02 December 2020

What Purpose For 60 Years Gives You | Is Purpose Working Podcast Episode 4

Dani Johnson
Co-founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • This is the fourth episode of our podcast season: Is Purpose Working?
  • In this episode Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr from RedThread, and Chris Pirie from LITNW, talk about what makes Medtronic’s conscious sense of Purpose even more interesting than its heritage and on-going affirmation
  • We learn how, 60 years after being defined, it’s a Purpose statement that continues to serve as an ethical framework and inspirational goal for all 90,000-plus employees around the world
  • A special thanks to our season Sponsor, NovoEd for their support!

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Guest

Jeff Orlando, CLO of Medtronic

Details

As we dig deeper into answering our question ‘Is Purpose Working?’ we find that while Purpose is a very new concept for many, having a conscious organizational Purpose has been BAU for some corporations for decades. This week we meet one, which had it written down in 1960, and which specifically states that the company’s” first and foremost priority” is to contribute to human welfare. The company in question is $30bn, Ireland and Minnesota-headquartered Medtronic, the world's largest medical technology company and creator of the world’s first battery-operated pacemaker. And we also learn how, 60 years after being defined, it’s a Purpose statement that continues to serve as an ethical framework and inspirational goal for all 90,000-plus employees around the world. Explaining all this for us is the company’s Vice President, Global Learning and Leadership, Jeff Orlando. Based in Philadelphia, Jeff explains just how new he is in post—he joined the very week the company had to move into Lockdown, in March—but also how quickly he’s become part of the Medtronic family.

In this fourth conversation in our season Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr from RedThread, and Chris Pirie from LITNW, talk about what makes Medtronic’s conscious sense of Purpose even more interesting than its heritage and on-going affirmation (something we get into big time in the conversation) is that it’s marked by ritual. In 1974, the company introduced a special in-house “mission and medallion ceremony” that’s now held many times a year at facilities all over the world; an employee gets to receive the medallion as a reminder of the honor and responsibility they have in fulfilling our mission. Acting as a deliberately symbolic way of bringing new employees together behind the company’s defined common purpose, could rituals like this be something other CEOs pursuing Purpose be looking at doing too? Should your Purpose statement really act like the Constitution for you over time? It’s a fascinating question—and one bound to come up at the special ‘Is Purpose Working?’ webinar early in 2021, our live, online gated experience where we will debate all the Learnings from Season 7 that have come through. With inputs including today’s great discussion with Jeff.

This podcast interview covers topics like:

  • A shared podcast participant history (Deloitte)
  • How he sees L&D’s contribution is creating organisational capability to win in the market
  • How companies with a defined Purpose seem to have so much passion about it
  • The idea all employees are really only ever ‘stewards’ of the Mission (the Medtronic Purpose)
  • How L&D has an important place in creating the space and time for the ceremonies that can anchor your Purpose work
  • How HR accepts the Mission is its Mission, too—but it still needs to help the company meet immediate targets

Resources

Webinar

This season will culminate in a live online gated experience (a webcast) where we'll review and debate what we've learned. Seats are limited. Secure your place today, over at www.novoed.com/purpose.

Partner

We're also thrilled to be partnering with Chris Pirie, CEO of Learning Futures Group and voice of the Learning Is the New Work podcast. Check them both out.

Season Sponsor

Global enterprises rely on its collaborative online learning platform to build high-value capabilities that result in real impact, with its customers working to deliver powerful, engaging learning that activates deep skill development, from leadership to design thinking and digital transformation, as well as driving measurable business outcomes.

TRANSCRIPT

Chris Pirie:
You're listening to learning is the new working podcast by the learning futures group, about the future of work, and the people helping us get there.

Chris Pirie:
Dani, I'm going to put you on the spot first. What's the two or three things that you took away from this morning's conversation that helped you think a little bit differently about purpose?

Dani Johnson :
Yeah, I think one of the things that really struck me is there seems to be a passion surrounding purpose. So these organizations that have a purpose and make decisions based on the purpose tend to have a real passion for what they're doing. And I think that probably hit me harder than it has in the past. I also loved his idea of calling their mission statement or their purpose a constitution. So instead of just sticking it on the wall and hoping somebody reads it as they pass it in the break room, you actually use it to make decisions. They actually bring it up in really hard discussions and say, this is what we're setting forth to do. Here's how we need to make this decision based on that.

Chris Pirie:
I agree. It was really interesting to hear him talk about them sort of referring back to that in real time decision-making, especially during this sort of tumultuous year that we have. He said it was written on important papers which I really liked that image.

Dani Johnson :
Yeah. The other thing that I really like about his organization, and I mentioned this in the podcast, I heard about Medtronic really early on in my career because of these meetings that they have every year where they invite in the people whose lives they have affected. So the doctors and the patients and community and the workers, everybody gets together and sort of, you know, takes a moment to absorb that purpose and realize it and remind themselves why they're doing what they do.

