EMD Serono Reinforces Leadership Impact

Participants report incorporating practice of new leadership behaviors into their performance objectives, including increased feedback with staff members.

By Margery Weinstein

A 2009 employee engagement survey at EMD Serono, Inc., highlighted for the company’s Research & Development (R&D) organization the need to focus on four areas, which if taken together, would help “create an environment in which our people can realize their potential.”

The four areas included:

  1. Encourage demonstration of the corporate values.
  2. Managers to devote time and consideration to creating career development pathways and career growth experiences.
  3. Clearer, simplified, and more easily accessible communication.
  4. Managers’ increased awareness of the leadership aspects of their roles.

To step up the leadership presence of managers around these four focus areas, EMD Serono rolled out a connected set of programs. Together they are known as Impact of Leadership. This initiative was rolled out in 2009 to a group of approximately 60 participants globally. The company quickly realized that this initiative was one that could be highly effective for all managers within the R&D organization, not just senior leaders. In 2011, 80 percent of all R&D managers had attended one of the 27 sessions held, and more than 100 managers have participated in at least one Field Practice Session.


  1. Two-day facilitated workshop preceded by pre-work submitted electronically and kicked off by one of the R&D senior leaders (and champion for the initiative) who shares a message around his or her own leadership experience.
  2. Follow-up steps and “commitments” are generated in the workshop and then are followed up via the program manager and by the participants’ managers. R&D leadership has reinforced with managers the importance of supporting their direct reports with their follow-up growth commitments.
  3. Participants are provided access to online e-modules to allow them to review the concepts and use of the tools after the program.
  4. Monthly facilitated 1.5-hour Field Practice Sessions are conducted to bring peers back together cross-functionally to seek solutions to the issues that each other/the organization is facing as waves of change are implemented, and/or to practice how to give/receive feedback in actual situations identified and shared by the participants.
  5. Ongoing support is augmented by a global network of Catalysts representing each global site and the various R&D functions. The Catalysts meet regularly as a group and with their own functions to bridge questions, issues, and communications between the steering group and the individual employees in the functions.


  • EMD Serono built a unified “leader” experience for more than 480 managers. All managers now share the same understanding of what “good leaders do” and how they can drive the organization into the future.
  • The use of four simple tools plus feedback is practiced by all managers to problem-solve, increase clarity of communication and awareness of the intended and unintended consequences of their actions, understand diverse perspectives, and provide constructive feedback.
  • Participants report incorporating practice of new leadership behaviors into their performance objectives, including increased feedback with staff members, use of tools to prioritize their work, and the ability to more concisely communicate the ideas they wish to advocate.

HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to lorri@trainingmag.com with the subject line “EMD,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.


Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.