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Angie Lindsey, vice president of marketing, Fresenius Kabi USA shares 2023 strategies for talent management strategies in life sciences, specifically as it relates to sales and marketing.
In a Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association (HBSHAA) Q&A interview, Angie Lindsey, vice president of marketing, Fresenius Kabi USA, explains talent management strategies for life science sales and marketing groups as they plan their 2023 strategies
HBSHAA: Since your early days starting as a front-line sales rep for AstraMerck in the 1990s, much has evolved in terms of the hybrid workplace as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). With the ever-changing dynamics between employers and employees, what should sales and marketing executives’ talent management strategies be for 2023?
Lindsey (Fresenius Kabi USA): As these themes may be difficult topics for some organizations, I think Fresenius Kabi has cultivated a strong culture that values everyone’s contributions. The fundamental desire for employees to have community and connection is the same as it was back in the 90s when I was a sales rep. Anyone that has experienced being part of a high-performing team knows that feeling of camaraderie. Once you have a strong team in place, it is important to foster a culture of trust with team members that are deeply committed to each other’s success and growth. This requires an investment in team alignment, clarity on roles and responsibilities, and a practice of supporting each other; a foundation of trust.
After working for more than 17 years in branded pharma in both sales and marketing roles, I made the transition to Fresenius Kabi to lead the generic pharma sales team. I recall it was my first national sales meeting, and we conducted a workshop with author Steven M. R. Covey about trust. Although this was more than 10 years ago, I remember it vividly, as relationship trust is more important than ever with co-workers and with customers, especially in the virtual work environment. The 13 behaviors of trust that he outlines in his book, The Speed of Trust, are what I believe in.1 A team must be committed to practicing trust behaviors, and the manager must extend trust to the team while providing a clear vision and direction. Engagement and productivity will follow when the team knows they are part of something bigger, and their contributions matter.
Early in the pandemic, I participated in a virtual course at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management on value-based leadership by Professor Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr., a former Baxter executive. Professor Kraemer described going “from values to action” and emphasized the four principles of values-based leadership: self-reflection, a balanced perspective, true self-confidence, and genuine humility.2 This course especially resonated with me as I was still absorbing the abrupt transition to a virtual work environment.
Seeking a balanced perspective and humility were essential to support my team’s success. To me, being humble meant focusing on those around me and treating everyone with respect as well as realizing we are not our job. Everyone has a life outside of work, which was only magnified by the pandemic. It was inviting people into the conversation so their voice was heard, welcoming different ideas and staying open.
We tried multiple meeting platforms and communication methods (including Microsoft Teams, Slack, and WebEx), and it was an enjoyable shared experience that kept our team’s communication lines open and helped us maintain a fun, healthy dialogue. All of it was very supportive, and we agreed on a process to figure out the best communication methods when we were all virtual. Eventually, when we were able to come back to the office safely, I found that people genuinely wanted to return to the office to be together.
At Fresenius Kabi, there are many jobs that can be done remotely. We offer a flex work schedule so that each employee is empowered to work with his or her manager in crafting an office schedule that works best for them, which involves how often they go to the office. But it has been an interesting collaborative journey for my marketing group, as we all decided to come back to the office three days per week, and we designed an overlap on two of those days. Part of the incentive was that for people who returned three days per week, they retained their offices; otherwise, such space was opened for a hoteling arrangement. Still, 100% of my marketing team voluntarily returned to the office multiple days per week, and the feedback has been people like to work collaboratively in person.
While the World Economic Forum recently pointed to a study where “…just 12% of bosses are fully confident that their staff are productive at home…. even though 87% of employees say they are productive,”3 my direct reports recognize the trust that I have in them; and we enjoy the higher energy that comes from collaborating in person. Just last week, we had an impromptu meeting on a Wednesday afternoon when we were all in the office on some late-breaking news about our industry. It was so energizing to bring the team together in person and experience the reactions from each team member. I know we can have the same conversations over Microsoft Teams, but you can’t beat the energy that you get in person.
For your readers, it is important to consider how you can create meaningful connections with your team, actively solicit feedback, extend trust, and support the balance that is necessary to attract, develop, and retain the best talent.
HBSHAA: Talent management is a perfect segue for DE&I, as it is imperative that employees understand both the corporate social responsibility obligation and the business value of this theme. What are you doing as a leader to raise awareness of DE&I in the workplace, and what challenges are you facing?
Lindsey (Fresenius Kabi USA): To me, the extremely interesting development has been the growing multigenerational workforce and the challenge that it presents in keeping everyone engaged. We are also facing fragmentation, with virtual and hybrid work, and desperately need to unify our teams around common goals. Employee engagement is critical for teams to perform their best work.
Our organization recently took all managers through a DE&I training program facilitated by the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) on how to foster inclusion, and I think this is a really important point. A central component of inclusion is relatedness, which has always been important to me—referring to our innate need to belong to groups, which is essential for human survival. When we unconsciously categorize someone as in-group, we tend to like and empathize more with them. However, this can lead us to inadvertently project our own unconscious bias that may make others feel excluded.
I am inspired to create a culture of inclusion by fostering relatedness with my team. One of the aspects of the NLI training that resonated with me the most refers to simple ways that we can increase the experience of relatedness in a team environment,4 which are:
When you practice this with intentionality, I’ve found it creates a team environment that is ripe for strategy and engagement, and we have a diverse team of multiple generations and backgrounds. Every voice is heard, and each perspective valued.
Additionally, most global organizations, including ours, have mentoring programs and employee resource groups where individuals can tap into such support programing, like my own involvement in mentoring a high-caliber Fresenius Kabi colleague from our North American team. This can really enrich the work environment and create opportunities for meaningful connections. After all, creating an inclusive culture with opportunities for connectedness is a talent retention tactic, and an important business strategy.
Angie Lindsey is vice of marketing for Fresenius Kabi USA, part of a 7 billion euros global organization that employs 41,000 employees. Her prior sales and marketing roles were at Takeda Pharmaceuticals and the start-up, AstraMerck, which evolved into AstraZeneca.
Michael Wong is an emeritus board member of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association.