Debrief: What Sage People learned at this year’s Bio Pharma HR conference

Sage People stakeholders returned this week from Boston, where we were proud to sponsor the Bio Pharma HR conference—credited as “the definitive meeting place for progressive Life Sciences HR leaders to challenge traditional thinking and engage in a disruptive conversation about the future of HR.”

While there, our representatives spoke with many attendees about their practices and also attended sessions, and we were delighted to learn of practitioners within this industry doing extraordinary things regarding how they recruit, manage and engage their diverse workforces. A common thread in all of the conversation was using workforce analytics data in order to make more strategic decisions about the workforce experience. Some key points of conversation floating around the event included:

Rethinking how HR organizations work today

Multiple sessions and conversations iterated the need to reconsider the strategic value of HR departments. During one session, speaker Andy Porter—CPO at the Broad Institute of Harvard & MIT—discussed traditional HR organizations as being like Atari, simply not up to speed with the current technologies and ways that people engage with each other. Instead, attendees and speakers agreed that the duty of the modern HR department is to act as an internal business partner to companies and disrupt the traditional management of talent to create more engaged and productive workforces. In this sense, HR leaders should strive to use data about their talent and prospective talent so as to understand their current and potential workforces in the same way companies use data to understand their customers.

Workforce planning

At table sessions, presenters focused on the ability of HR organizations to understand the value created with their people. At one of them, HR leaders came up with a strategy for workforce planning they call the Differentiated Workforce. In essence, they looked at company competitive strategy and determined which roles within the company create the most value in line with their corporate goals. They found something surprising: project leaders—not always those in highest tier of the organizational charts—are the glue which makes their organization work because these stakeholders focus on speed and quality of project development. Their study demonstrated a use of workforce analytics that we think is top-notch; as evidence, they have secured sponsorship for another study of their workforce and have seen an increase in speed of work internally.

Enabling company leaders to give data-driven feedback

Another popular topic of conversation at Bio Pharma HR was how organizations can best give feedback to their talent. Attendees identified two prongs to this goal: one being to fine-tune the talent assessment process and another being to deliver results from performance assessments to managers in a way that enabled data-driven feedback to internal clients. One company acquired a handful of smaller entities and identified a need for transformation in this arena. So, they took VPs and directors through feedback training programs via behavioral self-assessment to demonstrate the culture, educational articles and webinars, group chats and more. At the same time, they implemented a a new performance management practice that enabled these leaders to receive more prompt and timely information about their employees’ work. Next, they asked leaders to apply their learnings and best practices from using data to deliver feedback and to create internal cohort campaigns so as to carry the initiative deeper within the organization. Soon, they will have direct reports assess their leaders and carry on a further evaluation of the effectiveness of their new strategy.

In a nutshell, we were delighted to sponsor attend the event and be a part of these conversations. And as a quick reminder, we are still conducting research so as to get a global view of how companies within the biopharmaceutical sector are managing their talent. You can look out for the release of a report regarding these findings in the very near future!

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