Innovative HR Practices at Medtronic

19/04/2017
HQ Asia speaks with Medtronic HR about its innovative human capital practices and how HR can think strategically and add value to business

The future of HR is evolving – and the role of an HR leader is to organize the team and identify the skills that already exist as well as what is needed to ensure success for the company. One way to begin defining the role of HR within a company is to first translate the business strategy into organisation and people goals.

“Be in step with business. HR needs to translate what they’re trying to do into meaningful action steps,” explains Lorraine Parker-Clegg, Vice President, HR, Medtronic Asia Pacific (APAC). “Look at the outcomes that a business is driving towards, and make sure that HR is creating solutions that solve the right problems for business.”

Medtronic Talent Strategy

The HR of tomorrow will also have to relook at how to best staff for the company. At Medtronic, one of the world’s leading medical technology, services and solutions companies, advisors are now an integral part of the HR team. Their belief is that a flexible use of resources is vital to success in an organization and can be very impactful to HR.

Their pilot advisor is Ruchira Chaudhary, APAC Head of Organisation Development. “We brought on a strategic advisor like Ruchira to help build capabilities. She can do a deep dive into diagnosing data, create a structure for how to organize teams and accounts, and then present this to ensure we are seamlessly cascading our business priorities into people priorities,” explains Parker-Clegg. “For any company, it’s critical to take a look at the talent pipeline, figure out what talent can be built, what can be borrowed and what skills will need to be bought.”

For the talent that needs to be bought, ask yourself if there are flexible working arrangements that could be implemented to create the best people practices for your company. An example will be the partnership between the HR and the Integrated Health Solutions (IHS) teams at Medtronic. The strategic business partner role for the IHS team requires a different skillset and ability. The business partner needs to be able to present a landscape of challenges to be solved, and to be able to enlist the support of the right people within the HR team to get the work done.

This was a key assignment for Chaudhary where she worked closely with David Carr, VP, IHS to design an organisation that is future ready. “For over 65 years, Medtronic has been the market leader in innovative medical technology. Acutely aware of the need to balance access and cost of treatment with high-quality care delivery, Medtronic created Integrated Health Solutions. We are a new business unit which supports our customers beyond devices by deploying our unique combination of capital resources, process optimisation expertise and therapy knowledge. Our business model is therefore based on taking an active role with long-term partnerships that hinge on risk and value sharing schemes. In short, we have a larger stake in our customers’ success than ever before. Collaborating with Ruchira and Lorraine to craft the IHS organisation has been a true partnership and an immense learning experience. I feel confident we have the right set of capabilities and structure as we set up IHS for success,” adds Carr.

This forward-thinking approach can be credited to the value that Medtronic HR places on innovation. Since the acquisition of Covidien two years ago, a new HR structure has been put in place. “For the last two years, HR has supported the integration of the two organisations. Our activity has been strategically aligned with the business direction where we translate strategy into meaningful people practices,” says Parker-Clegg. While there may still be opportunity for improvement, Medtronic is beginning to yield the benefits on a global basis. 

Two examples of the innovations that Medtronic has put in place for HR are the advisory model where there are supplemental advisors who can aide in organisation design. For instance, Chaudhary has the depth and experience with a specialisation in business strategy from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She continues to stay up to date with the newest research as she is also adjunct professor at several top-tier business schools.

“We now have the depth of skill sets on a flexible basis and it’s a win-win for both the company as well as the advisors. The advisor maintains a balance of personal and professional aspirations,” says Parker-Clegg.

The second innovation in HR has been around constructing people practices that solve business challenges. Medtronic is organised around its four business units – the Cardiac and Vascular Group, Restorative Therapies Group, Minimally Invasive Therapies Group and Diabetes Group – each with their own dedicated commercial organisations. However, the business units often serve the same customers and it is common to have multiple teams serving the same hospital. The Corporate Account Management initiative led by Carr, and supported by Chaudhary as an integral member, is tasked with creating streamlined and strategic interactions focused on solving customer challenges by combining the depth and breadth of our product portfolio with value based solutions. 

This people practice is called the ‘many voices, one face’ team selling where hospital representatives now have one Medtronic sales representative whom they liaise with. The result is that our customers have a better experience partnering with Medtronic and team-selling communication has improved.                    

HR’s Diagnostic Approach

According to Parker-Clegg, it is essential that HR approach people problems from multiple angles, the ability to diagnose, and provide a mix of talent with depth and experience.

One way to accomplish this is to have advisors or a deep business partner model where the HRBP is able to translate business priorities to people priorities. One of the strategy frameworks that the HR team uses is called the STAR model for organization design by Jay Galbraith.

The company’s current goal is to provide comprehensive end-to-end solutions for hospitals and consumers. “The aim is to provide more than just a product or service. We help hospitals understand how effective they can be at diagnosing and creating plans to improve effectiveness,” explains Parker-Clegg. For Medtronic, it is about understanding the market needs. HR’s strategic and advisory role is to come up with frameworks and structures to support the teams in meeting their goals, and to design processes that help leaders drive growth and contain talent effectively. These can be done via looking at data, high-potentials (HiPos) value advancement and the opportunity to change roles. As a way to retain talent, the HR team has created a plan for HiPos so that their succession roles are planned out for 36 to 60 months. In tandem, HR works with senior leaders to adjust their mind-set and expectations of what millennial HiPos want, such as succession plans and opportunity to advance.

What is Next for Medtronic

The HR team is currently focused on building an agile workforce as well as accelerating performance across the matrix to drive improved effectiveness and use of resources. The HR team is also working on an improved approach to performance management and preparing for the talent and succession planning meeting that takes place with the CEO later in the year. The closer that HR and business work together – through strategic HR thinking and designing people practices based on the business strategy – the more effective and efficient the company will be. 

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