What talent management can do to shape next-generation leaders

Here is a brief excerpt from an interview of Robert Pucci by Mary Meaney for the McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company. Many if not most of his comments are relevant to leaders in almost every industry segment. To read the complete interview , check out other resources, learn more about the firm, obtain subscription information, and register to receive email alerts, please click here.

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A Sanofi executive discusses his company’s leadership-development programs and approach to building employee capabilities amid rapid change.

How can HR help build leaders capable of meeting the challenges of tomorrow’s industries such as healthcare?

McKinsey’s Mary Meaney talked with Roberto Pucci, executive vice president for human resources at Sanofi, about the capabilities and mind-sets needed for success in a fast-changing world—and what HR professionals can do to nurture them. In this interview, part of our Biopharma Frontiers series on how the pharmaceutical industry is evolving and how leaders can adapt, Pucci describes the leadership programs he oversees, explains why he values authenticity, and considers how a company might position itself to win in the war for talent. An edited transcript of Pucci’s remarks follows.

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In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has gone through enormous changes. What do you see as the biggest challenges it faces in the next few years?

One of the biggest challenges is that the days of strong patent protection, lower pricing pressure, and broad patient coverage are over. Today’s healthcare business is exposed to pricing pressure, generics entry, increasing competition from small biotech and technology companies, complicated patents litigation, and other trends that make the environment in which we operate much more demanding. That means we need people with fresh skill sets and the mind-set, agility, and flexibility to adapt quickly to the evolving landscape.

What are you doing at Sanofi to equip leaders to succeed in this new environment?

We’ve had our wake-up call, and we’re energized and committed to leading change. We’ve done a lot of work lately on building development programs that are relevant to the business and that help equip leaders to meet future healthcare challenges.

In one of our flagship programs, Leading for Tomorrow, we bring leaders to a range of different markets to expose them to disruptive businesses and foster a mind-set of innovation. Part of this year’s program focused on technological innovation in China, and leaders engaged with entrepreneurs in healthcare and other sectors on topics such as crypto-currency and the use of virtual and augmented realities, gaining insights that will help them shape Sanofi’s future. The other part of the program took place in Boston and exposed leaders to innovation in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and robotics.

We try to build programs that challenge ourrecruiting to strengthen our bench further.

What do you look for when you bring people in from outside? What capabilities are you seeking to acquire?

It’s a mix: we need capabilities in healthcare and biotechnology, of course, but as we become one of the leading companies in consumer healthcare, we also need more people with a consumer-goods background. And in global functions like finance and HR, where you don’t need expertise in a specific industry, we’ve recruited a lot of people from outside healthcare.

Sanofi isn’t a French-based or US-based company; we’re international, with a presence in more than a hundred countries. Our executive committee is highly diversified, with six nationalities out of 14 people, and we manage people from many different countries and backgrounds. We look for people who’ve lived in more than one country, because I believe it makes them more adaptable, and it also has a cultural dimension. This is a company of relationships more than processes. You’ve got to be able to build and nurture relationships and get things done through others.

Personally, I also look for authenticity. Does this person have a genuine interest? Do they want to grow and build something beyond themselves? Do they aspire to make a difference in healthcare and serve a common purpose? One of the signs of authenticity is people’s readiness to talk about their weaknesses. After all, nobody is perfect. Interviewing is not about selling something; I don’t want people to fail, nor do I want our company to fail by bringing in the wrong profiles. I want people who are not afraid to be open and are humble about their weak spots.

I also look at someone’s career history and how many changes they have made. Millennials may think differently, but I take the traditional view that loyalty plays a part. If you want to build something positive and sustain it, you have to invest time and energy over a number of years.

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Here is a direct link to the complete interview.

Mary Meaney is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Paris office. Roberto Pucci is the executive vice president for human resources at Sanofi.

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