Reskilling: A Key to Abbott's Success

Research shows investing in employees boosts profitability, competitive market advantage and employee retention.

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Strategy and Strength | Sep. 15, 2020

COVID-19 is fueling massive changes to the way the world works.

Companies are rushing to equip employees to do their jobs in new ways (upskilling) or to take on new roles as the needs of organizations and consumers shift (reskilling).

This isn't new for Abbott. Reskilling and upskilling have been part of the company's employee development process for decades. And informally, the company has been committed to developing its people since its inception, more than 130 years ago.

Take for instance a trio of early Abbott leaders who each rose from an ordinary job at the company — editor, advertiser and assembly line worker — to CEO.

"Abbott has always been growing talent in ways that are meaningful and relevant to the company. It's about sustainability and ensuring that we're always in step with, or ahead of, the latest technological advancements," said Vildan Kehr, Abbott's Divisional Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition.

This commitment to employee development generates financial strength. Research shows companies that invest in their employees boost profitability, competitive market advantage and employee retention.

A 2019 Lighthouse Research & Advisory report stated, "While recruiting and talent acquisition practices can help companies…the real secret to success lies with upskilling and reskilling employees to be able to meet the coming demands. It's not only less expensive and risky — it can lead to better outcomes as well."

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Reskilling, coupled with Abbott's anticipation of health tech and medical trends, has helped the company become a leader in fast-growing markets including diabetes care, diagnostics and heart health.

Success in these markets has contributed to Abbott's position as a top-tier growth company, and as one of only 52 Fortune 500 companies on the list since its inception and one of just 59 of the original S&P 500 companies.

Reskilling Strengthens Abbott's Diverse Portfolio

Abbott's employee development opportunities span from free online development courses, to training for up-and-coming critical skills (including selling remotely and new analytics tools for data scientists), to entirely new careers, like at our Vascular facility in Clonmel, Ireland.

Five years ago, Abbott started doing R&D work for its XIENCE SierraTM drug-eluting stents in Clonmel, which is where the technology is manufactured. Needing R&D engineers, Abbott developed a rigorous training program to reskill its stand-out manufacturing engineers in Ireland.

In just five years, this group has grown to more than 50 reskilled employees who developed five new vascular and endovascular products for the business.

"As a manufacturing engineer I was always curious about how and why decisions were made in the research and development phase. Now with the training I've received, I get to see first-hand how it works because I'm part of the team that's helping develop and test prototypes for our next generation of life-changing drug-eluting stent products," said Alan Hughes, innovation lead on Abbott's Drug-Eluting Stent R&D team in Clonmel.

Beyond financial benefits and employee retention, reskilling helps attract new employees who are interested in career growth.

"Employees are our biggest asset and we know that people want to grow and learn," said Kehr. "We offer those engaging opportunities. That's the beauty of Abbott."