For the fourth instalment of our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leadership series, the team recently explored D, E & I perspectives from the medtech industry with Guillaume Julien, VP HR Global Sales at Getinge, a leading global provider of medical products and systems, employing more than 10,000 people, with operations in 38 countries.
Coulter Partners: We know that Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (D, E & I) is important for commercial success. What does it mean for you and Getinge, and why in your opinion is it so critical?
Guillaume: Diversity is a buzz topic. Everyone is speaking about it and I don’t think I will tell you anything radically new. The only thing that is probably different at Getinge is that, as a Swedish company, concepts like diversity are not new for us. We are advanced and are very open to diversity and differences. We believe that differences are a source of enrichment and give us a competitive advantage. To have contrasting perspectives, we need to have people coming from different cultures with various educations, backgrounds and passions in life, but who are all willing to contribute to a common purpose which at Getinge is ‘saving lives’. Diversity, equity and inclusion is how we make sure we have these differences in our company and, even more importantly, how we ensure that we will benefit from these different perspectives. Getinge is a place where you can positively confront ideas in order to pick the best ones. It’s an environment where people can build up on the ideas of others and where we would rather see a lot of ‘and’ rather than ‘or/ but’ when people talk about ideas. As a global company, we also need to reflect what the world is today. We need to stay close to our customers to be able to deliver what they expect, and therefore to have people able to understand their needs. This is why we believe that diversity, inclusion and equity are important topics that we need to take into consideration when we work on strengthening our culture.
CP: Given your vast experience working at large global Life Science organisations, what are your personal observations of good D, E & I practices and how do they impact organisational thinking and performance? What has worked well?
Guillaume: Diversity is not a topic where you make a lot of differences short term. At Getinge, we don’t talk so much about diversity and inclusion internally, we talk about Culture: if you get the Culture right, then you’re on the right path. It’s not only about having diversity & inclusion, it’s also about having the right ‘speak up’ culture, the right compliance culture, it’s having people respecting each other, it’s much more than only having different people.
We are working currently on transforming our culture – historically we have grown from more than 70 different acquisitions over the past 30 years – and moving forward, we believe that if we come closer together, then it will make us a stronger company. Culture starts at the top of an organisation with very small things, like having leaders being able to listen instead of telling their organisation how they see things or how they would like things to be done, making sure that they ask relevant questions to as many people as possible and are genuinely open to things that they don’t know. Culturally, we have been educated to assume that top leaders must know the best and the most, but inclusion is the opposite, it is making sure that we learn from each other’s. We need leaders who are catalysts of ideas and who then empower their people to turn these ideas into products or services that are relevant to our customers.
But it shouldn’t only come from the top of the organisation as we don’t want employees to always expect managers to create that culture. It’s about every employee in the company taking ownership of speaking up when they have something to say – even if they disagree, and not being afraid of failing, because that’s probably the most powerful way to learn and get stronger as a professional, but also as a company.
To illustrate how we reinforce that culture, I will give you two concrete examples. The first one shows how we try to break up the barriers between the different levels of management: in the past, we used to have a CEO call with the top 100 managers who would then cascade down the information in their respective functions and departments but unfortunately, some of it got lost in translation. Since the start of the pandemic however, we run our CEO calls with a very large group of managers from different levels. This means that we all hear the same message from the same person and we are all aligned and focused on the same things. Another example is the Leadership Forum that we ran with professors from Harvard Business School which we opened to the 1,600 managers of the Getinge group – whatever their country, level, or department – so everyone could be on the same page.
To develop the right culture the two things you need in parallel are a very strong alignment and very good communication – while also cultivating differences. You need to somehow find the right balance; a culture where everyone is being always totally aligned, but not speaking up, is not the right culture. But the opposite where everyone is running in different directions won’t lead the organisation anywhere either.
CP: Although industry numbers are slowly improving, much has been documented around the gaps in female senior leadership specifically within medtech. What do you see as the greatest challenges in the sector specifically, compared to say pharma and biotech?
Guillaume: In terms of gender diversity, our target is to have 50% female leaders. Today, our gender ratio is in line with our medtech industry peers and needs to grow. We are making progress, but it will take time to reach our goal as we need to have this gender ratio reflected throughout the company. In global sales, we have increased the female leaders’ ratio by 20% in the past two years and in the last 12 months, we have hired females in two thirds of our senior leadership positions. This is pretty impressive in such a small timescale and the way we did that was by never starting to interview any candidates until and unless we had a solid and diverse shortlist. What will also play in our favour in the future is the change in the makeup of the executive MBAs alumni. Reviewing the literature, we noted that in the past 30 years, a huge majority of the individuals graduating from executive MBAs were male, explaining that senior leaders in big companies were mostly male. New statistics in Harvard, or in all the major executive MBAs, however now show a 40 to 45% ratio of female alumnae which could mean that in 5 to 15 years the pool of female leaders will be increased, making it easier to recruit these profiles.
One difficulty we face is the lack of balance among departments: our back office is predominantly female driven, while our sales functions and service technicians are mostly male.
Another roadblock with the medtech industry – and in the pharma industry also – is that we are highly risk adverse and like to recruit from our own industry. We have been educated this way but I think that the easiest way to increase the female talent pool is to look in other industries, thereby also moving away from the current female talent war in medtech.
Another way is to grow our rising stars and young talent pool differently, moving individuals around the company and the different countries or departments as early as possible to grow them more quickly.
Finally championing work life balance, being flexible in letting people organise their life, makes us much more attractive than many other companies: one should not have to choose between seeing their kids or having responsibility in a company, we should be able to do both and that is very important for us at Getinge.
CP: How as an industry, can we implement improved D, E & I practices going beyond gender diversity, and instil better organisational behaviours to achieve competitive advantage?
Guillaume: One of the challenges that we have is cultural diversity: we are a Swedish company with a lot of European men sitting in many senior leadership positions, and we are lacking North American and Asia Pacific representatives. We are currently focusing our talent management and succession exercise to address this, and to accelerate the development of our talent pool in these markets.
However our biggest issue is not gender or cultural diversity, it is behavioural diversity. We need to ensure that we are hiring people from different academic, social or geographical backgrounds with diverse thought processes and opinions. When it comes to R&D, not hiring the same type of engineers coming from equivalent backgrounds that will create comparable products in a similar way, brings its benefits. Behavioural diversity, however, also brings its own challenges. For example, we have the very ambitious goal to be the first medtech company to become totally CO2 neutral by 2025. It is thus important for us to have people that are sensitive to the footprint we are leaving on the planet, but at the same time, we have people among us that are climate sceptics and we need to accept that they have something to say and can also contribute in this journey. This is a challenge.
I am however encouraged and really motivated by the progress we have made. We still have a way to go and we should not be complacent. I am proud of the example we are setting in the medtech industry and I hope many others will follow our lead.
See Guillaume Julien’s LinkedIn profile.
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