Chris Pirie:
Yeah. Stacia, takeaways for you?

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. Building on the few things that you all just said, one of them was his point about how they were all stewards of the mission. He talked about how the oldest or the most tenured employee had been there for 41 years, but the mission had been written even before that person and how no one there had been around. And so they were all just stewards of this concept really. And that really struck with me. We mentioned this in the first podcast. I've done some reading on the history of organizations who have tried to be, you know, do well by doing good. And it seems like those who are the most sustaining give a lot of thought to what's written down and what the governance will be around purpose. And so to hear Jeff say that and to hear how alive and well it is right now really struck me.

Chris Pirie:
Yeah. I think one thing that I'm learning through all these conversations is purpose is a very sort of personal thing. And there's this interplay between the organizational purpose and individual people's purpose. And one of our interviewers that we'll hear from later talks about purpose can occur in pockets across the organization, but this was a company that clearly sort of foundationally at its roots had a clear sense of purpose. And I think you know, that's maybe a factor of its early evolution and maybe it's a factor of the kind of work that they do as well. But it seemed very, very much built into the framework.

Stacia Garr:
The other thing I took away was the importance of ceremony. You mentioned Dani, you know, that basically what is a ceremony? A bringing together of people to talk about the impact of the company. Jeff also mentioned that the two-pound, you know, medal, you know, it's a lot about ceremony, rite of passage, honoring the work that they do, the purpose they do, and really why they gathered together. And that just struck me as incredibly meaningful. I've done a lot of research on recognition and in recognition is I think a part of that for sure, but this literally, I think is ceremony to reinforce purpose. And that to me was meaningful and beautiful.

Chris Pirie:
I love that too. He used the phrase symbolism and ritual, and I actually think, you know, one of the purposes of this podcast series for me is to try and get takeaways, try to get actionable things that people can use to sort of get better in their practice. And I think it's very difficult for a head of L&D or a head of talent to go write a constitution for their organization. That's something that just takes history and time. But I do think these rituals and symbols, that's something that really can be worked on. And I think L&D in particular has an important role to play in creating the space and time for those kinds of rituals to happen.

Chris Pirie:
I also liked the whole frame in that Jeff was relatively new to the company. He heard about it in his interview, in his recruitment process. It was made very explicit to him the purpose and yet, you know, he didn't quite fully believe it and he's been, how surprised he was at how deeply, kind of entwined it is. So I think it was useful to talk to somebody who's kind of fresh into this into this particular company because they have a nice broad perspective and he was very genuine in his kind of learnings around it.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. What was fascinated me too, Chris, is he's only seven months in, but he knew that history cold. It clearly gets embedded because he could just talk about it. And he talked about it with an incredible amount of just understanding. And so that spoke volumes to me too.

Chris Pirie:
Got it. There were two other quotes that I took away to sort of wrap up my point of view on this. One is you can't fake it, which I think is absolutely the litmus test. I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it. You can't fake it. And the second one, he was talking about a really interesting phrase that one of his leaders used when they did some agile thinking around the crunch that the pandemic created for them. And he used the phrase, ‘Let's do more of that.’ And I think that's a great leadership phrase, right? It's kind of, it really is a positive reinforcement for good behavior. And I'm going to, I made a note of that phrase and I'm going to try to use it more often.

Stacia Garr:
One thing I'd like to add was a quote that he said that just, I literally wrote it down. I only wrote down two or three things because we were so engrossed, but he said the phrase, ‘It's not about them. It's about us.’ And he used that in the context of talking about how purpose and the clear organizational purpose gave anyone the license to raise an issue in a curtain turn, anyone at any level, because it wasn't about them. It wasn't about their standing or where they were in the hierarchy. It was about us as an organization and what we do. And that just was so powerful to me.

Chris Pirie:
Yeah. I'd love to learn more about how Jeff's going to impact the learning and leadership culture there. Very interesting guy, definitely approaching his relatively new job with fresh eyes, but a lot of thoughtful focus. It was a great conversation.

Stacia Garr:
Jeff, thanks so much for your time and for sharing your insights with us all. You're here to talk with us about your current organization, but it wasn't very long ago that we were all together at Deloitte. So obviously we’ve all moved on and it's great to be back together today.

Jeff Orlando:
Sure is. Thanks for inviting me to join your podcast.

Dani Johnson :
We're going to start with some really simple, quick and dirty questions to introduce you and your work practice and your organization, and maybe a little bit of your career history as well. So the first question is where do you live and work and why?

