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Making The Case: Developing Diverse Talent as a Competitive Edge within the Pharmaceutical Industry

by TLD Group

In our last blog, we discussed the many challenges facing leaders in the life sciences industry in 2023, including heightened consumer awareness, increased competition for talent, and the rapid pace of change in the industry. Now, as a part of our “Making The Case” series, we’re exploring how one of our pharmaceutical clients is stepping up by developing diverse talent capable of succeeding in today’s complex business environment.

TLD Group’s work with this client began in 2019 in response to feedback from an employee engagement survey that revealed that the most senior leaders within their Research & Development (R&D) function did not fully reflect the diversity of the organization. In response, the organization committed to developing diverse talent to more fully represent its patient and employee population.  

The team at TLD Group partnered with the organization to co-design and execute a series of customized talent development programs to intentionally build its pipeline of diverse leaders. As the program enters its fourth cohort, the organization has a pipeline of talented, engaged, and diverse leaders who have and will continue to “step up” into senior leadership roles. 

Implementing a Program to Develop Diverse Talent

Achieve, the diverse talent development leadership academy co-designed with TLD Group, accelerates the development of diverse talent within R&D through a year-long, multi-modality, active learning academy. Every year, the senior-most leadership team within R&D nominates a diverse and global group of talent who aspire to senior leadership roles called “Achievers” to join the academy. Each Achiever is paired with a senior R&D leadership sponsor from within the organization who supports their development and promotion into senior leadership roles. 

The cohort-based program has three main components: 

  1. Interactive Group Training: In a structured business simulation focused on developing leadership skills and competencies, Achievers from across four global time zones work in teams to explore and develop an agile mindset. The digital business simulation challenges the Achievers with operational, strategic, and leadership challenges intended to develop leadership agility to be applied to daily work processes. 

    Skills like empathy, agility, and navigating ambiguity are crucial for employees during periods of change, and the interactive business simulation gives participants a chance to hone these leadership skills while working with colleagues and building their internal network across the globe.

  2. Assessment and Coaching: We know individual coaching can help organizations retain top talent and enhance company culture. For the Assessment & Coaching portion of the program, Achievers participate in the MIT 360 leadership assessment survey. Each Achiever is paired with an executive coach who translates the 360 feedback into an individual coaching plan. The Achiever and coach then work together throughout the academy to develop new skills to improve leadership performance in tandem with the Achiever’s executive sponsor.  
  1. Experiential Learning: In the Experiential Learning component of the academy, Achievers put their learnings to the test through a facilitated experiential team learning process. Achievers  lead projects that involve strategic organizational priorities that are tied to important, timely business challenges while developing their own leadership skills. At the end of the process, they present their solutions to R&D leadership, who execute the recommendations. 

The Experiential Learning Projects

The experiential component of any academy is focused on providing leaders and their organizations an opportunity to learn how to anticipate change while developing talent to lead  complex business challenges. 

The Experiential Learning component of Achieve focused on four projects comprised of teams of Achievers working across the globe: 

  • Building Data and Digital Capacity: This project explored how R&D can build capabilities to harness the power of data, digital, and technology to drive insights and better decision making. The team revealed opportunities for the company to accelerate learning, adoption, and data expansion across functions and teams, as well as creating a measurement of ROI. 
  • Reducing Patient Burden: This project examined breakthroughs to integrate the end-to-end journey for the patient to reduce their burden, including seamlessly collecting patient data, reducing patient site visits, and delivering medicine and tests to the patients’ homes. 
  • Lab Operations — Collaboration for Scientists: This project considered opportunities to improve collaboration and awareness of work across labs in the organization, methods to improve communications across teams, and best practices for sharing  outcomes across lab groups. 
  • Lab Operations — Core Activities: The fourth project quantified the impact of non-core tasks that fall on scientists and built a case for increased organizational support for non-core activities. The team’s work showed activities that inhibit optimization and efficiencies, and provided recommendations for improvements. 

The Results 

The Achiever’s post-program assessment revealed leadership competency improvements across all leadership dimensions, including critical thinking, networking, peer support and cooperation, speaking up, and empathy. Achievers also noted the effectiveness of working with their individual sponsors, with many noting that the relationship with their sponsor gave them opportunities to ask for advice about career development, how to develop skills and talents, as well as networking opportunities. 

“My sponsor was a fantastic sounding board and third party view,” one participant shared. “She gave fantastic advice and helped me navigate multiple ambiguous situations to ultimately come to solutions. She shared their own experience in a non-overpowering way, and I found her own journey and career path scenarios to be very helpful.”

The Achievers also noted that the Experiential Learning Process helped them to develop new leadership skills and new relationships within the organization, and increased or clarified their interest in exploring career opportunities within the organization. 

“By being part of Achieve, I learned what behaviors and skills are important for taking a senior leadership role in my organization, and how I could further advance my personal development to strengthen these behaviors and skills,” another Achiever noted.   

Recommendations for Building a More Diverse Workforce

Below we share three key takeaways for building a pipeline of diverse leaders. 

  • Align talent to strategic imperatives. Potential leaders can be equipped with the skills they need to be successful in leadership when they receive opportunities to consider and participate in real business challenges, such as experiential learning projects and structured business simulations. The result is talent development that occurs in real time and moves mission-critical strategic imperatives forward. 
  • Select the right cohort. If your organization is working to build diverse talent, build the talent pipeline where a need exists. Where do you have leadership gaps? Are there specific functions within your organization that have high turnover? Choose a cohort of talent to develop in one of these areas. 
  • Involve top-level leadership. Developing diverse talent requires current leaders to think critically about how they interact with talent. And, engaging leaders in talent development gives them a chance to meet team members whose careers they may be able to help accelerate. Networking, including through executive sponsorship, helps top-level leaders to know and identify talent for both current and future opportunities. 

Interested in learning more about creating diverse and inclusive leadership? At TLD Group, we design customized leadership development programs for companies to help them prepare for the constantly changing environment, drive forward their business priorities, and position them for success in whatever challenges they may face. Our results-oriented, high-impact training is tailored to meet every organization’s unique needs and requests. Want more? You can read our previous blog on this topic for more information about implementing equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout your organization

Visit our website to learn more about our leadership development solutions.

Topics: Leadership Development, Diversity and Inclusion, Case Studies

TLD Group

Written by TLD Group