Developing talentMarketers in the life sciences industries are increasingly called on to lead a complex team matrix system defining brand strategy and commercialisation from the early stages of research and development. It is an evolving role which demands a far broader skillset than traditional marketing. They and the teams they lead have wide-ranging training and personal development needs. 
This meeting brought together individuals working across the brand team in house, alongside service companies and agencies working within the pharmaceutical and healthcare market. The agenda aim was to examine the drivers and barriers for developing talent in pharmaceutical marketing and associated disciplines in 2013.
Working through a series of prompts questions in breakout groups, the participants identified some of the key issues and opportunities in talent development. These are summarised below.

What are the drivers and barriers for developing talent in 2013?


  • Attracting and retaining staff
    • Profit/ business case aligned with company vision, values and other soft skills – leads to recruitment and increased business (how often is this reality?)
    • More 'talented' people – more sought after/ more valuable = need to look after them
      • May value development opportunities over incremental salary increases – need to better understand values and motivations. (Maslow?)
      • Are they more mercenary?
    • Reliable others – harder to engage, but still valuable
      • Need to understand better their values and motivations
  • Successful/ expanding business
    • Effective and contented workforce (resulting from points above)


  • Generation 'Y' and 'Z' (1990 on). Operating to a completely different value set. Expect promotion.  About managing expectations “ What is in it for me”
  • Cost - time and money
  • Shrinking capacity – training departments/ budgets
  • Management focus on sales – what about marketers; medics and R&D
  • Management concerns about time 'out of the job' in training/ personal development
  • Global/EU restrictions at a regional level
  • Need to tailoring to types eg: 'Y' and 'Z' generation as well as more experienced.
  • Management attitude and resources
  • People – Professional jealousy and politics


  • Engaging senior managers to invest in people – the business case for developing talent/ others
  • Getting HR/ those responsible for personal development and training in at board level
  • Defining the company vision and values and the talent required to meet these
    • Once talent is defined, how is it measured? Competencies, behaviours?
    • Where does emotional majority fit?
  • Identifying behaviours/ traits in people for specific roles; stratifying these within the company
  • Develop a realistic talent management plan (TMP): account for needs and size of the organisation
  • Secure buy in for the TMP from the top down; ensure someone 'owns' it
  • TMP should be transparent and visible,  but should not alienate anyone
    • Match individual strengths and ambitions to roles; align with business needs, vision and values
      • Ownership of IDP in TMP; ensure individuals believe in, agree and buy-in
    • Talent Q: key skills (Myers Briggs/ Belbin)
    • Harness desire of individual to achieve progress/ development
  • Functional training versus development
  • Non-product related training and development
  • Efficiencies in training through technology
  • Long term PDP for employees 3-5 years
  • Identifying and educating in behaviours expected at different levels
  • Right person-right manager
    • Understanding of people informs - individualised/ bespoke and potentially more valuable PDP
The groups also priorities some key needs by thinking about what they would wish for if they had a 'magic wand' to support personal development and training needs: 
  • Resources
    • Not only money, but time and support that can be invested to help individuals achieve
    • 'Ring-fenced' time for every individual to learn and develop in the context of day-to-day work responsibilities
  • Personalised TMP
  • More 'scientific' approach to preparing individual development plans/ personal development plans (IDP/ PDP)
  • Creating a 'journey' for individuals through their IDP/ PDP
  • Ensuring that everyone has a 'living and evolving' IDP/ PDP, ie they should be dynamic documents
  • Secondment opportunities for individuals

Key discussion points

Resources/ recognition of the importance of training and development needs

Resources (or lack of them) and a need for senior management to recognise the importance of personal development as well as training for every individual as a key factor in any company's success were common themes.
There is a need to examine further how to illustrate the business case for investing in people in a way which can be communicated to senior management/ the board.


Importantly, talent management may not be the right terminology. There is room for further discussion about how personal development and training can be tailored for every individual to suit their needs and ambitions, thereby creating a motivated and effective workforce (and avoiding alienating those who might otherwise be perceived as 'non-talent'). 

Executive coaching

'Executive coaching' has a role to play in people management. In some cases this might be a senior executive working with a more junior member of staff internally – as long as time is ring-fenced for this within the working day. 
There is also a role for external/ consultant executive coaching. These people are not just a listener, but have mentoring qualities. Getting managers to engage with coaching opportunities is important and see the value of protected time for coaching. This may be easier with an external person.
However, it is important that individuals want to be coached and are willing. The process must be well defined and expectations on both sides managed in a structured way – paint a picture about what is to be achieved. 
Measures – from a management budget as well as individual perspective – should be based on objectives, planned outputs and outcomes owned by the 'coachee', not management.
This is not a technique to bring in as part of a performance management process, but rather to help people to develop. It may be particularly useful in certain circumstances such as return from maternity leave, secondment, etc.
Giles Geeson mentioned data suggesting that a workshop increases productivity by 22%, but that subsequent follow up by a coach increases it by 80% (GG to supply reference if possible).
Coaching can:
  • Help individuals decide where they want to go
  • Overcome gaps: move up in knowledge/change attitude
  • Define and fine-tune your ability to do a job
A coach should have these qualities:
  • Pedigree; able to like and trust; session chemistry successful; ability to challenge/push; be matched to right individuals
Coaches are not managers. There is a need to define better training (information), coaching (bringing out the best), mentoring (has expert knowledge), counselling (support). 

Summary and conclusions

Participants in the meeting valued the opportunity to meet peers, to discuss common issues and share best practice. It was agreed that it would be useful to hold subsequent meetings.
Anneliese Cameron, General Manager, PM Society suggested that it might be appropriate for the group to make up the PM Society Personal Career Development Interest Group and there was agreement on this. Meeting facilitator Eamon O'Brien offered to lead the interest group.
Key agenda items for the group will be discussed an inaugural meeting but might include:
  • Evidencing/ illustrating the business case for training and personal development; differentiating personal development and functional knowledge/ training.
  • Developing organisational strategy in personal development and training.
  • Defining the who, where, what, whens of types of personal development and training support and the situations in which they are appropriate (defining and achieving consensus on best practice)
  • Identifying individuals' strengths, needs and ambitions in the context of developing individual personal development plans; particular different 'types' eg generations 'X', 'Y' and 'Z'.