Leadership Live with Jeff Orlando

Jeff Orlando, Chief Learning Officer at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), sat down with Christine Tao to discuss how skills, capabilities, and performance directly translate to the medicines and therapies delivered to patients within the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. 

Here are the highlights of their conversation:

Business Strategy and L&D Alignment

Jeff emphasizes the importance of aligning learning strategy with business strategy, especially in industries like pharmaceuticals, where long-term planning is crucial due to the timeline for drug development and patent exclusivity.

He uses the predicted wavelengths of the business to frame how he advocates for L&D investments, emphasizing how learning and development supports the organization as it transitions through each wave.

It’s more about making it a simple story here on this is what our business will look like,” says Jeff. “These are the skills and talent we will need.”

Technology Integration

Jeff discusses integrating technology into learning and development, highlighting the need to stay abreast of technological advancements and incorporate them into learning initiatives. He mentions the importance of leveraging AI and digital tools to enhance learning experiences.

He outlines how each level of business at BMS is leaning on the 3 E’s when it comes to AI: education, experience, and exposure. While some functions within the company are already deeply entrenched with AI, Orlando’s department is focused on gaining exposure to AI for others.

Jeff explains that the traditional method of sandboxing technology is too slow — taking six months to test it and another six months to deploy often means the tech is out of date by the time the entire organization is up to speed. He says that organizations need to amp up the process of integrating technology into learning and development.

“We’ve made a choice in our learning strategy that we want to be best in class on technology for learning,” says Jeff, “Because it also matches what we’re doing as a business to be best in class in terms of our technology behind developing innovative medicine.”

Agility and Adaptability

Christine and Jeff touch upon the need for organizations to be agile and adaptable, particularly in response to unforeseen events such as acquisitions or industry shifts. Jeff emphasizes the importance of being proactive in anticipating future skills and investing in learning initiatives accordingly.

Jeff credits BMS’s commitment to transformation, which provides a repeatable methodology, for helping to keep L&D flexible. He says the hardest part is leaving room in schedules for learning newly-needed upskilling.

We always talk about wanting to leave room and capacity for the unplanned work,” explains Jeff. “And most of us in this profession we’re real bought in, right? We love this work. So we’re gonna fill up that calendar and it’s hard to leave that extra time for unplanned efforts and that’s when it can get into the point of being too much.

“So, that’s a focus for us too, is challenging our own assumptions on, on what’s truly important.”

Stakeholder Engagement

Jeff underscores the importance of stakeholder engagement and building support for learning initiatives among senior leaders. He discusses the need to communicate effectively, manage expectations, and garner buy-in for learning strategies.

I think it’s a stronger position to say we’re asking you all to endorse a set of trade-offs and consequences with this choice that we want to ask you to support,” Jeff states. “And we know there are likely things that might not work out perfectly. That’s a lot stronger than if I work for 18 months behind the scenes to build something perfect and then deploy it and hope for the best.”

Leadership in the Age of Remote Work

When discussing challenges related to remote work leadership, Jeff emphasizes that the fundamentals of effective leadership remain unchanged regardless of the work location. He suggests focusing on core managerial behaviors that facilitate success, irrespective of whether employees are remote, in-office, or in hybrid roles.

The fundamentals of leading people are the fundamentals of leading people regardless of where the work occurs.”

Jeff Orlando is chief learning officer at Bristol Myers Squibb. He previously led learning, organizational development and talent teams at Medtronic and Deloitte.

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