Jeff Orlando:
I live in the Philadelphia area here in the United States, but I really consider myself a global citizen as it relates to my work, both the practice of what we do and our business, at least serving global markets. And here in Philly, I'm here for a lot of reasons. But one reason I enjoy is, you know, Philly is really an underdog city and it's been fun to watch the growth and Renaissance of the city over the last, you know, 10, 15 years and see that, you know, innovation, change, and growth kind of in front of my eyes.

Dani Johnson :
That's great. How long have you been in Philly?

Jeff Orlando:
I've been down here since 2007 and before that was in New York City.

Dani Johnson:
So tell us your job title and how you would describe the work you do.

Jeff Orlando:
So I'm the vice president overseeing global learning and leadership development. And it's a good job. It's a good job. I'm still fresh. I'm seven months into the job here now, but you know, for me it really means how do we create the organizational capability to win in the market, using all the different levers that we pull to do that? It's how do we drive a competitive culture to bring our therapies and products and solutions to more patients around the world, through our people? And asking the big questions about how do we scale leadership and scale learning for really diverse and broad employee population that stands technical development, R&D manufacturing and corporate roles? So it's a pretty broad job with a lot of leverage to pull, to drive the kinds of changes we're trying to hear in the company.

Stacia Garr:
Very cool. Well, can you tell us a little bit more about Medtronic itself and a bit about the business model? And part of the reason for that is, you know, we're going to be talking about purpose and how do you drive purpose throughout the business? So giving folks some context on the business model would be helpful.

Jeff Orlando:
I mean, Medtronic's in the medical technology space and really is the leader in that space and has a very proud history. A lot of technology companies, we were started in a garage about 70 years ago with our founder Earl Bakken, who created the first battery operated pacemaker. And that really laid the foundation for a lot of expertise about engineering and electricity and how we can apply that with different disease states and different therapies to help improve patient's lives. And the business has really grown through organic growth and a lot of inorganic tuck-in acquisition growth over the years to really work on so many different diseases and conditions. And now we're at the point where we're serving over 70 million patients per year with our therapies. And the business model is really one that relies on, you know, intensive engineering knowledge and medical knowledge of these different disease states. A good understanding of patient needs, providers and physician needs, and then going out and not just responding to markets, but developing and creating all new markets around the world for these products. So it's a fascinating and diverse business.

Stacia Garr:
Most definitely. It sounds like it, and you alluded just a few moments ago to a range of different types of employees. So can you talk a little bit about the talent landscape in your organization and different populations, job roles, demographic changes, et cetera?

Jeff Orlando:
Sure, sure. We like most companies, you know, we're rapidly becoming, you know, more and more filled with the Millennial and GenZ talent. And for us, you know, we have a specific emphasis on our early career talent, you know, finding the right people from a university or early career venue, bringing them into the company and really having that be a lot of the way we drive innovation here. But that's obviously just one part of it. The core of our business is really our technical expertise and in R&D. If you visit our center, our operational headquarters in Minnesota, you'll walk in and see glass paint walls with people doing lots of things that I don't know how to do behind those walls. Really experimenting with robotic arms and oscilloscopes, pushing forward our innovation and the same time, we have a really significant global manufacturing footprint.

Jeff Orlando:
Some of those are large, more plant-based factories where we're producing some of our products. I mean, we've done a lot of work around ventilators of late due to COVID, but some of those are smaller, very precise almost tailor-made facilities as well, that are working on some of our very complex products. And then add onto that our corporate population, some of whom sit in a big center, some of whom sit in sales roles, some of whom sit remote. We really have it all in terms of a variety of our talent population and how and where they do their work.

Dani Johnson:
So it kind of sounds like you're not busy at all, Jeff.

Jeff Orlando:
(laughs) Yeah, got a few things to do.

Dani Johnson:
Let's talk a little bit about your purpose. Does your organization have an explicit purpose statement? And if so, what is it?

Jeff Orlando:
Oh, we do. Medtronic has a mission and the mission was written really towards the founding of the company. And it was built to serve as the guiding light for the company over its complete history. And, you know, coming into organizations, some organizations have a set of organizational values. Some organizations have a set of aspirations, and oftentimes some employees and other organizations aren't totally connected and they can forget what those are, right? They're not part of the day to day, but here, it almost to me feels like the US Constitution. It's something that's been written on very, very important paper, it's revered, all employees know it, and if we were to change it, it would be a massive organizational effort and massive internal debate to make a shift.

Jeff Orlando:
And there's really been only one change to the mission since it was written, you know, 70 years ago. And that one change where we're talking about the personal worth of employees was modified to not just say personal worth of employees, but personal worth of all employees. And that was really to reflect the inclusive culture that we really strive to maintain and support here. But the mission lays out a number of tenets and the number of tenets in that mission speak to how we serve our patients, how we operate together and then how we aim to have a value to society and make a fair profit in the process.

