Perfect Alignment

By focusing on people, Ann Powell Judge has devised an effective strategy to promote growth at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Ann Powell Judge, Bristol-Myers Squibb

Ann Powell Judge has committed herself to creating a best-in-class global workforce. To do this at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), where she serves as chief human resources officer, she looks to the company’s culture of inclusion and its mission of discovering, developing, and delivering innovative medicines to help patients fight serious diseases as a guide. For Judge, people are a critical source of competitive business advantage.

Judge has used her experience and passion for people to create a transformative BMS people strategy. The BMS people strategy represents a powerful platform—launched in 2014 after extensive global research and analysis of the company’s workforce—to drive business performance and place BMS at the forefront of the industry by linking its people to a competitive business advantage.

“Our leaders quickly mobilized around the business opportunity of the people strategy,” Judge explains. “They helped craft it so that it is mutually owned and endorsed from the top down. The execution of our people strategy would not have been possible without the progressive, far-reaching vision and business-development focus of our HR leadership team and the executive leadership.”

The strategy focuses on three Es: engage, empower, and enrich. “We engage people with diverse perspectives to shape our future,” Judge says. “We empower people to be decisive, innovative, and collaborative. And we enrich people through experiences, recognition, and rewards.”

The people strategy initiatives are effective because they provide consistent focus on creating a culture of inclusion for employees amid near-constant company transformation, Judge says. “There is a sense of urgency, a sense that our patients can’t wait,” she says. “Our global workforce is high-performing talent that is dedicated and committed to that mission.”

In conjunction with the three Es of the people strategy, the company is also focusing on the five priorities for its long-term prosperity. Of those five, two are of particular importance: global diversity and inclusion and cultivating great managers and leaders.

“In our industry, innovation is so critically important,” Judge says. “To get the very best out of our workforce, we have to have diversity. But even more important, we need to have an inclusive work environment. You can have great diversity, but if people don’t feel they are in an environment where diverse ideas are welcomed, respected, and valued, then they will be quiet, and we won’t get the best solutions.”

A driving force elevating the importance of global diversity and inclusion as a business priority is the understanding that the people of BMS should reflect the patients the company serves. Judge drives this priority through eight People & Business Resource Groups with more than 8,800 members in forty-five countries. “Each of these groups has a robust business plan,” she says. “They execute against these business plans and metrics and report out annually to the Global Diversity Council, which is chaired by CEO Giovanni Caforio.”

Caforio is a wholehearted supporter of Judge’s initiatives and has taken notice of her projects’ impact on the company.

“Ann is a strong business leader with a keen sense of how a well-designed and executed people strategy drives business performance,” Caforio says. “Her forward-thinking perspective, commitment to people, and data-driven and innovative approach ensure that our HR organization delivers strategic value.”

Many companies have similar resource groups, but BMS takes it a step further by having full-time leaders dedicated to this initiative, she says. “For example, in our women’s resource group, B-NOW (Bristol-Myers Squibb Network of Women), we pulled leaders out of other full-time roles,” Judge says. “They complete two- to three-year rotations in these roles and are truly driving business performance and making a difference.” As a result, the company is seeing stronger retention numbers among women, along with higher promotion and engagement rates.

When it comes to management development, Judge says her team’s analytics showed that employees with stronger managers were three times more engaged, six times more likely to achieve their goals, and three times more likely to feel they can contribute ideas. “Enhancing manager capability is really important,” she says. “By keeping our manager skills sharp, relevant, and competitive, we are collectively strengthening BMS performance. We are currently engaging five thousand managers on a monthly basis in manager development capability sessions.”

Judge has worked across multiple companies and industries, including Wyeth, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Dow Chemical, and Chevron throughout her career. She was drawn to BMS as a forward-thinking, progressive organization—one that was transforming itself from a pharmaceutical company to a biopharmaceutical leader in a highly competitive, complex industry. “I saw an innovative, forward-thinking organization that is all about people—from its talented global workforce to the patients we serve,” she says. “It’s a business-competitive advantage to fully engage and utilize the capabilities of our diverse workforce.”

For aspiring managers and leaders contemplating their own career paths, Judge has this advice: “Find a company with a mission that aligns to your passion because you will drive unparalleled business performance when there is a good match.”

For Judge, that mission is bringing innovative medicines to patients who need them. “We have all been touched by serious disease,” Judge says. “I have the opportunity to help drive an organization that does great things for patients. That mission runs through the veins of our BMS workforce.”

Photo: Robert Bruschini