If you could build an entire regional HR operation from scratch, how would you do it? That is the question that faced the HR contingent of pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim’s newly established regional operating unit for Southeast Asia and South Korea. With an entirely new entity set up to combine operations across seven countries, HR was faced with its first principal task of orchestrating deep transformational change right across the organisation in tandem with management, and creating a regional people strategy.

Participating in the initial core workstream for the new organisation’s set-up, HR’s contribution expanded to include harmonising seven different approaches to compensation and benefits across the region, building a regional award and recognition program that fostered and encouraged a desired ‘winning team spirit’ culture, and building a whole-of-region L&D road map, including a standard curriculum and competencies, which are now available to employees across the region.

The size of the challenge is evident in a look at one area: talent acquisition. Before the new operating unit was created, seven different countries had their own processes, including templates, responsibilities, assessment, and interview models. HR had to come up with an entirely new regional talent acquisition vision and recruiting process – ‘Engage, Attract and Win Talent’ – which propagated a single style of voice from the organisation. To complement this, a new state-of-the-art technology system was rolled out to meet the requirements of the business and make recruiting processes more efficient.

Similar challenges existed for leaders. With a mess of inconsistent tools and information on a range of leader tasks, from performance management to compensation planning, HR devised a bespoke‘Do It Your Self’ Leader’s Toolkit aimed at growing leaders’ capability to manage people. A future-leader development program was also established in early 2016 to meet the needs of the operational region, focused on identifying high-potential talent and offering practical and experience-based learning opportunities.


Boehringer Ingelheim’s operating unit for Southeast Asia and South Korea is brand new, and so are all of its HR initatives. Here are just a few of their achievements:

200 employees out of a total of 2,000 have the opportunity to be recognised every year by a new Regional Award and Recognition Program. It is designed to promote a ‘Winning Team Spirit’ at country and regional level, reinforce behaviours and provide role models.

33 L&D courses are available in each country, all of which are now regionally unified. They cover a curriculum of training programs at each level, from individual contributors to managers of others, managers of managers, country function heads, and regional heads.

400 managers have already been trained in a brand-new ‘Do It Your Self’ Leader’s Toolkit, which homogenises the capabilities and processes required of leaders across the region.

10 leaders from seven countries will meet each year as part of a brand-new SEASK Leader Development Program, which allows fresh outstanding leadership talent to run a project while sitting through a three-month in-class program.

800 applicants from all over the world have now gone through the company’s new regional talent acquisition ‘one recruiting’ process, which makes use of a central online system.