Sunday, November 25, 2012

Robot Medical Representatives!

Being an employee is a challenge due to market uncertainties!  If machines can do a job reliably certainly investors would prefer machines to human employees!!  So what are the key attributes that employees can offer over machines (including robots)?  And what are the key traits that employees need to cultivate to make oneself and the employer firm succeed?  Here is a checklist:

1) Effectiveness: is a circumstance based thing, each doctor call can be a different experience, meeting the same doctor on each day will offer a different experience.  This uncertain nature requires taking rapid decisions at the moment based on the circumstance.  Hence, situation based effectiveness is the foremost quality of an employee, which will be valued by employers, and perhaps will take a long period for a robot to imbue.

2) Efficiency:  Robots are great at doing repetitive tasks with high efficiency, they will also do it diligently.  However, efficiency on the field will require inventiveness, to manage the moods of the doctor/pharmacist or boss/colleague, such efficiencies are still not in the ken of 'robot MRs'.

3) Tact:  Being tactful in workplace situations or dealing with prescribers/traders is tacit knowledge, programming the tactics and situational handling is still not possible!  Tact is knowing the level of integrity of a strategy or directive, which needs to be practiced in a situation, can robots be tactful and take a call on how much of a guideline to be implemented in a situation?!

4) Absence of "destroying power": There are various kinds of powers we see in practice - reward power, coercive power, expertise power, referrel or referent power, connection power and legitimate power.  However, there is one more power seen in firms, not yet mentioned in books of management - destroying power of employees/bosses.  This is the power with which people can sabotage or destroy various strategies, concepts, careers of colleagues etc due to their hidden agendas.  It can be done subtly or overtly.  This is one thing where robots may score over humans since they work as per programs, and not as per hidden agendas!!!  In any case, destroying power is a dangerous human phenomenon!

5) Punctuality: is a very valuable trait, makes a person dependable, robots may up the humans when it comes to showing on time!  So watch out, humans, plan and be punctual, why be late?

6) Involvement: is an emotional thing - which comes from inside and from an understanding of the situation, and also from empathy - can robots have involvement?  Tricky, robots will only do as programmed!

7) Relationship management and team play: this quality is not programmable, since values and principles differ from situation to situation.  Hence, humans will with all their frailities be required for field product promotion roles, robots cannot offer team play in situations, unless the situation is programmed, and in the marketplace one cannot expect programmed situations, only surprises jumping out of the box!

8) Casual versus professional conversational skills:  A typical field job requires conversational skills - not only on professional matters, but also other casual issues, so can a robot do this?  The blend of casual and professional talk is done in situ.

9) Reliability (trustworthiness): Robots will be as reliable as they are programmed and as long as the programs function without any glitches.  Humans deliver better on trust and faith, as long as the human is motivated enough. 

10) Knowledge hungry attitude: Being hungry for knowledge and having high absorptive capacity is a key to field success.  Can robots be programmed to be knowledge hungry and apply knowledge?!

11) Participative attitude:  To be successful in organizational life, a participative spirit (even in things one apparently dislikes) is a prerequisite.  Participation is situation based, and level of response is also situation based, so can robots be programmed to be participative?

12) Creative communication skills: the ability to send messages (verbal, non-verbal and written) depends on the event, mood of recipient and subjective factors, a robot programmed to deliver messages irrespective of prospects' mood will only annoy - RESULT: message delivered - but customer lost!!

13) Promptness (no procrastination or putting things off): Being proactive and prompt has its own strengths - this makes things happen and there is movement of things for the better, maybe robots will be better at being prompt, but humans too - if they are motivated enough.

14) Health and strength: are very vital attributes of employees, a nagging headache will spoil meeting participation, dental pain will prevent a MR from detailing ... Robots too need maintenance!!

15) Empathy, mood management and helping behaviour:  is a key for winning confidence of customers and colleagues.  If a MR understands needs of a doctor and offers help or a solution unasked for, a genuine help will always contribute to relationship building.  This understanding capacity can only be human, robots will require a lot of evolution!

16) Written and unwriten SOPs:  In an organization, there are several unwritten rules and written rules (or standard operating procedures), this is unique to the culture of the firm, all cannot be programmed, only understanding humans can smell them out and adapt!  Adaptabilty through learning is a human trait for survival, robots...?!

17) Practice of organizational living:  Being a part of an organizational web is not easy, there are cultural things to be learnt, these come from keen observation and self-absorption, so can robots learn organizational living?  Simple: in some organizations, you call people by first name, in others Sir/Madam or Mr. X - these qualities are not programmed, or programmable, they are meant to be learnt, it is a part of adaptation... for organizational living, learning to be a part of community is vital for career success.

18) Official and unofficial organogram: each organization has this, dotted lines connect people - these need to be observed and learnt, to get things done, understanding this organogram (written and unwritten) is important.

19) Primary business processes of the firm:  Each firm has a primary or core business process, such as for Sun Pharmaceuticals it is relationship management of allopathic specialists, in a knowledge driven approach.  One needs to understand such home truths of the employer firm.  Based on this primary business processes, which will not necessarily be completely written down, but will certainly be understandable, one needs to learn, adapt and allign to this.  Can robots do such complex things, without being programmed?

20) Self-defensiveness and presence of mind: life is but a process of defending oneself from potential or actual threats (which may be living or nonliving), threats have the potential to cause harm, loss and damage... knowledge and imagination is required to diagnose the immediate and future threats ... people who can defend oneself and the organization will be in demand!  So will robots come with self-defense solutions?

Robots depend on programs, humans on motivation.

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