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Why Pharma Companies Need a Robust Leadership Assessment Process

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Posted by Darleen DeRosa February 8, 2019

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The pharma industry has undergone a tremendous amount of change, with mergers and consolidations increasing the size and scope of many companies even as ambitious new biotech startups emerge. With market demands shifting rapidly, leadership is more important than ever. Pharma companies are locked in a fierce competition not only for market share, but also for talent. Those that prove capable of identifying and developing their next generation of agile leaders with the ability to connect, adapt, and deliver will have a clear advantage in the years to come.

Why Leadership Assessment Matters

Like any other industry, pharma companies would like to be able to fill their leadership ranks with capable internal candidates who are already familiar with the organization’s culture and processes. Identifying high-potential employees with the leadership qualities necessary to step into those roles, however, is more difficult than it may seem.

Many succession and selection processes focus primarily on performance, overlooking the fact that only about one-in-seven high-performing employees are also high-potential leaders. These candidates are generally distinguished by not only their ability, but also their aspiration to grow and improve. High-potential employees are also highly engaged in their work, demonstrating enthusiasm for both their company’s mission and for the industry as a whole.

Identifying employees with the leadership qualities required for success and providing them with the development opportunities and resources they need is crucial for building a strong succession pipeline capable of weathering talent gaps in a volatile industry. Without a robust assessment process in place, high-potential employees are more likely to become disengaged, ultimately forcing them to look outside the organization for growth opportunities.

Leadership Assessment in Action: Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

The US subsidiary of Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited, the second largest pharmaceutical company in Japan, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. (DSI) recognized the need to identify internal talent and promote from within. Specifically, the company wanted to enhance its leadership practices to identify high-potential sales representatives who could eventually transition into District Manager roles.

By identifying potential leaders earlier, DSI hoped to accelerate the development process and make the experience more engaging. Ideally, this would also serve to communicate that the company valued its internal talent and reinforce the perception that employees could have a successful future there.

After redesigning its nomination process to be more straightforward and objective, DSI implemented a comprehensive leadership assessment and development program to evaluate and prepare high-potential sales candidates for future District Manager roles. Since sales representatives had busy schedules and little time to devote to development, the company created an online development suite to assist in the process. A combination of activities, readings, and on-the-job activities made it possible for them to strengthen their leadership skills on their own timeframe. An online tracking tool allowed managers to track their progress, which provided DSI with additional data point to use in its assessment of the program.

Employees who participated in the program gave overwhelmingly positive evaluations. Even better, the majority of the program’s participants were ultimately promoted. These factors indicated DSI was on the right track when it came to encouraging internal talent development. In the wake of the program’s success, similar leadership acceleration strategies were rolled out across the company.

As pharma companies brace for further disruptions to the industry’s status quo and implement strategies they hope will lead to sustainable success, they must not forget that identifying and retaining talent is critical to both their present and their future. Fortunately, organizations of all sizes can meet this challenge by implementing effective assessment and development programs to cultivate their next generation of agile leaders capable of navigating the industry’s major challenges.

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Topics: Leadership Assessment

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