Hire the team you deserve

It’s hard in today’s economic climate to argue for companies adding to their IT hiring processes. Why should a CIO partner with HR to build on an existing, sophisticated interviewing process? Because doing so can yield respect and results.

Henry Cortina, Head of North American IT for Novo Nordisk, abides by advice he was given early in his career: You get the team you deserve. Do your due diligence and you’ve earned your reward. Cut corners to make a quick hire and you’ll be responsible for the consequences.

Novo Nordisk is a healthcare company based in Denmark and is known as much for its employee-centric culture as its landmark diabetes care. When Cortina was hired in 2006, he was handed an internal document listing the company’s blue-sky ambitions and asked what it would take for IT to achieve the lofty goals. The company was experiencing rapid sales growth and Cortina identified two things that he needed to make happen in IT: expand it to be a business partner and leverage it to help grow the company.

Cortina sought to transform North American IT in a way that reflected the company culture. He met with each member of IT individually to gain deeper insight into the company. At the same time, he looked for advancement opportunities for his staff, as Novo Nordisk prefers to promote from within. His team grew from 37 people to more than 90, but to get there, he says, “We fundamentally had to grow certain skills so had to go outside [the company].”

Cortina also partnered with HR on his first day on the job. Through weekly meetings, they built a structure for the new organization and then tackled simpler staffing tasks, like writing job descriptions.

To continue fostering internal career development, Cortina developed an IT career tree with HR and an outside firm. The tree describes the behavioral anchors, attributes, competencies and skills needed for each role and clarifies career paths inside the company. As a result, IT at Novo Nordisk has become a stronger part of the company, offering more opportunity for advancement.

Cortina also translated the career tree’s principles into his hiring practices-across the enterprise, not just for senior leadership. “No matter what you do inside Novo Nordisk, you interact with business partners,” he says. “Candidates are always interested in not only the immediate position, but the career path available for advancement.”

Cortina says he targets candidates who have technical skills and understand the business priorities. He adds that new hires need to get that “being flexible as the business changes is a key part of success.”

As far as the importance of industry-specific experience, Cortina says, “It varies based on the job. A lot of technology is not pharma-specific and our goal is to hire the best person available.”

Novo Nordisk’s hiring process often begins with a phone interview out of scheduling necessity. The next phase consists of a half-day of one-hour interviews with the hiring manager, team members, HR and, potentially, a business partner. Typically, the hiring team has a consensus meeting within the next 24 hours, and one or two candidates are invited in for second-round interviews. The candidates meet with a senior HR leader, a senior leader in either IT or business, and the person who is one step up the organizational ladder from the hiring manager.

“There’s a balance you need to achieve between that perfect candidate and time,” says Cortina. “You owe it to the company, your team and to the person you’re hiring to get it right.”

As Novo Nordisk was just listed at number 25 in Fortune magazine’s “Best 100 Companies to Work For,” it looks like they’re getting it right.

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