Dani Johnson:
So talk to me a little bit about that. It sounds like your mission statement is pretty deeply connected to the business model and the way that you guys operate. Has there ever been pushback or downsides or maybe conflicts between the business, making-money aspect of it and the alignment of that mission?

Jeff Orlando:
I think what's nice about it is that the tenets of our mission of which there are six right now, and I'll hit them really, really quickly. And then, then answer your question more directly, Dani. The first around contributing to human welfare through alleviating pain, restoring health and extending life, that's the most foundational part that most employees could speak to. The second speaks to really growing in the areas where we have strength, maximum strength around biomedical engineering, the third around quality of our products and honesty and dedication, but the fourth around making a fair profit on our operations to meet our obligations, sustain growth, and reach our goals. So there is not a conflict between a profit motive and a mission motive here, because those are intertwined. We believe the way to create a viable company and to contribute is to have a fair profit through the work. So I think the mission had a lot of foresight in resolving that potential conflict for us.

Dani Johnson:
I really like that. I think we've talked to four or five people. I think you're one of the first that has incorporated that idea of making profits right into the mission statement.

Stacia Garr:We'll talk a little bit later about kind of some of the other aspects of profit and purpose and how that works at Medtronic. But can you talk to us, just kind of stepping back a little bit, about, you mentioned that this constitution as it were, and I love that idea because it's so, so grounding, can you talk about why that was the case? What was the rationale for that? From the very beginning?

Jeff Orlando:
When the mission was written, you know, way back in the day, I think it was written with a lot of foresight, and when look, I'd have to look up for you the size of the company when the mission was written, but I'm guessing it was at or about 1000 employees, and it was really our founder's vision, you know, Earl Bakken, who was a pioneer in this space and, you know, deeply cared about serving patients and deeply cared about the physician relationship as well, right? I think he was witnessing the growth of the company and seeing the opportunity and seeing the potential and felt the need to, at that point in time, make a declarative statement about who we would become and what we would do. So I think it really just comes from that place of establishing a stake in the ground that is immovable and it's something we would all be guided towards.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. We talk about it in the research that it’s the North Star for the organization.

Jeff Orlando:
Yeah. I think that's right. And, you know, it's in the language here, right? If you see a PowerPoint deck that talks about an organizational strategy, or you see a PowerPoint deck that talks about a market opportunity, 9 out of 10 times, there's going to be a reference in that deck to which of the six tenets of the mission we're connecting to and how we're driving it. And I’ve seen in my limited tenure here so far, especially during COVID where it's been a challenging business environment, right, and we've had to make a lot of choices, I've seen people on Zoom, of course, make explicit references to the mission when we got into a tough spot about a decision. And really lean on it and use it, not in a trite way, not in a cliche way, but in a real way to get everybody to pull back and zoom out and think about the choices we're making. So it's been real. It's been real here that way.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. Because I'd love to know what this really looks and feels like, so in kind of a generic way, could you take us in the room and like share with us, you know, how was the conversation going and how did you use that mission to, or how did that person use that mission to reground the team and refocus on what was?

Jeff Orlando:
I think, you know, oftentimes in any group decision-making process, you know, we all know about some of the risks of those, right? There is a group think risk, there's the risk of being myopic. There's the fear of challenging the loudest voice in the room, all those things that happen in decision-making processes, and you know, people who work on group relations over the years have worked on lots of different ways to help that. I remember in an old role we had paddles and one paddle said, I know I have an idea or let's move on. You know, people would use those as almost psychologically safe hacks to help in those conversations. But you know, where I've seen it used here is to unstick a decision or unstick less, you know, fully embracing thinking. And it's a leveler, right? Anybody at any level in that meeting can make that statement because it's not about them, it's about us and it lets people tap into it and step back. And, you know, you see the on Zoom, you see people, you know, lean back in their home office chairs when someone reminds everybody of what we're doing there in a really respectful and, I think, useful way.

Stacia Garr:
And I love that phrase that you just had. It's not about them. It's about us. It's really that connection to the community and that connection to what we're all trying to achieve together.

Jeff Orlando:

That's right. And I mean, the longest tenured person at Medtronic has been here for 41 years. The mission was written before they started, right? So none of us wrote this. All of us are stewards.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. That's a beautiful imagery, I think. We know that Medtronic was recently included in Fortune Magazine's annual ‘Change the World’ list for things like increasing ventilator production fivefold from pre-pandemic production numbers, also doing things like open sourcing design, which is a huge thing for an R&D company. Also focusing on carbon neutrality and gender and ethnicity pay equity. So clearly this is something you all are living and breathing, as you've mentioned, and have been recognized for doing that. I'd love to know about, you've mentioned several times, you're new-ish to this organization, seven months in. So can you share with us some of your initial impressions when thinking about kind of everything this organization is doing when you think about it from a purpose perspective?

