Transforming Succession Planning, Leadership Development, and New-Employee Selection
WuXi AppTec partners with Haiwen United for dramatic improvements in human resources programs and employee training
Human resources (HR) programs such as succession planning, leadership development, and new-employee selection are more than just processes. They are the foundation on which a healthy company rests. WuXi AppTec is no exception.
James Ma, associate HR director and head of the Learning Development Center at WuXi AppTec, transformed leaders by establishing repeatable processes for succession, development, and coaching with assistance from Haiwen United and Assess Systems. He also vastly improved entry-level selection through Haiwen United's assessment.
Lack of Succession at a Critical Level
Soon after James joined WuXi AppTec, the company forecasted serious difficulties with succession for senior managers at the company test laboratory in Suzhou, People's Republic of China, a major city near Shanghai.
“There was an urgent need to have adequate managers ready in three or five years,” said James. “However, it normally takes 8 to 10 years to develop the expertise required. We needed to shorten the timeframe dramatically.”
The managers had to be dedicated and incredibly smart. They needed functional and technical capabilities, plus leadership skills and experience, to address the job scope and team size. To begin working on development, James created the Accelerated Leadership Development Program. “Based on my design for the program, I needed an outsourced vendor to complement it,”James said.
“WuXi AppTec needed to link manager competencies with the assessment very tightly, but some vendors did not do this. I chose Haiwen United because the company's assessment has a tight link to competencies.”
James Ma, Associate HR Director and Head of the
Learning Development Center at WuXi AppTec
WuXi AppTec: A Top Global R&D Organization
A research-driven organization with a strong customer focus, WuXi AppTec serves pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies by providing laboratory and manufacturing services for drug and medical device development and production.
WuXi AppTec is a publicly traded contracted research organization (CRO) headquartered in Shanghai with offices around the globe. The sixth largest CRO in the world and the largest in the Asia-Pacific region, the company has more than 9,000 employees worldwide and serves some of the world's most prominent pharmaceutical companies.
Most of WuXi AppTec's employees conduct pharmaceutical research and development (R&D). They are an extremely important company resource. WuXi AppTec places a high value on selection, development, leadership, and succession programs to foster effective, efficient communication across cultures and global locations.
Solution: An Experienced, Resourceful Assessment Vendor
James started comparing assessment and leadership development vendors. He remembered previously meeting Jianping Ren, Managing Director of Haiwen United International Training Center. A professional consulting firm for talent management, leadership development, and talent assessment, Haiwen United is the exclusive Assess Systems Distributor in China.
Jianping had designed a leadership development solution called the SIAC Leadership Development Simulator (SIAC®), the fourth generation of development centre and an innovative training setting for the talent management era. This innovative program linked assessment technology from Assess Systems, participant self-discovery, and peer learning. James had seen firsthand how Jianping's organization successfully addressed a company's needs by administering more than thousands of assessments using the SIAC solution.
“WuXi AppTec needed to link manager competencies with the assessment very tightly, but some vendors did not do this,” said James. “I chose Haiwen United because the firm's assessment has a tight link to competencies. Haiwen United also offered us the SIAC program, which combines assessments and training. It's a very creative approach to development.”
Engaging, Dynamic Succession Engine
A comprehensive assessment and training solution, SIAC combines competency performance, potential, and proficiency, the competency 3P model®. The participants receive direct feedback from line managers and peers through an Assess Systems 360-degree assessment. Participants also take leadership competency development centre simulations and the Assess Systems competency-based personality survey. Additional assessment tools and group leadership discussions help with managerial talent evaluations and development plans. In two days of training workshop, SIAC sets the stage for continuous learning, development, and coaching and helps the participants in building a full self awareness against the competencies for now and future.
To address WuXi AppTec's urgent succession needs, James conducted SIAC training at the Suzhou site. The training was so successful, the company's CFO asked James to conduct a second program at the Waigaoqiao port in Shanghai. Those results were also very impressive.
“Normally it would take 8 to 10 years to reach this position, but we shortened it to three to five years. They will be ready in half the time.”
James Ma, WuXi AppTec
Haiwen United: A Valued Assess Systems Distributor
Haiwen United has been an Assess Systems Distributor for over a decade. “Assess is the perfect product for us. It's scientifically based, and it links to competencies. Assess Systems enables us to predict success for our clients. We have many satisfied responses from HR executives, managers, and other professionals in various organizations,” said Jianping Ren, founder of Haiwen United. “I have always found Assess Systems consultants to be friendly and supportive. We have made lasting friendships working together.”
Aylin Basom, VP, strategic channels at Assess Systems, values the partnership with Jianping and Haiwen United. “Our relationship with Haiwen United is an important part of our business. By extending our reach worldwide through distributorships, we can more effectively fulfill our mission of empowering our clients to hire the best and develop their full potential. We're delighted to see this taking place in countries around the world,” she said. “Our longstanding partnership with Haiwen United has given us the privilege of working with one of the most talented consulting teams in the field. We are also proud to have WuXi AppTec as a world-class client.”
“The participants were engaged in the program because it was different from other types of training,” James said. “Participants get assessment feedback from peers during the training. Based on the simulation and feedback from each other, they gain self-awareness. It's a next generation training combined with an assessment center.”
