San Francisco, CA — Sukh Chugh, Director of Research and Development Informatics Services (RDIS) at Allergan, stepped up to the Digital Pharma West podium to talk about managing global teams as one of the last talks of the day.

This is an unusual talk for HxP to cover, but we’re fascinated by some of the trends and the possibilities of better human connections.

Let’s start with the numbers.

In the year 2000, the U.S. had 17% of the world’s population. Today, it has just 11%.

There’s an even bigger shift ahead for marketers, though. Today, Europe and North America are home to 50% of middle class. By 2030, that number will drop to 22%. Asia will be home to a full 64% of the middle class.

As global marketers we like to think of our actions as global, but people don’t really behave globally. 90% of all web traffic is local. Only 2% of phone calls cross borders.

From Sukh’s experience language is a critical. Or really understanding the limitations of language.

The top five languages around the world are Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, English, and Bengali. But the most influential languages – and the languages of business – are English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Russian.

That means a large percentage of our colleagues are speaking English as a second language. They may not be hearing us the way we think they are.


To make it work, he had a lot of good advice on how to cross the barriers. A few of our favorites were these:

  1. Think about how different cultures communicate. Asian countries particularly value conformity. They may not be likely to share objections even when they have them.
  2. Create a video conference culture. Help people see each other face to face and build deeper connections.
  3. Set metrics and define how each project will be achieved and measured so that people are all working against the same expectations.
  4. Travel when you can. 7% of communication is actually words. The rest is tone and body language. Being together live when we can makes a huge difference.
  5. Level the playing field for local meetings. If half the team is calling in, everyone should call in to avoid some voices being stronger than others.

Posted by: Leigh Householder

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.