Jeff Orlando:
Yeah. I mean, just to hit on those examples that you shared there. And I think the, for a lot of us, the open sourcing of one of our ventilators inside of the heights of COVID was something that all of us took a lot of pride in and, you know, understanding how that decision was made. It was made, I think over a weekend, in a matter of hours, it wasn't something that there was a ton of huge internal debate around, should we do it? I think, you know, we saw that opportunity to help and saw that it was the right choice, the right thing to do, you know, didn't run a bunch of complex financial models around it, right? Leaned on the parts of the mission and said, you know what, this is the right thing to do.

Jeff Orlando:
Let's go ahead and do it. So I think for a lot of us, that was a really nice kind of re-recruitment moment to see the company step up in that way. I mean, and for me, before I even started, I attended well, what's called the employee holiday program. And that's something that happens on an annual basis where, you know, we bring physicians, we bring some of our own experts and we bring patients to our campus in Minneapolis and, you know, imagine the atrium of a big office building filled with thousands of folding chairs with, you know, punch and cookies in the back and, you know, see stories of real impact to these patients' lives and see our own senior leaders have that tear welling up in their eye, listening to the impact of the work. And I mean, for me sitting there in that room, you know, it kind of clicked on how the work we do from a talent perspective, if we get it right. And we let unleashed that discretionary effort, we unleashed that ability to speak up, move forward, our cycle time with better management and better learning. We can get that stuff out the door to more people more quickly and help. And I can just see that value chain in that context. So it's, that's how it felt real to me.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. One of the things that we've been talking about with the research is how purpose can, it gives really in many ways, a reason for an organization to exist, you know, we're in this world with more gig economy with, you know, all these different things that we're doing, but the organization allows us to come together, to be together, and to do more than we can as individuals. And so I think what you're sharing is really kind of the clear articulation of what that looks like and feels like, you know, really why we work in organizations.

Jeff Orlando:
I think that's right. And I think that, you know, our business is one that lends itself to the, you know, altruistic higher calling, right? But every business has a way and has it encapsulating that purpose, and that meaning is really important for people regardless of the business that you're in. For sure.

Dani Johnson:
I remember one of the very first times I heard about Medtronic really, really early on in my career was that very meeting that you were talking about, Jeff, where everybody got together and sort of reaffirmed the reason that they were all there. It's stuck in my mind like nothing else. It's kind of great. Talk to us a little bit about stakeholder relationships. So you mentioned this meeting where patients and doctors and everybody sort of getting together. When we think about purpose, we think about sort of a broader purpose. Obviously, we have responsibilities to our shareholders, but what other stakeholder relationships are important to how you all do business?

Jeff Orlando:
I do think though we think about this and almost that balanced scorecard kind of a way that, you know, we have our, you know, our patients and our physicians, obviously being our primary stakeholders in terms of the value that we create and that's what we're playing. And that's what we're in the game for, right? But I've seen, you know, us as a business take an even bigger voice on societal matters, especially being a Minnesota-based company, Minnesota operationally based company, although we're held outside the US in Ireland, having the conversation and emphasis, you know, as a result of the calls for social justice. So I've seen the company really step up in frankly, bolder ways than I anticipated in a really nice way over the last few months. And I mean that obviously societal lens is one where we're taking a lot of a bigger step, but I've also seen really good relations with the analyst community and the investor community. Today is actually our biannual investor conference. Right before this, I was watching our leaders speak about our pipeline and clinical trial successes. So you've got, I think you'll see here a real nice balance of everybody knows we're in it for the patients, but not just looking at Wall Street as a stakeholder, you know, looking at governments around the world, looking at these broader societal issues as areas where we want play more, we want to have a louder voice.

Dani Johnson:
Very cool.

Stacia Garr:
So can we talk a little bit, you've mentioned a few times, you know, you've seen it click, you've seen the, the talent model click, the importance of the work that you all do, click. Can we talk a little bit more about what that looks like from the HR perspective? So how is HR involved in the purpose-driven aspects of the organization?

