Navigating the Talent Landscape: Novartis’ Shift Towards a Skills-Based Organization

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In the fast-paced realm of pharmaceuticals, talent is the driving force behind success. Join us as we learn from Markus Graf, VP, Global Head of Talent at Novartis, to explore how Novartis seeks in potential hires to the initiatives taken to address skill development. In this article we shall how Novartis sustains its competitive edge in the war for talent, discover the evolving skill sets in the healthcare industry and Novartis’ path to becoming a skills-based organization.

As the pharmaceutical industry emerges from the global pandemic, a paradigm shift is underway in the way companies approach talent management. Companies, including pharmaceutical giant Novartis, are increasingly embracing skill-based organizations as a strategic response to the evolving demands of a post-COVID world.

In the quest to reimagine medicine and improve lives, Novartis recognizes the pivotal role of talent management. As Markus Graf, VP, Global Head of Talent at Novartis, explains in a recent interview: “The ability to navigate complexity, lead and collaborate with people, deliver impact while living our values are critical to success.” Attracting and retaining top talent in the fiercely competitive pharmaceutical industry demands strategic efforts, and as Graf notes, “We prioritize building a strong employer brand, offering professional development opportunities, and fostering an inclusive work environment.”

Like in many industries, Pharmaceutical companies also encounter distinctive challenges in the quest for top talent. Graf highlights that “competing for top talent is a critical challenge for pharmaceutical companies.” To stay ahead, Novartis has set its sights on innovative solutions, including “investing in innovative technology, offering flexible work arrangements, and prioritizing employee well-being and engagement.” However, the company also recognizes the transformative potential of adopting a skills-based approach. “Shifting our focus to a more skills-based approach to work can help us attract and retain the best talent,” Graf adds.

Novartis is committed to nurturing a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline. As Graf explains, this entails “creating equitable systems for hiring, development, and promotion, and prioritizing diversity and inclusion in all aspects of talent management.” – and as a result, Novartis is probably well-equipped to bring a rich variety of perspectives and experiences that foster creativity and innovation, which is critical to stay ahead of the curve.

To prepare for the future and remain competitive in the talent landscape, Novartis has embarked on a comprehensive talent management strategy. Graf elaborates on the company’s efforts, stating, “We have implemented five big bets to optimize our talent management strategy: Precision Talent, Leaders of the Future, Talent Experience, Future-Ready Workforce, and Employer of Choice.” These initiatives are supported by key enablers, as Graf points out, “Talent Intelligence, Data & Technology, Mindset & Capability, and the Skills Operating System.”

Workforce planning also plays a pivotal role in Novartis’ journey towards becoming a skills-based organization. Graf underscores the significance of this approach, saying, “Skill-based workforce planning enables us to identify critical skill gaps and create targeted development programs to address them.” This emphasis on continuous skill development aligns with the evolving demands of the healthcare industry.

As the industry embraces digitization, new skill sets are emerging as essential for success. Graf highlights these shifts, noting, “There is a growing need for key account managers to replace the traditional sales rep model and traditional marketing roles, which some marketing roles are merging with key account-type roles.” In response to this dynamic landscape, Novartis places emphasis on fostering agility and customer-centricity among its workforce.

A recent internal study at Novartis further validates the importance of skill development. Graf shares the key findings, stating, “We discovered a positive correlation between performance, promotion, and the number of skills possessed by associates.” The study emphasized the significance of skills such as project management, leadership, and strategic planning in today’s complex work environment.

To drive positive change and generate meaningful impact, Novartis is actively involving its senior executives and business leaders. Graf explains, “We have successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of these initiatives, generating interest and involvement from senior executives and business leaders.” Moving forward, the company aims to implement these strategies by aligning them with the needs of middle managers and associates through training, communication, and collaboration.

Novartis’ dedication to talent management and a skills-based approach sets a benchmark for the industry. By prioritizing diversity, fostering innovation, and investing in ongoing skill development, Novartis embraces the challenges and opportunities of the talent landscape. In this rapidly evolving environment, acquiring and nurturing top talent becomes not only a competitive advantage but a fundamental driver of transformative impact, paving the way for a more impactful and sustainable future for the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.

Written by: Mihaly Nagy

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