About Company

  • Global biopharmaceutical company
    $16.6 B of sales (2015)
  • Discovers, develops, and delivers innovative medicines to patients with serious diseases
  • Named as a top eight pharma company to work for in a biospace survey


To help complete its transformation as a biopharma leader, Bristol-Myers Squibb uses high-potential (HIPO) assessments and targeted development to enable culture change and a strategic HR function.

The Challenge

The opportunity for biopharmaceutical companies is already huge and growing all the time. Biopharma companies make up about 20 percent of the global pharma market and are growing more than 8 percent per year—twice as fast as the whole industry.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) recognized that to continue to succeed in this dynamic sector, it needed to continue to evolve. The added cost, complexity, and regulatory scrutiny that comes with being a biopharma company meant the need for significant changes to its talent profile, as HR Director Elinora Pisanti explains.

“At BMS, we’re about halfway through a major transformation from an established pharmaceutical company to a major, leading biopharma,” says Pisanti. “But that needs us to work in a different way—we have to move faster, have more individual accountability, and foster innovation across the organization. We want to push the boundaries of what we can do beyond our competitors.”

For Pisanti and her colleagues, that meant a new emphasis on developing BMS managers, who are central to demonstrating and communicating the BMS strategy and core values that bring about culture change: Passion, Accountability, Speed, and Innovation.

“We needed to embed our values at every level of the organization by encouraging our managers to enhance their managerial capabilities,” she says. “We want them to be more open and inclusive—and to make their teams more accountable.”




  • Complete the transition to a leading global biopharma
  • Embed the core values of Passion, Accountability, Speed, and Innovation at every level of BMS
  • Deliver low-touch, cost-effective management development

The Solution

We are a BMS-preferred partner, both globally and locally, and the company is a long-standing user of our sales effectiveness insights and best practices. As a first step to developing the competencies essential to BMS success, Pisanti turned to our HIPO assessments to understand the true leadership potential of 74 high-performing employees in BMS Italy.

BMS then used our development solution to develop the individual challenge areas that were uncovered by our HIPO assessments. SHL enables experiential, on-the-job learning, which is proven to be three times more effective than formal, classroom-based training. This cloud-based application takes each manager through learning activities that target each individual’s unique development needs. The tool recently won a special coaching award from Italy’s Persone and Conoscenze magazine for innovation and adaptability.

A big advantage of using SHL’s development solution, says Pisanti, is that it takes much of the burden off of HR and local managers. “People can learn on their own and at their own pace. And because they don’t need to involve us, it helps us deliver our HR objectives around local accountability and self-sufficiency. This was exactly what we were looking for.”

BMS also worked with us on design and content, including messaging tailored to specific groups of employees, for a series of development webinars and workshops for about 400 BMS Italy managers and employees. Pisanti explains, “The sessions introduced our teams to the best practices in development, which helped them connect development plans more closely with performance and helped everyone understand the importance of timely feedback.”

The Results

Participants and the wider organization received the development program well. Each participant was given a 360-degree appraisal in which raters were asked whether they had seen a change in behavior aligned with the program’s aims. The results were close to unanimous, with 99 percent of raters saying they had witnessed positive change in those who had taken part in the program. Participants also gave a highly positive verdict, with 73 percent of them saying they would recommend SHL’s development solution to colleagues.

By aligning development more closely to the needs of the business, Pisanti says SHL has helped BMS drive culture change. “We now have a great foundation for embedding our values so they become part of our culture, changing how leaders talk about their people and how they develop their talents. SHL gives us the ability to measure and track that development.”

BMS now has an effective development platform to help complete its transformation to the world’s leading biopharma company and evolve HR to deliver more strategic value. “SHL is helping us embed the behaviors that will make us more agile, accountable and innovative; and by helping employees become more accountable for their own careers, SHL is enabling HR to provide a truly strategic partnership to the business.”




  • Positive behavior change seen by 99% of appraisers
  • Helping BMS become a more agile, accountable, and innovative company
  • Saved time, freeing up HR to provide a more strategic partnership to the business

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