How one company got the work done while searching for the right long-term leader
Minnie Baylor-Henry is an accomplished pharmacist, attorney, and regulatory affairs professional with experience that spans retail/hospital pharmacy, US FDA, Deloitte, and Johnson & Johnson, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and OTC products. Shortly after retiring as Worldwide Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, she joined YourEncore as the Practice Leader for Medical Devices. About a year into her role at YourEncore, she got a call from a division of her former employer. The head of Regulatory Affairs had left the company unexpectedly. The search for a successor was in process, but critical initiatives could not be delayed. Could YourEncore and Minnie help? Here’s what happened.
YourEncore: Tell us a little more about the situation at your former employer .
MBH: For any highly regulated life sciences company, Regulatory Affairs (RA) is a critical and essential function within the organization. It is simply not an optional function.
Regulatory Affairs professionals often come from legal, medical, government, and/or university roles, sometimes having “grown up” within a company. There is a curiosity about RA, which often results in a wide range of assignments and experiences. For example, I started my career as a practicing pharmacist, earned my law degree, worked at the FDA, Deloitte, and had two stints with a life sciences company. The beauty of a career in RA is it affords you the opportunity to have a broad perspective regarding product development from inception throughout the product life cycle. The challenge for companies is that it takes time and disciplined career and succession planning to keep the RA leadership pipeline full and transitions seamless. Even for companies with an exceptional succession planning program in place, the unexpected departure of a critical leader may occur at a time when those on the development track are not yet ready for the leadership role. When this occurs, a company may need to look outside their four walls for the successor.
As a side note, like many positions grounded in science, technology, engineering and math, the Regulatory Affairs profession has felt the impact of current demographic trends. The fastest growing segment of the labor market is adults over age 55. By 2020, 25% of the workforce will be between the ages of 55 and 74 and this percentage will remain the same through 2024. The youngest boomers turn 53 this year, and the average retirement age is 62. Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. Until recently, there were no undergraduate, masters, or doctoral programs in Regulatory Affairs. As a result, the demand for experienced RA professionals now exceeds the supply. Recruitment, on-boarding, and knowledge transfer takes time and careful planning.
YourEncore: What role did you play in addressing this specific leadership gap?
MBH: I was engaged through YourEncore to serve as the Interim Head of Regulatory Affairs for three months. My specific deliverables were to 1) lead the Regulatory Affairs department to achieve their business objectives until a new Department Head was hired; 2) help recruit, interview, and hire a permanent leader for the RA department; and 3) on-board and provide transitional continuity for the new leader during his/her first several weeks on the job.
YourEncore: What role did YourEncore play in this situation?
MBH: An increasingly viable and smart way for companies to close talent gaps is to re-engage with their own alumni. Reactivating retirees and other alumni to address seasonal surges, facilitate divestitures, acquisitions, or other event-specific initiatives, or even to mentor young high-potential professionals, has tremendous advantages.
However, labor rules, IRS requirements, the Affordable Care Act, and other regulations related to utilizing retirees, former employees, and other Independent Contractors are constantly changing and increasingly complex. Aligning with an expert resource, like YourEncore, to ensure compliance and facilitate administrative processes allows both the company and the alumni to focus on business requirements.
YourEncore: What was the outcome of your assignment?
MBH: Working with Human Resources, we identified and interviewed a slate of viable candidates. A new Department Head was hired within 60 days. I spent the last 30 days of my assignment helping to ensure a smooth and successful transition.
YourEncore: What advice do you have for other companies who are considering Alumni Return programs?
MBH: First, plan ahead. Maintain a positive and proactive relationship with your alumni through a formal alumni program that includes outreach and engagement on an on-going basis. Make sure that retiring employees are aware of alumni opportunities and how to engage with them before and after they leave. Include discussion of their interest in project-based work post-retirement as part of their transition process. Establish on-going communication platforms and make sure alumni are signed up so you have a database to draw from. You never know when a situation will arise.
Second, never underestimate the importance of culture, values and finding the right fit for each assignment. Even with your own alumni, being very clear about cultural expectations and screening is critical to ensure that the interim engagement is helpful and not disruptive. After all, not all alumnus situations are positive. For retirees who are considering an interim assignment, I urge you to approach the opportunity with the right mindset. Focus on the specific deliverables and work within the parameters and limitations of the assignment. At the same time, recognize that you may have to roll up your sleeves and be more hands-on than in your last role before retirement. For senior executives used to making decisions and directing others, this is sometimes a challenge.
Finally, planning ahead and ensuring the right fit are best accomplished when you partner with talent acquisition experts and organizations that specialize in creating, curating, and deploying highly experienced talent communities. By aligning with a professional retiree network, like YourEncore, you’ll have ready-access to advice, counsel, processes, tools, and the immediately effective talent you need, whether they are alumni from your own company or from other companies or industries. One of the unique aspects of YourEncore is its commitment to engaging with, understanding, and providing continuing education for its community of Experts. Our Expert engagement model cannot be replicated in cloud-based or technology-only contingent workforce platforms. As a result, our success in matching Experts with client needs on all dimensions, including skills, personality, and culture, whether they are client-specific alumni or not, is unparalleled.
As you develop your workforce strategies, consider the critical role that your alumni can serve in achieving your objectives. Act now, so that you are prepared to move quickly if a talent gap needs filling. Need help getting started? Contact me, and let’s talk about how to make an alumni-return program a key component of your success as a business leader. We have established programs, technologies, and engagement models that make it easy for businesses and their alumni to collaborate.
About Minnie Baylor-Henry, J.D.: Minnie Baylor-Henry is a recognized leader in food and drug law and regulation. She previously was the Worldwide Vice President for Regulatory Affairs at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Medical Devices & Diagnostics, where she was responsible for coordinating the regulatory strategy for a global portfolio of products, ranging from contact lenses to sterilization products. She spent eight years with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, where her focus was on prescription drug advertising and health fraud. She also has experience as Vice President for Medical & Regulatory Affairs at McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceutical (a J&J company) and National Director for Regulatory & Capital Markets Consulting at Deloitte. Ms. Baylor-Henry previously served as the President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Drug Information Association (DIA), as well as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI). She is a member of the Advisory Board for the College of Pharmacy at Howard University and the Board of Directors for The Partnership, Inc., a Boston area organization focused on encouraging diverse professionals to remain in Boston. Ms. Baylor-Henry received her Pharmacy degree from the Howard University College of Pharmacy and her law degree from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America.