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How This HR Leader Is Helping Support Employees Through the Pandemic (and He’s Hiring!)

person wearing a button-down shirt and jacket smiling
Naveen Bhateja, Chief People Officer at Medidata.
| Courtesy of Medidata

Working for an organization with a strong mission is a point of pride for Naveen Bhateja—and it’s what attracted him to Medidata, a tech company that powers the development of new therapies and has helped support several clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“To work for a company like this is truly inspiring,” he says. “The dedication to the mission drives Medidata’s culture and how everyone operates.”

As the company’s Chief People Officer, Bhateja is leading the charge in helping employees navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic. “We’ve had to consider how dramatically the future of work is changing and prepare for a post-COVID-19 world,” he says.

Here, Bhateja shares how his team has supported employees throughout the pandemic, the way HR has helped shape Medidata’s culture, and advice for candidates interested in applying for a job at the company.

Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at Medidata.

I decided on a career in human resources while studying business management as an undergrad and realizing how crucial the role of HR is in a company. You have the ability to influence people’s lives—it’s a significant amount of responsibility and it can have a direct impact on an organization.

Now, after 25 years of experience covering the full spectrum of HR activities including human resource business partners, training and development, compensation, talent acquisition, organizational development, corporate social responsibility, and diversity and belonging, I am thrilled to be leading the People Team at Medidata.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I am responsible for developing and executing our HR strategy in support of the overall business plan and strategic direction of our business. This includes succession planning, talent management, change management, organizational and performance management, training and development, and compensation. Ultimately, my focus is on being a creator of our talent strategy, an enterprise change leader, a driver of our culture and purpose, and a trusted advisor to our co-CEOs and leadership team.

There’s been a lot of change in the world of work recently. What is the biggest challenge you and your HR team have faced during this time, and how did you overcome it?

It’s no surprise that 2020 was a very challenging year. Navigating the pandemic, racial and civil unrest, and administration policy changes while maintaining a balance between employee safety and business productivity was incredibly difficult. We sought ways to engage employees and provide them with the tools, resources, and support they needed to continue to deliver on our mission. And, of course, our involvement in multiple COVID-19 clinical trials, including some of the largest ever, required us to stay focused while managing the challenges we were facing in our personal lives.

Our team, particularly senior leadership, increased communication and connection with staff around the world, and leveraged members of Remotians (our business resource group for remote staff ) to share knowledge, tools, and resources on how to work effectively from home. We also conducted pulse surveys to gain real-time feedback on what challenges managers and employees were facing, and provided additional support as needed. One way we sought to support our teams through the extreme level of stress, anxiety, and fear was through the creation of Medidata C.A.R.E.S. (COVID-Actioned Resources Enabling Support), a program designed to provide additional well-being and mental health tools, resources, and activities to support our employees.

We also continued to grow as a company—a result of Medidata’s ability to develop and deploy technology solutions to help ensure the continued development of new medicines and vaccines—so the team had to quickly pivot to attract candidates, and hire and onboard new employees virtually. Ultimately, we hired 800 people in 2020.

What sets Medidata’s approach to HR strategy and recruiting apart from other companies?

Our HR strategy is grounded in four principles: meeting our businesses where they are; understanding the external factors such as preparing for a post-COVID-19 world and future of work trends; addressing the needs of our employees as defined by their feedback via our engagement survey; and creating practices that continue to strengthen our culture.

We have a strong mission-driven culture—it’s part of our DNA—and diversity and inclusion is how we do business. Medidata has a Diversity in Clinical Trials (DICT) Steering Committee with a mission of broadening patient representation in clinical trials regardless of ethnicity, gender, geographic location, or socioeconomic status.

We also have a culture of transparency that includes frequent and consistent communication via a variety of channels, especially during difficult times. This is critical for any organization because it helps to build trust, which in turn helps leaders build stronger relationships with their teams.

Tell us about the role HR has played in developing Medidata’s culture.

First and foremost, it starts with outlining the key pieces of our culture in partnership with senior leadership and employees. Based on that, we created an outreach strategy using our partners to provide insight to potential candidates about our culture. We work to ensure that we recruit and onboard people who believe in our mission.

Getting employees behind a company’s mission is just part of the equation. How employees are treated throughout their life cycle—from talent branding, recruiting, and onboarding to development and retention—speaks volumes about a company’s culture. A mission is meaningless if employees don’t feel they are a part of it. It must be present at every touch point of an employee’s career: how they are recognized, supported, developed, and engaged.

Medidata also nurtures and maintains its culture in a number of other ways. Employee recognition is a vital part of our culture and showing appreciation increases engagement and motivation. Providing continuous meaningful feedback is another key ingredient in maintaining culture. We also have a robust Diversity & Belonging program, engagement councils, social gatherings, and a Corporate Social Responsibility program that includes our Social Innovation Lab, a skills-based volunteering program.

What types of roles are you currently hiring for?

We are a fast-paced tech and life sciences company and, in order to support our growth, we hire across the board. Tech dominates a lot of our hiring for positions such as software developers and data scientists in the R&D (research and development) space. In addition, we are hiring in the commercial space for account managers, sales, and professional services.

What advice do you have for candidates who want to apply for a job at Medidata?

My advice to candidates is to be yourself. Be comfortable sharing who you are and what you are looking for with our recruitment team at the very beginning. We are seeking people who not only have the technical capability to do the work, but are also good cultural fits. We want people who are willing to challenge themselves regularly, think creatively, are team players, and are passionate about our mission.