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Hiring for the Intangibles

As Edwards Lifesciences builds its talent pool, HR chief Robert Reindl looks not only for technical skills and leadership ability, but for traits and qualities that just can’t be taught.

March 23, 2007
Related Topics: Competitive Advantage, Retention, Workforce Planning
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With 5,700 employees, 14 locations worldwide and nearly $1.04 billion in sales, Edwards Lifesciences can rightly call itself a success. And as Robert Reindl, Edwards’ corporate vice president of human resources, takes stock of what the cardiovascular device maker has accomplished, he comes back to the company’s pool of talent.

    "If we didn’t have these people, none of our successes would have been possible," he says.

    There were a lot of tough choices that had to be made after Edwards spun off from parent company Baxter International, in 2000, Reindl says. Those included taking a chance on hiring somebody who showed a lot of promise but didn’t have a certain level of experience, or having to fire somebody who was a great person but not necessarily a top performer.

    The company relies on a host of tools to tackle its workforce management needs. Last year, Edwards tapped SuccessFactors to help it integrate several talent management pillars. Succession planning, employee development and performance reviews and objectives are now under one system.

    The company also uses Saba’s e-learning system, which enables it to deploy education initiatives across a wide geographic area. Saba is particularly useful to train individuals in managerial roles. Those workers who are in positions of leadership are usually trained on a face-to-face basis.

    One of the most important lessons that Reindl has drawn from this experience is that workforce management initiatives never get off the ground unless there is significant support and commitment from executives at the top.

    He has also learned the value of looking beyond the technical capabilities and leadership potential that a job candidate has to offer. Reindl is a big believer in looking for intangible qualities in an individual—the things they either have or they don’t. Passion is one such trait.

    "You simply can’t teach somebody about passion," Reindl says. "Our work involves putting a foreign object in somebody’s body, therefore we only hire those who are seriously passionate."

    Reindl also values an individual who is self-confident, but not arrogant. "There is a big difference between being sure of one’s capabilities and being arrogant," he says. "Thinking you know it all or trashing your former employers won’t get you in these doors."

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