Workforce: The People Puzzle - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Workforce: The People Puzzle
How do you find employees that are the right fit and keep them in the picture? Get involved, get visible, and be patient.


Pharmaceutical Executive


Given the number of job seekers going online, it is not surprising that an increasing number of companies are exploring new ways to tap the Internet's potential in the hunt for talent. Marco Rosa, vice president of Human Resources at the opto-electronic manufacturer Carl Zeiss Meditec, says that in addition to the tried and true—his company has tripled the size of its referral program—Rosa has turned to Web-based job boards to boost his company's visibility. "Three years ago, people didn't know we existed," says Rosa. Not anymore: The difficulty now is plowing through the mountain of resumes.

In addition to trying innovative new techniques, a very old practice—the mastery of which has long been counseled by both Zen archers and Little League batting coaches—is vital for finding talent: patience.

"Don't rush to judgment," says Mel Engle, regional director, North America, for Merck Generics Group and president and CEO of Dey, a $600 million manufacturer, marketer, and supplier of inhalation therapies and anti-allergy products. "We don't settle," he declares. "We select." He suggests that others do likewise. "Go slowly. Hiring decisions last a long time, so even though you feel the urgency of the vacancy, make sure you do it right."

Versant's Jaffe agrees and remembers a time that a rush to judgment backfired. "We were in the middle of a search," he recalls, "and we compromised on somebody who we thought would be OK, even though we knew that person had some weaknesses." It was a big mistake and resulted in another costly search. "You're better off being disciplined and patient and continuing to look for the right person," Jaffe cautions.

Patience tends to have a higher payoff when you have benchmarks to measure prospective hires. Suggestion: Put teamwork high on the list. As Jaffe puts it, "Success, particularly in small companies, is a team sport. Individual prowess is important, but in the end, it's a team effort that makes companies successful." He quotes the old adage that "'A' people hire 'A' people; 'B' people hire 'C' people" and adds that "we're looking for the guys who can build an A team."

Jaffe's point has merit. Hiring is no longer just a matter of looking for the superman or superwoman in the haystack. Work in the modern enterprise is done largely in teams. If a super player isn't also a super team player, then you'd best take a pass. While solo accomplishments are important, don't forget to take a long, hard look at the person's team performance. How did other members of the team perform under this person's leadership or in partnership with him or her? How did the prospective hire deal with the team's conflicting interests?

Jaffe likes to home in on how well a prospective hire would apply past experience leading teams to the new situation by asking: "What's your management strategy for our company? What kind of talent do you perceive that you're going to need around you to win in this market opportunity, with this technology? What kind of team will you build in this company to excel?"

Questions like these can tell you more about a potential talent acquisition than the merely skin-deep data of an individual's quarterly performance numbers. It could prevent the costly mistake of letting a potential MVP go to the competition.

Keeping Your Best

Regardless of the quarter-to-quarter vagaries of the job market, keeping top-performing stars is an ongoing challenge. As Jaffe says, "The best talent is able to recognize the best opportunities. If they don't continue to believe that they are part of a high-performing team in a top company, they will eventually be attracted to a company they perceive to be more interesting."


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