Only one thing is staying the same in the workplace, and that is change, according to three distinguished area leaders in talent management and development during a panel discussion last week sponsored by our sister ATD chapter, Mid New Jersey, in Princeton.
Ross Grossman, Senior Vice President, Human Resources at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. enthusiastically promoted his company’s culture of constant innovation. It is a culture he spent most of his career helping to develop. The traits of innovation and creativity require agility to move quickly to respond to changes in the business environment and, in the case of Regeneron, a top biopharma, to respond to changes in science.
What makes Regeneron one of the top one or two employers in the biopharma industry? “If you ask me what’s my favorite color, I’ll say ‘culture’,” he said. “I look at culture as a strategic advantage.”
The differentiator in the culture at Regeneron is that it has retained the entrepreneurial culture as it has grown.
Employee engagement is a strategic advantage; innovation and speed is the business competitive advantage, he said. If culture, innovation and speed are strategies, Regeneron effectively uses social media to find the best people as one of its key tactics.
“Everybody is using social media. Not many use it effectively,” he said.
Regeneron has the advantage of many newer, smaller companies because, unlike many of its entrenched competitors, it does not have to unseat decades or even centuries of history and tradition to keep pace with technological and cultural shifts.
It takes purpose to retain a culture of constant change. “We survey like crazy,” he said. “When we see a problem, we stop and fix it.”
Gus Prestera, Organizational Learning and Development Consultant at PresteraFX, often works with large national and multinational companies. He agreed that small and young companies are in a much stronger position to respond to change.
“I consult with big companies, and they get married to the old infrastructure,” he said. The head Chief Learning Officer at Xerox does small pilot groups to keep ahead of technologies. The large organizational matrix in place doesn’t allow for experimentation.
“The old infrastructure becomes a sacred cow you can’t get rid of,” Prestera said.
Catherine Lombardozzi, Director at the Center for Creative Instruction and Technology at Delaware Technical Community College, said, “The World Economic Forum recently said we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Culture is critical to stay ahead. And agility is how do you sense and respond to change.”
Companies can make small, incremental changes or embark on a full-scale transformation in how they do their business. Either way, the ability to respond is essential to survival, she said.
Prestera agreed, saying incremental change in today’s rapidly evolving workplace is “one of the most insidious policies we have in HR. Organizations are great at absorbing the effects of change and mitigating it. Real change is massive and ugly.”
In our next blog, we’ll talk about the panel’s discussion on changes in the learning environment.