How We Are Experimenting With Talent

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Jan 11, 2019

Drug development entails risk. Clinical trials are elaborate and expensive experiments, and unfortunately sometimes promising hypotheses prove false. This can be frustrating and even painful at times, but ultimately such are risks worth taking, since new and improved medicines can mean the difference between life and death for patients with serious diseases. At Roivant, we embrace taking calculated risks that have the potential to meaningfully benefit patients. We tend to focus on disease areas where the magnitude of investment from industry is disproportionately low relative to societal medical needs. This approach pushes us to develop therapies in a great diversity of illnesses including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, sickle cell anemia, ultra-rare fatal pediatric conditions, and several others where the current standard of care is insufficient.

We also believe in taking risks when it comes to hiring to support our culture of excellence. We hire seasoned executives from biotech and pharma, but we also recruit talented individuals from outside the industry with experience in tech, finance, consulting, and academia. Our approach to identifying talent is grounded in connectivity: we stay connected with leaders whom we respect and whose judgement we trust, and we seek their recommendations for other great performers and leaders. And it is our hypothesis that a catalytic combination of domain expertise with fresh perspectives from other industries will yield a culture which is greater than the sum of those parts.

Our culture is intense, fast-paced, contrarian, and rewarding. It is oriented around certain key principles. We believe that integrity is paramount and we have zero tolerance for unethical behavior. We interview and seek references for integrity, and people with high integrity seek us out because they know that it is a core value of our company. We set aggressive performance metrics and generously compensate individuals who achieve, while also holding individuals accountable when those metrics are not realized, both at Roivant and our subsidiary companies.

We want our team members to behave like owners — not just employees. Many of our team members have been owners or have had professional roles with ownership stakes in their prior work experiences. One way we encourage this core value is by awarding equity-based compensation to all full-time hires. Indeed, unlike most private companies of our scale, we grant staff the same equity as any other owner, with no preferential liquidation rights for select investors or early employees. We pay north of fair, but everyone is expected to sweat the details, and “good enough” is never good enough.

We also provide opportunities for high performers to advance rapidly, including promotion into roles where they do not yet have a track record of success. Those promotions necessarily entail a risk of failure, but the negative consequences of not taking those chances are riskier for our long-term success as a business.

Our experimental approach to talent necessarily entails a certain amount of turnover, both voluntary and involuntary. We accept and embrace that fact. A certain amount of turnover isn’t something to fear; it is simply a reflection of our desire to build a unique team working to serve the needs of patients. Instead of seeking to maximize duration of employment, we seek to maximize meaningful work. We would rather provide an intense and rewarding nine months instead of nine years of monotony and dissatisfaction.

Every hire at Roivant is presented with the opportunity to “opt-out” after several months on the job: if the fit isn’t right, we want to part on good terms with generous severance that rewards individuals for taking a chance on us. We have demonstrated that same generosity in cases of involuntary turnover.

Unlike many companies, we don’t force employees to exercise their stock options at exit: they have the same period to exercise vested options as those who remain at the company. Every time a staff member walks in the front door, we want that to be a proactive decision rather than a byproduct of mere habit or financial necessity.

Employee satisfaction is not our ultimate goal — we seek to serve patients, not ourselves. That said, to the degree that employee satisfaction is empowering and leads to a consistently elevated work product for our patients, we care about it very much. When asked in an anonymous survey whether or not “working at Roivant motivates me to go beyond what I would in a similar role elsewhere,” “I see myself still working at Roivant in two years’ time,” or “I rarely think about looking for a job at another company,” the overwhelming majority of the Roivant team reply affirmatively to all three questions. Furthermore, positive answers by Roivant staff are 10-15 percentage points higher than healthcare industry as a whole, 9-15 points higher than the tech industry, and 13-19 points higher than professional services.

Our approach to talent is itself an experiment that is aimed at fostering our culture of excellence.  The result of that experiment will only become clear over time, but we are hopeful, and the early evidence is promising.

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