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We now have a cadre of alumni all over the world who understand that we need to break down silos and act as one company Alexandra Fucik, director of talent development and GMAP

months – but the benefits for the whole family made it a standout part of the experience. You don’t always get the opportunity as an adult to make new friends and a new network, to learn and develop and thrive. I’d call this a family programme of learning and development.”

Hard-won success

GMAP challenges many of the traditional precepts of leadership development in Merck. Previously, participants were selected to attend a programme; served time in role, in one function and country; and were eventually promoted. GMAP follows a very different process. Understandably, there was resistance. Segerstrom faced early pushback. “Building cross-border talent was so different to development paths in traditional Merck, I had to make so many presentations to create sponsorship. After seven years, it’s a wellknown brand, it’s cool to see. We also know that post-programme retention has increased in this talent pool.” Alexandra Fucik, director of talent development and GMAP, remembers when she first heard about the programme. “I thought it was elitist and costly. What was the point in taking people off their normal career path for two years? When I joined the programme in October 2018, I was asked to make an assessment – could we justify the cost? So I looked at the metrics and yes, we are starting to see successful career acceleration after GMAP. But more than that, we now have a cadre of alumni all over the world who understand that we need to break down silos and act as one company to continue to be successful.” Caroline Litchfield, senior vice-president treasury, tax and investor relations, was closely involved in the design of GMAP and is its executive sponsor, as well as one of the first Line Advisory Board (LAB) members. “We created a high bar to join an elite programme and then put them through fast-track development. Unfortunately, this created a bit of an entitlement mindset which we had to work through – we need our participants to work with others, as well as to grow individually, and we need managers to understand the value that they can bring.” Tracey Franklin, vice-president chief HR talent and strategy officer, and a senior executive on the LAB, agrees. “A sticking point is how fast GMAP alumni expect to progress versus a mid-level manager who has ticked all the boxes. We need to encourage managers to change the way we think about talent and take a risk in hiring a GMAP alumnus without the traditional experience.”

Critical role of GMAP managers

Sahm Nasseri had to make a major presentation Dialogue Q4 2019

on HPV – human papillomavirus – strategy after only two weeks in the role. Following his GMAP experience, he was able to present it in the context of the whole Merck strategy, including the advantages for shareholders and broader stakeholders. “This is important. In a huge company like ours there are lots of little companies, and if you act in isolation, Merck misses out,” he says. Nasseri believes that effective development through GMAP depends to a large extent on the assignment manager. An apprenticeship takes energy, and the manager needs to invest. “You may have gained a ‘free’ resource, but it takes time to help your GMAP participant to add value. The investment is justified – today, GMAP alumni have become the go-to talent pool for high-impact opportunities in Merck.” Caron Li, managing director, Hong Kong, agrees that the role of the GMAP assignment manager is critical. Merck has taken great care in choosing candidates’ assignment managers, because they understand the exceptional talent it takes to be accepted onto the programme and the investment required to nurture that talent. “My participant can ask for my guidance on any issues and we spend a lot of time in discussion. I think a good assignment manager needs to be open-minded and a good coach. You also need to be flexible, as project work means time away from the day job. Even in her first year, I can see that her mindset has broadened, and she has asked me questions about her project that I couldn’t answer – so I am learning from her too.” Even though the participants are the focus of learning, their ability to look across the business and ask different questions means that others grow and learn alongside them. Bergstedt has the same experience of learning. “It’s helped me personally to overcome my own Western bias. Recruiting our first participants in Asia Pacific, I had to unlearn stereotypes – being calm and reflective doesn’t mean that an individual is laid back or unassertive. Exceptional talent presents in different cultural ways around the world.” Katharina Ruprecht is GMAP senior specialist, global market access vaccines – note how GMAP is included in her job title while

It’s helped me overcome my Western bias. I had to unlearn stereotypes. Exceptional talent presents in different cultural ways around the world Patrick Bergstedt, head of global marketing and international commercial operations (vaccines)

Profile for LID Business Media

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...