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Five Best Practices to Grow MedTech Leadership Talent in Turbulent Times

By Beth Doladee, Neelima Paranjpey, Ph.D.
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The Vaya Group

In an industry fraught with constant challenges, medtech leaders need to close the growing skills gap of their employee base and develop leadership from within. The pandemic’s impact on an increasingly remote workforce has caused companies to adopt a new approach to cultivating emerging leaders.

The global medtech industry has traditionally been a high-stakes, high-stress environment. Medical device leaders are under considerable pressure to steer their companies in a relentlessly competitive market where so much is expected. They must jump multiple hurdles as the size and scope of the industry is rapidly changing and driven by evolving regulatory policies. Keeping up with advances in technology (i.e., fueled by connected health, mHealth, apps and the integration between consumer and medical IT) is the number one issue facing 90% of medtech companies, according to a new Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey.1 Executives also have had to manage multiple economic challenges created by the pandemic that have hampered both productivity and profits, such as postponed elective care procedures, the reduced cost of devices and supply chain obstacles. Furthermore, they’ve had to navigate growing tech security issues, safety concerns that have shortened time spent on job sites and new ways of collaborating remotely with peers and partners.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a widening skills gap between the top and bottom 25% of the workforce. Based on Aquant’s 2021 Service Benchmark Report for the Medical Device Industry, researchers found that the bottom quarter of the workforce costs medtech organizations 97% more than the top quarter.2 Medtech companies are also facing pressures to hire specialized talent as well as to onboard newcomers at rapid-fire speed—which clearly isn’t an easy feat.

The Need to Grow from Within

There is an increasing need for today’s medtech companies to upskill their workforce and develop talent from within. If we were able to close that gap by identifying emerging leaders and equipping them with the skills necessary to ride the next wave, medtech businesses could realize a significant ROI while simultaneously increasing employee engagement and confidence.

As a result, the need to cultivate leadership talent to rally the charge into the “new normal” has become a top priority. The pandemic exposed a particular need to address the lack of effective, just-in time leadership development. How can medtech executives successfully lead in times of uncertainty while ensuring that their employees are developed, retained, and productive? What skills are necessary for emerging leaders to thrive?

5 Ways to Tighten the Talent Gap

From our experience coaching and developing tomorrow’s leaders, we’ve compiled the following best practices to help medtech executives up-level their teams.

  1. Recognize people as a competitive asset. First and foremost, commit to making an investment in the backbone of your business—your human capital. Without the right minds powering innovation, your company is ill prepared to address emerging opportunities and leapfrog the competition. Routinely take stock of your employees to identify emerging leaders early. This requires an objective, unbiased assessment—optimally performed by a third party—that evaluates both hard and soft skills as well as future leadership potential. It delves beyond the obvious and eliminates gender, ethnicity, age, and other biases from the talent pool. Only then can you get an honest, accurate picture of who can help propel your medtech organization to the next level.
  2. Tailor development to individual needs. As medtech companies upskill and welcome new talent, it’s important to meet their specific needs. Once high potential (HiPo) candidates are identified through a credible assessment process, individualized talent development should begin sooner versus later. One-size-fits-all leadership development programs are not very effective. Large, classroom-style training is considered old school in today’s environment. Instead, there should be more tailored approach to employees that can help them develop new habits based on their individual learning needs. Leadership training therefore should be highly engaging, interactive and focused on building skills that can make the greatest impact.
  3. Foster soft skills. A successful development experience takes into account the need for leaders to cultivate a healthy balance of hard skills like performance, analytics, and technical acumen with soft skills such as empathy, team collaboration and communication. In the medtech industry, engineers must now engage more directly with clinicians and patients to understand user interfaces and other human factors that go into product design. They must also feel more comfortable presenting to multiple lines of business stakeholders. Likewise, sales leaders need to be confident when discussing highly technical product features in order to be viewed credibly.
  4. Accommodate remote learning. Today’s just-in-time leadership development must cater to an increasingly distributed workforce. Fortunately, new platforms make it convenient for your emerging leaders to access leadership training anytime and anywhere, with built-in accountability to measure progress. First, look for solutions that offer self-paced, level-specific content and exercises that promote individualized learning experiences. Second, make sure that your training supports active user engagement, offers progress assessments and has the ability to measure results. Third, find a platform that supports active manager involvement, live coaching and peer-to-peer interaction. Creating a sense of community is essential to unifying virtual employees, building loyalty and helping to retain medtech leaders.
  5. Apply science. To quickly upskill talent, we find that many healthcare clients are looking for more effective ways to help employees learn new skills in a shorter period of time. Medtech companies should consider a neuroscience-based learning approach to leadership and talent development. This means that HiPo employees are trained by using principles designed to form new, long-lasting habits and optimize skills retention in typical workplace situations. Neuroscience leverages a “practice, reflect, refine” methodology that allows individuals to singularly focus on developing one skill at a time, which leads to better assimilation and retention of information. They take these learnings and then apply them to real-world scenarios so that they can test their newly developing skills and receive feedback. Reflecting on that input helps emerging leaders to make the necessary modifications to refine and perfect that skill before moving onto the next.

A Final Word: Today’s Development = Tomorrow’s Leaders

Remember that developing new leadership skills takes time, practice and discipline. When day-to-day priorities compete with development initiatives, it’s even more critical that managers are actively involved to guide their team members to focus on development. Upskilling talent in an ever-changing and dynamic industry requires dedication, interaction and motivation. Today’s HiPo candidates are tomorrow’s leaders. The medtech companies poised to succeed are those that make their people a priority. A just-in-time leadership development is one proven way to close the talent gap and ensure that individuals are well equipped to be effective innovators, communicators and collaborators.

References

  1. Snyder, G. and Naaz, B. (July 23, 2020). “Medtech Leaders Prioritize Technology and Consumers”. Deloitte Consulting, LLP.
  2. Aquant. “The 2021 Service Benchmark Report for the Medical Device Industry”.

About The Author

Beth Doladee, The Vaya Group

About The Author

Neelima Paranjpey, The Vaya Group

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