Sanofi’s HR leader: 6 keys for getting ahead in HR

Aspiring HR leaders need to remain curious about their business from a commercial perspective and be open to new and effective ways of making a positive impact on the business, according to Michelle Zimany, human resources director – ANZ at Sanofi.

“You need to really understand what the business issues are,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a diverse business with multiple business units, or a flat, streamlined business – you need to remain focused on the commercial sensitivities, constraints and issues that it faces.”

HR professionals should also remain curious about the broader market and developments about the broader business environment, Zimany added.

“Keep an open mind and also keep your networks open to other industries, as this can help you keep current with developments in other industries,” she said.

Zimany also recommended would-be HR leaders remain open to new ways to impact the business.

“So, for example, what do you bring to the table? How does that impact the culture? How do you advise and coach and work with the executive team? You need to know how to partner with stakeholders and be open to new and effective ways to do that,” she said.

Zimany gave the example of workforce planning as an area in which HR has been able to add value, and she said the business has focused on diverting internal resources to and building expertise in its key account and shopper/customer insight capability and execution over the past 18+ months.

More than 80 per cent of business comes from the top 20 key accounts, and Zimany said this realignment of resources and focus has been acknowledged by customers, with some seeing Sanofi as “category captains” in the vitamin space.

“We have doubled our shopper resource and almost tripled our key account resource and capability without increasing our overall headcount,” she said.

“HR has worked closely with the business to build internal and attract external capability to achieve this result. The result has seen over 40 per cent of this expansion being driven by internal placement and career advancement.”

Six keys for getting ahead in HR
Michelle Zimany, human resources director – ANZ at Sanofi, outlines six key steps for HR professionals to get ahead in their careers:
1. Remain curious about the business commercially, its challenges, risks, opportunities and strengths over a 12–36 month view.
2. Always by empathetic to the needs and motivations of individuals and teams, balanced with an understanding of what the business needs to achieve.
3. Build strong foundations to leverage off – performance agreement and review process, talent management, recruitment, remuneration and benefits (including payroll and personnel admin), performance and capability. Build and bring a capable, honest and trusting team with you.
4. Strong consulting and questioning skills are essential to managing internal and external stakeholders.
5. Keep your internal and external networks strong. The best solutions always arise from working with and tapping into your networks.
6. Your first team is the leadership team you are a part of. Trust is key here.

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