Jeff Orlando:
I think what's really interesting about it is HR is not pushing it. Because the mission has been around for so long and because everyone knows about it, HR is not the voice for the mission. Our senior leaders really are the consistent voice for the mission. There's a lot of symbolism around it. So one thing that you know, we think about with companies, right, is what are the rituals and symbols that give that kind of meaning. And there's something here called the ‘Mission Medallion Ceremony’ and every employee within the first couple of years of their tenure receives this heavy two-pound circular medallion and is given that by a senior leader. And just has a bit of a ceremony around reminding everybody what we're doing and why we're doing it. So it's those kinds of institutional things that have been in the water for a long time that continue to happen. And sure, from an HR perspective, we help logistically with some of those things. But those are really business processes that are tied to our senior leadership. There's not, coming from HR, a mission project. There's not a mission task force or a mission leader. It just lives. It is not constructed, governed, and budgeted, I guess is one way to say it.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, that's interesting, this ceremony that you mentioned. One of the things we again talk about in the research is how, in many ways, one of the big shifts that we see overall and in certainly kind of American society is a move away from some of the traditional places that have given us meaning. So most obviously the churches, civic organizations and the like and how a belief that organizations are increasingly giving people a way to fulfill that purpose. And so if you think about, you know, that ceremony in that context, it kind of reaffirms that, you know, this is something that is a in some way, it sounds like a rite of passage at Medtronic, you know, something that is critical to kind of the culture and the sense of purpose and deriving that sense of purpose from being at Medtronic.

Jeff Orlando:
I think that's right. I think, I think your, you know, your observation is spot on about some of those traditional societal institutions and, and I think organizations will need to figure out over time how much do they want to play into that, right? Or live into that.

Dani Johnson:
So you've talked a little bit about how HR does not run the purpose. I kind of love the idea that it's coming from your top leadership, but I'm sure that it does impact the alignment of the talent life cycle on your organization. So your job, how does that purpose alignment affect how you all attract and enable and particularly developed because that's your role and retain folks?

Jeff Orlando:
I think a lot of what we try to do is to translate the mission for the business objectives we have of today. Right? So if the mission is that, like you guys are saying, North Star, right? That we're always looking at and always pointing to that, that's our kind of lofty aspiration. That's what we're shooting for. But, you know, right in front of us, we've got a really challenging, competitive landscape that we're always trying to navigate and figure out. So what we tend to do in HR is say, okay, our mission is the mission, but what kind of tweaks and enhancements to our culture do we need to make, to really drive the kinds of business shifts we're trying to, trying to deliver? What's our talent model need to look like that aligns with our mission, but again, reflects those more near term things? So, so here, you know, our culture and talent levers are more about driving strategy execution and the mission is our ever-present guide. So I think it's a really positive background factor, and it's a way to translate for our people what we're shooting for and what we're trying to do.

Dani Johnson:
Do you ever find yourself sort of at, I mean, and I love the fact that you've mentioned earlier that you actually use your mission statement and your purpose to make decisions, but because you are competing in a fairly tight industry, I'm just wondering, have you ever run across challenges with that purpose alignment to some of the core talent functions?

Jeff Orlando:
I think it can create questions, right? I think when we think about talent development, talent selection, some of those functions, I think at times, people can say, ‘Hey, wait a second. Does this decision align with our intent in our mission?’ Right? And while again, almost always our business leaders, our people leaders are making decisions with that, with those thoughts in minds, like anything written on paper there is interpretation. And people will interpret it in different ways. So, no, we have had scenarios where people say, ‘I don't get it. I don't get how we're making this decision because in our mission, it doesn't explicitly state that, or perhaps it states something else. And there's an implication.’ So, you know, anytime you have these kinds of revered documents, they'll be that risk of misinterpretation. And sometimes it requires a level of explanation, but I mean, from my lens, it's worth it for that trade off because it at least forces that kind of organizational conversation and understanding.

Dani Johnson:
I love that. It also makes the comparison to the Constitution a little bit more poignant as well.

Jeff Orlando:
Yeah. Especially today, right?

Stacia Garr:
Let's shift and talk a little bit about the events of 2020. You've alluded to them several times, Jeff, but I want to kind of go directly at that and want to understand how have the events, and so the way that we're thinking about this is, you know, certainly COVID-19, but also the calls for social justice, given that you all are, you know, have a large population in Minneapolis. How have those impacted your all over operations, your overall operations, as well as your work?

Jeff Orlando:
You know, again, just to personalize it, my first week in this role was in the beginning of March. So it was right as everything was really starting to shut down and compress. So, you know, I've certainly lived this as a new person here as well. I mean, from a COVID perspective, you know, that's been, had an, obviously a huge and material impact on our business, in our operations in terms of what the demand has been for our products, where that demand has been around the world particularly on the ventilator business. And we have quintupled, I think that's the right word. Yeah. Five times, quintupled. We've quintupled our production of ventilators to suit some of the demand. And as we discussed previously, you know, open sourced one of our models as well.

Jeff Orlando:
So you saw a lot of really nimble behavior in the company to make those things happen very quickly. And we establish relationships with places like Tesla and Intel to, you know, bring those products to market even more quickly. You know, and our CEO has been, has said, ‘wow, we've been able to produce so quickly and make decisions so quickly in those contexts. You know, let's do even more of that,’ right? As we think about our culture and how to drive with more speed and decisiveness in the company. And then on the calls for social justice side, I believe we have about 12,000 people out of our 90,000 employee-base located in the state of Minnesota. So, you know, some of those people knew George Floyd personally. So the, you know, the impact on that to, you know, our employee population, you know, definitely, you know, really, really, really high.

