I recently was given the opportunity to spend a day with the top executives responsible for Talent Management at Novartis at their Campus of Innovation, Knowledge and Encounter in Basel. I was part of a group of educationalists who are concerned about the growing dislocation of education and the world of work. Our aim was to gain a better understanding of the needs of business , industry and the professions so that we can prepare young people better for their future careers.
Novartis is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and has the value and turn-over the size of a small country. Their continued profitability depends on developing new drugs and medicines each year to replace those that are going out of patent. Novartis' success relies on attracting and developing the best talent in the world - how they do that is a lesson to us all . . . . .
A few thoughts on what it takes to be the best of the best:
- A degree is not the end of a young person's education.
A BA or BSc is just the starting point, every sixth former should expect to go on to study for a higher degree [MA or MSc], an MBA or for a professional qualification [Law - LLB, Banking - CFA, Accountancy - ACA, Teaching PGCE, etc.]. Novartis recruit the majority of their top 400 executives from the premier MBA programmes around the world.
- Young people are competing in a world employment market.
Being the best in the UK is not necessarily going to take you to the top - there are many extremely talented people out there who are hungry for success. Novartis actively set out to attract a diversity of talent from around the world.
- Leading firms remunerate extremely well, but don't expect a work-life balance if you want to get to the top
Novartis openly talk about a "work-life integration", rather than a "work-life balance." They provide restaurants, a supermarket and a post-office onsite so that you don't have to leave early.
- Top firms are not just concerned with results, but also on how one treats other people.
Top firms are not just concerned that individuals meet their targets, but they are also concerned that they develop their teams and treat people well. This makes business sense because a poor manager is often the cause for talent to leave the firm. Novartis pay their bonuses according to the following matrix:
So what skills are firms like Novartis looking for?
- Agility - the ability to apply what you have learned to a new situation - be that in a different division of the firm or in a different culture or part of the world.
- Ability to collaborate - an attitude of tolerance and the ability to draw out the best in others. This requires a significant degree of self-awareness.
- Ability to manage horizontally - Novartis recognise that the new generation doesn't like hierarchy and key leaders will need to manage on a "more flat matrix"
- Soft Skills - particularly good communication skills and languages