Valuing Diversity - Pharmaceutical Executive


Valuing Diversity

Pharmaceutical Executive

Do sales managers get information about the business case for diversity?

I think typically not. In the United States right now, one-third of the citizens are people of color. I just read that of the 50 biggest cities in the United States, 19 have a majority of people of color. More and more people of color are going to universities. Still, it hasn't translated to the point where sales managers see a real dire need to go out and hire this educated, diverse workforce.

People really want to hire the best team. Unfortunately, if you're dealing with a fear of difference, a tendency to hire only from particular schools, an overemphasis on territory fit, or a lack of commitment to diversity, then the "best" team starts looking like a very similar team rather than a team that could really be vibrant, different, and extremely successful.

What are the benefits you're seeing from this approach?

In Genentech, when we launched the Raptiva (efalizumab) franchise, the senior management team hired a very diverse, skilled management team. It was probably the best I've ever heard of within the industry, at least within biotech. Out of the original nine managers, four were people of color, as was our director of sales. That was really unusual, and we did a really good job coming out in the extremely tough, competitive psoriasis marketplace. One rep, who was white, told me once that he's seen firsthand the value of having a diverse team.

When I speak of diversity as it relates to my team at Genentech, I don't just mean different ethnic backgrounds. I also mean different skills sets and mind-sets. Some of us have such different approaches to the job. Early on, one of the senior managers mentioned to me that my team was like a band of misfits in that regard. But they've been a very, very successful band of misfits. We've been Team of the Year. We've led in prescriptions three out of four years. In any category that measures success, we've always been in the top-two or -three teams. And we've been extremely consistent.

What should managers do in order to increase diversity in their sales teams?

Hire for traits and behaviors, more than for professional experience. The famous football coach Barry Switzer used to say, "You can't coach speed." What that means to me is, I can't coach the traits and behaviors, like the hunger, drive, passion, and persistence—but I can try to hire those. And after six months, the experience will be there as well.

Hiring managers need to realize that the Asian, African-American, and Hispanic populations are growing here in the United States. Diversity is not going away. At this point, the train has left the station. That's why I strongly suggest you diversify the areas where you recruit. Make sure your recruiting sources are giving you diverse talent as well. But don't hire someone only because he or she is a diverse candidate. That's something I would never do or advocate. It's not that you'll necessarily hire the people they bring you, but diverse people should be in the mix.


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