How the global biopharmaceutical company helped make its new leaders more effective.

Client Story

Sanofi Delivers Global Frontline Success

How the global biopharmaceutical company helped make its new leaders more effective.

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The Need

To help high-performing individual contributors make the transition to leaders who model and promote Sanofi's values.

The Solution

The Result

An award-winning program through which more than 4,000 leaders have been developed.

A Need to Embed Culture, Values, and Competencies

Sanofi, a global biopharmaceutical company dedicated to human health, develops vaccines and treatments for a range of medical conditions, from the common cold to rare genetic disorders. In 2015, Sanofi launched an ambitious growth plan to become the world’s top diversified healthcare company.

A pillar of that goal is to bring a more global focus, rather than regional or local, to its leadership development. This required nothing short of a large-scale transformation of Sanofi’s approach to leadership development, which had traditionally entailed multiple vendors and programs that were sourced and delivered at the local level. In the place of that local focus and disparate programs, Sanofi aimed to create a single leadership language for the organization.

“We want to make sure there is consistency in the expectations of what it takes to be a successful leader at Sanofi,” said Nicolette Sherman, Vice President, Human Resources, Global Leadership Development. “This is really about embedding our culture, our values, our lead competencies, and things that we hold most dear.” 

To help achieve that goal, Sanofi partnered with DDI to develop a global frontline leadership program. 

Sanofi and DDI pulled together best practices from the company’s more than 100 existing leadership programs. This was done in close collaboration with local offices, which helped them overcome concerns about decommissioning their programs. At the same time, DDI assisted Sanofi with the logistics of setting up a leadership program worldwide. 

“There were a lot of firsts for us in contracting, delivery, deployment—the granular-level work just to make the vision happen,” said Sherman. “DDI walked us through each of these phases, and we learned a lot from all of these first experiences together.”

From Individual Contributor to Leader

The resulting global first-level manager program, Management Essentials, was launched in 2016. The program is largely aimed at Sanofi managers new to their frontline jobs: recent promotions and new hires. A key goal is to help high-performing individual contributors make the transition to leaders who model and promote Sanofi’s values.

Rather than a short-term or one-off program, Management Essentials unfolds across a 12-month learning journey that integrates classroom activities, e-learning, and peer-group interaction. The program courses are facilitated at local offices in 30 countries by both DDI and DDI-trained Sanofi facilitators. The program features content co-developed by DDI and Sanofi, drawing in part from courses included in DDI’s Interaction Management® leadership development system. 

The program imparts and reinforces the three key competencies expected in all Sanofi leaders: cooperate transversally, act for change, and develop people. At the same time, the program helps new managers gain self-awareness, maximize the performance of their teams, and learn how to provide coaching and deliver feedback. Participants also learn how, as people managers, they contribute to the execution of Sanofi’s global business priorities.

A Year-Long Learning Journey 

Management Essentials begins soon after a new frontline manager is promoted or hired. Participants are welcomed into the Sanofi management community with a kick-off webinar, and then during the first three months they begin their pre-work, in preparation for the classroom training. They complete assigned reading and self-paced e-learning, and meet with their managers to discuss their learning journey. 

Managers typically go through the classroom courses, which are delivered over three consecutive days, after they have been on the job for three to six months. During the first day, participants—usually in groups of about 20—meet with Sanofi management to discuss what it means to be a leader at the company. They then take a personality assessment that helps them to understand their individual styles of dealing with others.

During the second day, participants learn about coaching and feedback—including how their personality styles will influence how they demonstrate these critical leadership skills. Additionally, participants draw on all they have learned thus far in the program to discuss, and work through real-life issues they have encountered. 

Day three is devoted in part to a class on how to make teams more effective, through factors such as communication, trust, process, results, and commitment. 

The Power of Peers 

During the classroom training, participants break out into support and challenge groups of about four people to discuss what they have learned. These groups are crucial to the program: they will meet virtually three times over the following six months so participants can talk about how they are applying their training on the job and what has—and has not— worked.

As part of the post-training phase, participants meet with their managers to chart their progress, and the entire class meets via webinar to discuss lessons learned.

“You’re providing a really robust environment for frontline leaders to assess who they are, what they have to do in this new role, and how they need to grow,” said Bill Ahern, North American Head of Leadership Development. “And you’re giving them all these opportunities to partner with new folks.” 

To date, more than 4,000 frontline managers have participated in Management Essentials, for which Sanofi was acknowledged in the Winner’s Circle for Best Global/International Program, from the LEAD Awards.

Contributing to On-The-Job Success

In addition to Sanofi successfully transitioning to a global model for its leadership development, it also saw excellent results from the Management Essentials program.  

In follow-up surveys, participants have said the program significantly contributes to their on-the-job success. Here is how they rate the program (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most effective):

  • Learning effectiveness: 4.53
  • Work environment: 4.23
  • Job impact: 4.43
  • Business results: 4.23 
  • Return on investment: 4.48

Sanofi leadership reports that Management Essentials has delivered:

  • Higher levels of engagement at the individual and team level.
  • Reduced transitional challenges and greater speed to full productivity for new leaders.
  • A single, shared view of leadership and a common leadership language.    

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