Jeff Orlando:
And I think the company just leaned into it, leaned into it. I was really gratified and almost surprised to see, you know, a series of open-air conversations, we called them, happen on a Zoom platform where we brought in clinical psychologists of color to meet with, you know, some folks from our African descent community in a series of interactions. And I was able to attend, you know, one of those sessions as an observer and to see people demonstrate that level of vulnerability over a computer screen and a camera really challenged some of my assumptions about what's possible virtually, but also demonstrated just a really nice level of trust in the company to have those conversations. So you've seen a really nice amount of leaning in there. And then, you know, that's been backed up with some sizable commitments towards institutions that serve the African descent population. And also we have a new relationship with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. So lots of good mix of, you know, supporting the emotional needs of our people, but also some, you know, credible and sizable commitments to really make a shift. It's hit this company in a big way, for sure.

Chris Pirie:
Do you mind if I ask a question right now? Can I just ask?

Stacia Garr:Yes, please, Chris.

Chris Pirie:
Sorry, guys. I mean, that's an amazing story, Jeff. And one of the things that I'm hearing a lot about is how this sort of Zoom work-life that we've all been forced into sort of strips away a little bit of humanity and it's that much harder to connect with people on an emotional level. And I know a lot of the L&D teams that I'm talking to are sort of actively trying to find ways to put sort of humanity back into digital learning to sort of use a catch phrase, but it seems like you went through a pretty powerful experience there. How do you feel about putting the humanity back into digital learning? Was that, did that prompt any thoughts or changes in strategy for you?

Jeff Orlando:
I think it just opened us up to the possibility. Even our, you know, like most major companies, you know, we've had to convert all of our in-person learning programs to virtual programs. And, you know, if you look at our net promoter score or our satisfaction scores, which admittedly are only one way to measure learning, but it's a near-term measure, right? Yeah. And if you look at our scores in virtual settings compared to our scores in physical settings, they are virtually the same. I don't know if that would have been the same prior to COVID or, and the shutdowns or not, but it's, you know, certainly reassuring that we can create that level of value with these platforms. And I do think that, you know, to the point on being vulnerable or being open and ready, I've seen that happen at all levels of our company in these formats. And I think it's just we're social creatures, right? We're resilient, adaptable, social creatures, and a lot of our venues are closed to us for now. And it's going to come out somewhere if we can facilitate it correctly. I think it can even come out online.

Stacia Garr:
I'd like to build on that a little bit, Jeff. We're doing some research on managers and manager behavior, particularly during the pandemic. And one of the themes we've hit on is that we're asking managers to do a lot more, you know, you mentioned that, the facilitating the conversations about social justice, you know, obviously, particularly right after the pandemic and everybody went to working from home, you know, we're asking them to check on kind of psychological safety and do they have the right workspace and all these things that we haven't been asking them to do in the past. And so I'm wondering if in particularly also keeping in mind purpose here, but I'm wondering if you all have been shifting the way you've been thinking about supporting managers during this time and, you know, maybe piggybacking a little bit off the last question, you know, if you see that shift potentially having a long-term impact.

Jeff Orlando:
Yeah, I think there has been some shift. It’s something I've learned in this time too. And so for a lot of what we've done is to say, ‘how do we empower and inspire managers to bring out the best of their people?’ And give managers, you know, a significant amount of autonomy to make decisions for their teams and drive innovation and drive success. And for strategic topics and long-term company growth, that's all the right stuff, right? But as it comes to some of these more challenging topics like COVID, social justice, et cetera, managers have been appreciating clear, simple direction. And that's been a change in our approach for how we communicate and equip our managers around these things. So, you know, the sections in these documents that might've been, you know, considerations or thought starters, those have been replaced with, ‘here's what to do and what not to do.’ Just because everybody is so overloaded with so much right now that it's been appreciated to get that level of direction from trusted sources. So I think it's that mix of empower the manager, inspire the manager on those topics, but when it comes to some of these really challenging matters that people have never held floor as a manager, it's about direction and clarity.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. We've also talked in that research a lot about just what you mentioned, specific language, you know. I know as a parent, sometimes I need to read a book that says, ‘Say this thing to your kid, don't say that.’ You know, before I had kids, I was like, what are you talking about? I'm going to know what to say, and that is not the case. And it's kind of similar with this. When you're in a new situation, you don't have a history of knowing how to respond and you're faced with what is a highly emotional, for many, a highly emotional moment. Just having those words to hand, I think can be really helpful.

Jeff Orlando:
Yep. it wasn't us, but there was another company who sent all their managers a stack of cards, like playing cards with different phrases to start conversations on some of these topics. I thought that was brilliant.

