MVPs - Pharmaceutical Executive


To ramp up their operations around the world, companies need executives who can lead across cultures

Pharmaceutical Executive

Almost all the top pharmaceutical companies, and many of the smaller companies, are great places to practice great science, development, and business. The question is, then: How do companies manage their great—and their soon-to-be great—MVPs? Certainly, a business' reputation for excellence in managing MVPs rests on two footings: individual development and flexibility.

Individual development The individual development planning for MVPs cannot be left to that employee's direct manager. MVP growth is a higher level corporate asset management issue.

"We have created a Top 120 leaders list to increase our focus and effectiveness of development for this critical group," says Jürgen Brokatzky-Geiger, head of human resources and a member of the executive committee at Novartis.

"This is truly our MVP list. For instance, in our finance organization we have conducted a very successful program for top young talent that includes an agreement at the beginning of the program that the person will move to multiple countries throughout their career. This skill building is so critical for us that if the person decides later that movement to other countries is not wanted, they have to drop out of the program and sacrifice the special focus that our CFO places upon this group. They, of course, continue to be very valuable assets but we cannot develop them as fully as we could otherwise."

This focus on international skill development is echoed by many executives. "We actively track our Top 120 performers list. In this list we actually rate the risk of these people leaving the organization and we review this on a quarterly basis. If we assess the risk as high, then we take action to address any issues that these high performers are experiencing," says Brokatzky-Geiger.

Flexibility MVPs require flexibility because they tend to be multi-talented and like pursing challenges. Being held back from a challenge or opportunity is virtually intolerable for MVPs.

BioForesight's Zhu Shen agrees: "The challenge for many pharmaceutical companies is to not only identify MVPs at different levels, but to proactively cultivate the ones who want to excel. Recognizing the unique value that each MVP brings to the organization and giving him or her the freedom and support to do their best is critical for keeping these talents. Failure to do so could result in the loss of the very assets that allow you to compete in the marketplace."

MVPs do not respect managers who are willing to rely on assumptions, who take the short view of budget over value. Some companies take another short view of MVP management by not wanting to treat some people as special so as to avoid managing questions of fairness from other employees. These companies create an "up and out" MVP culture. Sophisticated managers are needed to manage the differences between MVPs and average employees.

Retention MVPs are renown for their commitment and loyalty to their organizations. So why do they leave? Most report to bad bosses. Find bosses who are insecure about their own talent and are threatened by high performing direct reports and you too can create the "up and out" culture. Or try a boss who does not understand how to manage human behavior and hopes to solve problems by ignoring them or by blaming others.

MVPs will, if necessary, pursue help from others within the organization. If improvement does not result, the MVP will begin to feel devalued and will become susceptible to poaching by other companies.

The exploding grapevine When an MVP leaves a company, that organization experiences a significant loss. Some human resources executives have calculated that the actual expense is 180 percent of an MVP's annual compensation, which doesn't even include the loss of intellectual expertise. While expensive, a more damaging result of an MVP leaving is the "exploding grapevine." When colleagues hear a good person is leaving, they might express regret or concern, talk about it over lunch and return to work.

However, when an MVP leaves, the grapevine explodes: "Did you hear that Jane is leaving? Jane is great! Something must be wrong if Jane's leaving." This can go on for days until the second stage of awakening: "Where is Jane going? It must be a great place if she's going there." And then finally, to themselves, "Maybe I should call Jane and find out what other opportunities are there."


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