[Through the Glass Door] Roche’s Genentech Talent Acquisition: 20 Questions

Neither Roche Chairman Franz Humer nor CEO Severin Schwan have called me up to ask how I’d handle the talent side of their Genentech acquisition. Perhaps they will, but they’ve also been pretty mum on their plans moving forward for the talent at 1 DNA Way .

As someone who has made their livelihood in the talent assessment business as a coach to managers and teams for over 25 years – and to save Franz and Severin a long distance phone call charge – here are some things I’d be thinking about if I were on point with the talent side of the Genentech project.

1. From 60,000 feet, what’s the world of biopharma likely to look like in the next 3-8 years,

2. and how does the current talent (minus any Genentech talent) at Roche map to that projection?

3. Where is the Roche talent deep and strong, and where is it thin or absent? For example, is Roche strong in biologics, or is Roche’s bread and butter still in traditional chemistry derived pharmaceuticals?

4. What can you get (e.g. recruit) from the outside world, and what will you need to develop internally since you can’t get it from the outside or it does not exist?

Answering those first questions will give you a leg up on things that might you might need or might be of value as you think about Genentech.

5. What’s the talent look like at Genentech?

6.  Is Roche flying blind, or is the talent intelligence Roche have solid enough to take you down three to four levels from Art Levinson and the exec team to get a true sense regarding the skill set of people?

7. If you don’t have the intelligence to take you down a few levels in the organization accurately, who is the someone(s) from Genentech who can guide you, and what have you done to make sure they stay on board?

8. What’s the process you have in place that ensures solid, accurate assessment of people so that you can effectively inventory the talent rather than just winging it – and getting buyers remorse later?

9. More specifically for the new Genentech division of Roche, what will the organization look like – short term (next 12 months) and mid 3-5 years) term?

10. And within the organization – or from other Roche companies – who do you have on board to staff it?

11. Will the research operation and early stage development be left intact (that’s an employee engagement and retention question) as stated in the pre-purchase press releases and who will head it up that has the respect and allegiance of the current talent?

12. What about the structure and staff on the related operations such as process development and manufacturing?

13. Do you anticipate that the commercial infrastructure (IT, HR, Accounting, Purchasing, Legal, etc.) will be consolidated and pulled into some sort of shared services structure for Roche in North America or do you plan to keep them around for while – remember, someone has to run payroll?

14. And just exactly where is that “will be left alone” line with regards to functions that are often connected to early development like clinical operations, regulatory, CMC / PD?

15. With the structure and organization for Genentech in mind, who are the people you absolutely must retain – and what do you plan on doing to make sure that happens?

16. And two more related questions – who are the folks you’d like to keep, but aren’t as critical –

17. – and who are the folks who you don’t mind or want to leave – and what am are you doing to effectively communicate and operationalize those intentions to those employees? As a reminder, your Basel neighbors, Novartis, were apparently stunned and surprised to see so many folks at Chiron leave after they acquired Genentech’s former Emeryville biotech competitor.

18. Remembering that Northern California is one of the true centers for entrepreneurship in the world, are there companies who could launch if they had some of the current Genentech talent, know how or experience?

19. Are there competitors who can make hay and make inroads with your market dominance if they pick up some of your key Genentech talent – and if so, what have you done to anticipate that move?

20. Finally, since we believe in performance and performance improvement, what are the metrics you’re going to use to judge whether the acquisition from a talent standpoint was a success or not?

So there are my twenty questions or so. Answer them and you’ve saved yourself a phone call to me from Basel, or wherever your travels take you to these days. My recollection is that those Genentech retention bonuses get paid in whole or part on June 30th so looks like you’ve got 60 days or so (plus time get payroll run) to figure it all out.