Mission Accomplished: Rapid Career Advancement and Succession
The SIAC program was a big success. Earlier, WuXi AppTec's executives had been concerned that the process of preparing managers for succession would take too long. However, James was able to put those concerns to rest with the help of Haiwen United.
“There are at least two departments where candidates have already been selected as successors for the line manager position,” James said. “Normally it would take 8 to 10 years to reach this position, but we shortened it to three to five years. They will be ready in half the time.”
“We analyzed the data and found a link between top performers and their assessment scores.”
James Ma, WuXi AppTec
Participants in the first training program completed a follow-up Focus 360 assessment that evaluated only the competencies individuals had targeted for improvement. The Focus 360 revealed noticeable improvements in participants' behaviors-a clear confirmation of the value of WuXi AppTec's talent investment. James plans to consolidate the data into a group report showing overall trends and targeted improvement areas.
Dramatic Change in Communication Style
One SIAC participant in particular had a dramatic turnaround. At the start of the program, James noticed a participant who preferred to argue and make his points forcibly instead of listening to his peers. His strong-willed attitude prevailed, but not for long. “After several workshops, I saw a significant behavior change in this participant. He started to listen to other people. He'd keep silent for a long time,” James said. “I asked his peers in the workplace, and they noticed the same thing. They said there was a change in his mindset and behavior. He listens to others, and he no longer argues with them anymore. That's a big change.”
As another follow up to the SIAC program, James received specific competency SIAC training. Now a certified SIAC trainer, James administers SIAC training for specific competencies to provide continued development for WuXi AppTec. He has conducted more than 10 workshops to date.
Selection Transformation for College Recruits
After the successful completion of the first SIAC program, WuXi AppTec identified another critical need. This time it involved selection processes for entry-level positions. The high volume of applicants resulting from WuXi AppTec's campus recruiting efforts made selection extremely difficult. Hiring managers tried to quickly determine which candidates would fit the company's skills requirements and culture. However, identifying and selecting quality candidates took far too long.
Fortunately, James was able to find a solution through the partnership with Haiwen United. The consulting firm customized and validated Assess Systems' entry-level assessment for WuXi AppTec. The assessment criteria targeted the characteristics and cultural fit that identified potential for success at the company.
Using the assessment, WuXi AppTec hired 800 college recruits with confidence. James tracked their performance and conducted an analysis confirming critical success factors. “We analyzed the data and found a link between top performers and their assessment scores,” said James.
Today, the assessment is a consistently reliable hiring indicator for WuXi AppTec. The company uses assessment results to identify potential top performers and make selection decisions.
Coaching Program to Train and Empower Leaders
Because WuXi AppTec's line managers are extremely busy, they lacked the time and skills to coach their subordinates. This was yet another challenge. James was able to address it using a two-day training program from Haiwen United.
The coaching program empowered managers to provide coaching for ongoing competency and leadership development. Haiwen United conducted a leadership competency modeling workshop before the program started. The workshop helped James refine the competency model for WuXi AppTec's leaders.
The coach training program had three components. The first involved training line managers to be internal coaches for their subordinates. The second component involved creating a manual for coaches based on the new leadership competency model. The third component required internal and external coaches to follow up with SIAC participants to be sure they put their new skills into practice. While the coaching program was in process, James and Haiwen United used Assess Systems' personality assessment to evaluate the participants.
The coaching program lasted about six months, followed by additional coaching sessions. According to James, who monitored the activities, “We have had positive feedback from the participants. They said they never had this kind of coaching training before.”
More Results: Confidence, Efficiency, and Cost Savings
WuXi AppTec's executives are extremely happy with the results of James's efforts. “Our senior executives think this is a very cost-effective program. It meets their expectations, and they also know they can use this kind of talent development in the future,” James said. The results were so impressive, WuXi AppTec's Lab Testing department requested a development program for managers with potential for senior-level positions.
“Our senior executives think this is a very cost-effective program. It meets their expectations, and they also know they can use this kind of talent development in the future.”
James Ma, WuXi AppTec
During the SIAC program, words that were used to describe the learning process included effective, valuable, clear, encouraging, and even fun.
“The participants get a high degree of self-awareness and confidence from the program. They know the gaps they need to close to be a success. They understand the expectations of the company, their line managers, and the senior team,” said James. “We also got positive feedback from line managers. After reading the talent report, they notice the alignment between what they observe and the data we give them. They have solid evidence that's reflected in their daily work with their subordinates.”
Because WuXi AppTec is a contracted research organization (CRO), clients pay for the scientists' time. The SIAC participants-all of whom are team leaders-now communicate more effectively across language and cultural barriers, which saves significant amounts of time. According to James, “Time savings has been a great benefit for us. We've increased efficiency by improving our leaders.”
Successful, Long-Term Business Relationship
James continues to use the new approach Haiwen United introduced, especially for high-potential candidates. “Through this new approach, a mindset change occurred for the participants in the training workshop. We can see a change in their behavior. And stakeholders can see it too,” James said. “The participants focus on their development, and they see a behavior change.”
Pleased with Haiwen United's philosophy, James places a high value on the ongoing business relationship. “Jianping has a creative philosophy for talent development. SIAC is an excellent example. I think it's a great approach to developing talent,” said James. “Haiwen United also responds quickly when we face a problem or challenge. We have built a very good relationship over the years.”