Dani Johnson:
Let's move on a little bit to sort of the future of talent management. What do you, Jeff, in all of your vast experience, what do you think are the toughest problems facing talent management in the immediate future?

Jeff Orlando:
I think probably the toughest one is taking advantage of all the data out there. And it's in so many ways, right? It's data about an individual, you know, think about some of the assessments and psychometrics and employee history data we have that we could potentially use in a better way. I think it's about predicting future skills and future jobs and being ahead of that, preparing for it, and then pulling that all into a package that people who are on the front lines of figuring that out can use and actually apply. So the creating the real kind of objective set of data and to guide decisions around talent management, that has to be one of the hardest ones. And, you know, we're seeing HR as a field really, really grow that predictive analytics and AI muscle but how you take that, bring that into all parts of the HR value chain and help our business leaders understand it that for sure that for sure it would be one.

Jeff Orlando:
And then I think the second one on talent management would just be continuing to work on the inclusion and diversity objectives, particularly around helping to change people's minds about what's needed for success in a role. Right? A lot of people tend to believe that there's a formula or there's one way to succeed. Or if, you know, certain individual doesn't have the same set of experiences as them, they may have an experience gap and, you know, this is across all companies and how you really help people think more broadly about who's ready and what does readiness mean? That's another, another hard one.

Dani Johnson:
I really liked that. And I actually like how those two things fit together. I think over the past five years, we've talked so much about data and technology that sometimes we think it's dehumanizing in nature, but if we use it right, which is the job of HR and talent management, if we use it right, it can be incredibly enlightening to the organization, but also really empowering to the individuals. I love those two things together.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. And I think adding to that, the ability to use that data and extrapolate from it, you know, Dani and I, for instance, have seen some technologies that will say, you know, Hey, we know that that these people will say they have these skills, but we also knew that people who have been in similar roles also have these other skills. So you might want to make the assumption that they do or at least ask if they do which, you know, for in diverse individuals are less likely to share kind of skills that may not be fully baked. And so, you know, you can see how data in that instance could actually, you know, in this example, open the talent pipeline much, much wider, bring in more people who we wouldn't have considered in the past. And so, you know, it's, I think, about making those intentional choices with the data that open the aperture of understanding as opposed to limiting it. And I think we're starting to see more of that.

Jeff Orlando:
That's great.

Stacia Garr:
Jeff, one question we wanted to ask you is, you know, you were working at this incredibly purpose-filled organization, and as you think about talent leaders who are maybe in other organizations, maybe not quite as purpose-filled, what kind of advice would you give to them? What are the things that you think they could do to help infuse purpose into their daily practice and to the talent practices that they're putting in place?

Jeff Orlando:
I think you can't fake it. I think it can't be plastic. It can't be a veneer, it needs to be real. You know, true, we're a business that lends itself to altruism and purpose. But I think as a process of discovery, figuring out in any business, what's the real reason for existing, and not telling some lofty story that is beyond the truth. Instead, it's just, articulate the truth and get people excited about the work of that company. I mean, employees these days, I think all of us are so able to sniff out hypocrisy or sniff out overstatement. So how can it just reflect the truth and build excitement around the truth? Don't create excitement around something that is a little bit perhaps disingenuous. That'd be my top tip.

Dani Johnson:
I love that. Speaking of ingenuous this is a question that Chris asks at the end of all of his podcasts and I love it. Why did you choose this line of work and what inspired you to do the work that you do? So for instance, a person or an incident or an observation or something, how did you get into this line of work?

Jeff Orlando:
Oh man. Wow. I mean, I've been in this game. I mean, I remember you know, being in college and I was interested in psychology and I was interested in business and I'm like, well, I can glue those two together and do this work, but I guess that's kind of a tactical, I don't know. I think I've always been just confused and fascinated by how groups work together, how people interact, and how it can be so predictable, but then people will surprise you, how external events can impact groups of people. And it's just been something I've just always had a curiosity about. And maybe it's me trying to figure it out for myself too. But it's just been a fascination and it's something that, for me that, you know, I'm just as curious about this stuff today as I was when I started, which, you know, I take it as a real gift.

Dani Johnson :
I love that. We hear the word curious when we ask that question a lot. One final question before you wrap up, where can people learn about your work and how can people connect with you and your company?

Jeff Orlando:
We'd love to connect with you. Take, I think, you know, followingour social channels on LinkedIn, it's probably a great way to stay in touch on Medtronic where we've really amped up our social media efforts and do some really interesting stuff in there. And, you know, that's another good spot to connect with me as well.

Stacia Garr:
Great. Well, Jeff, thank you so much for the time today and for just incredibly thoughtful conversation.

Written by

Dani Johnson
Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

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