Merck: Accelerating the Development of Latin American Leaders
As globalization and technological advancement have brought the world closer, a need has arisen for leadership development programs that transcend international boundaries.1
In particular, emerging markets have become an increasingly important space; in the next 20 years alone, 78 percent of growth in global GDP will come from new markets.2 This has caused a rising awareness in organizations around the world of the need to have the right leadership everywhere to ensure truly successful strategy execution and global business development.3,4
For Merck Pharmaceuticals, developing the right leaders for the future in every corner of the world is at the forefront of its efforts. Merck is a large global healthcare company delivering innovative health solutions through prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and consumer and animal health products. Over the years, Merck has been a leader in using global assessments to develop key talent and increase strategic alignment.
Looking to the future, Merck recognized that the development of talent with the knowledge, skills and mindsets to lead the business in achieving significant growth targets was imperative, as was creating a pipeline of talent for next-level positions. This need was particularly strong in emerging markets, areas that will be of increasing importance in the future. To address these needs and help business continuity, retention and engagement, Merck partnered with BTS to design an assessment and leadership development experience for leaders throughout Latin America. Participants included directors of business units, managing directors and functional leaders from both developed and emerging markets.
Merck recognized that in order to achieve its goals, the program must be valued by all participants as a prestigious, engaging and worthwhile development experience. Using Merck’s established capabilities, Merck and BTS designed an assessment and development experience to meet these needs. The overall assessment was to be completed in two parts: pre-work and a simulation. The two- to three-hour prework portion was composed of a self-evaluation section with a 360 degree survey, leadership-style inventories and pre-read materials. All participants were given seven days prior to their scheduled simulation to complete the pre-work.
My team has been struggling due to a recent reorganization. After going through the assessment and participating in the feedback, I feel better positioned to get my team out of the weeds and have a bigger impact.”
The simulation part of the assessment consisted of several role-plays for participants. Designed to elicit the behaviors and tendencies central to leadership success, these exercises were delivered via internet and phone interactions with a trained assessor. Components included an inbox (email) exercise, coaching role-play, business case presentation and debrief interview. The functional leaders completed the scheduled simulation during a single four-and-a-halfhour uninterrupted session. The executive group worked on the inbox exercise and business case presentation during the seven days prior to their scheduled assessment and then completed the assessment role-plays during a 90-minute session.
After completion of the exercise, assessors evaluated all data associated with each participant (e.g., leadership questionnaire, 360 degree survey, behavioral information from simulation and role-plays) and created an integrated feedback report that was reviewed with a coach during the participants’ personalized feedback session. Each participant then used their assessment results and the information from their manager to draft their own personal development plan.
I found the simulation energizing and appropriately challenging.
Throughout the design and delivery of this assessment and development experience, significant consideration was given to the challenges associated with the fact that a portion of these leaders were based in emerging markets. For Merck, it was paramount to balance the face-to-face versus remote aspects of the programs and the associated costs of conducting assessments across international boundaries.
Some of the key challenges of working with emerging markets, and how they were addressed in the program, include:
Participant responses, gathered after the completion of the assessment, helped gauge the efficacy and practicality of the program. Participants in both emerging and developed countries had favorable reactions to the assessment.
At first, I was a bit stressed by the volume of information. However, after completing the assessment I can say that the experience was a valuable investment of my time.”
One of the most interesting and unexpected results, which highlights the impact of the care and efforts made throughout the assessment development and deployment, was that the participants in emerging markets had slightly higher evaluations of the assessment experience than those participants from the developed markets. They were also more open and receptive feedback. Throughout all groups, 100 percent committed to a meeting with their manager to review their development plans and establish follow-up activities. These development plans varied based on each participant’s individual developmental goals.
In addition to ranking the program, participants testified to their experiences, giving feedback such as:
All in all, the deep customization and consideration taking into developing this experience delivered high returns. The continued impact and positive results seen in populations from both developed and emerging markets emphasize the widespread efficacy of objectively assessing overall leadership effectiveness.