with some difficult political situations. Last June, 26-year-old Shakara Worrell, a human resources coordinator, was in a meeting when she learned that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. USA. Calf. “The whole meeting has stopped,” Ms. Worrell said. “That’s when I realized that I wasn’t the only one who just had a heart attack.”

Ms. Worrell, who is of mixed race, said she joined Allegis in part because the company prioritized belonging. She recalls reading news about police brutality at her previous job and feeling she had to suppress her feelings.

“I just remember sitting in my cube and not being able to just speak my mind,” Ms Worrell said. She recalled thinking, “I really don’t belong.”

Not so in Allegis. There, Ms. Worrell leads Elevate, the company’s employee resource group for women’s empowerment. Following the Supreme Court decision, she and her colleagues decided to hold a series of events to help employees process the decision. When they briefed Human Resources and DEI, they were referred to Prospects.

“Whether they were for or against, we wanted our people to feel good and be okay,” Ms Worrell said.

And were they? Allegis said that about 200 people came to the first meeting, which took place virtually. After that, Ms. Worrell contacted one of those present, who spoke in support of the court’s decision.

“Despite the fact that I was the kind of person who went against the grain,” Ms. Worrell recalls the words of a colleague, “I still felt that I had to share.”

Irshad Manji, founder of a consulting company College of Moral Courage, says the “almost offensive focus on group labels” is a big problem with mainstream diversity, fairness and inclusion efforts. “All this makes people create stereotypes about each other. I am a Muslim and a devout Muslim,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that I interpret Islam in the same way as any other Muslim.”

Ms. Manji believes that people now use “belonging” as “a tacit admission that traditional DEI doesn’t work.”

So which approach works? In 2018, Autodesk, a software company with 13,700 employees, began planning a cultural shake-up.

Some employees were afraid to offend each other, so they defaulted to being “faux-polite” and “passive-aggressive,” said Autodesk President and CEO Andrew Anagnost. Others felt they weren’t supported and didn’t want to speak at meetings.

Autodesk has renamed its Diversity and Inclusion Team Diversity and Belonging Team. Managers have learned strategies to recognize and then counteract their own defensive thinking.

They were given poker chips to “play” every time they spoke so as not to dominate the discussion.

The company paid bonuses to the leaders of the employee resource groups to show their worth. And Mr. Anagnost nominated himself as an executive sponsor of the Autodesk Black Network.

But the company also got into equity. He moved the location of the new office building from Denver to Atlanta, knowing he would have a better chance of attracting black engineering graduates there.

Autodesk regularly polls its employees about their work experience. After the cultural shift, Mr. Anagnost said belonging rates increased for women of color and employees and decreased for white men.

“Then it got back to normal,” he said. “Yes, of course, okay, opportunities will be limited in some areas as you try to increase representation in others. But the level of threat is reduced when you create the feeling of “we can all rise together.”

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Live Karnataka results: now ‘south India is BJP free’ says Harge



Karnataka registered a “record” turnout of 73.19 percent in the 10 May vote to elect representatives to the 224-member Assembly.

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