Remarkable People: Geraldine Harlan, Otto Bock Health Care

Peter H. Bailey, of The Prouty Project, called upon one of his favorite people in the area. Geraldine Harlan provides an insider’s glimpse into one of the Twin Cities’ favored companies...

By Peter H. Bailey, Prouty Project 

Geraldine Harlan gives an insider’s glimpse into one of the Twin Cities’ favored companies.

Peter: “Geraldine, how would you describe Otto Bock’s business?”

Geraldine: “Otto Bock Health Care, originally founded in Germany in 1919, is now a global leader in support products and services that restore human independence. We create high quality goods and services that maintain and give back mobility and comfort to people who have lost some of their abilities. We specialize in technical orthotics and mobility equipment…wheelchairs and seating systems or prosthetics, and working with physical and occupational therapists to improve their understanding and access to innovative equipment.”

Peter: What can you tell me about the work culture at Otto Bock?

Geraldine: “At Otto Bock we truly live the promise of the vision. Whether it is holding an event to honor former employees by bringing 250-350 people to give them an opportunity to try devices or learn to rock climb, or through our global crisis response, in Japan and Haiti , we strive to give back to the industry. While we are recognized for clinical education, few people think of us as first responders, but we are often close to natural emergencies to help people as soon as crisis hits. People forget that these natural disasters are devastating to people’s lives. No one else is asking “now that you have lost a limb, what does getting back to mobility look like to you?” We are there, and we want to help patients all along that healing journey.”

Peter: “You have mentioned education as an important part of your service. Can you say more about that?”

Geraldine: “Our culture from the beginning was defined by innovative approaches. Today that focus has morphed now into education and service. We are particularly known for that in the industry. In fact, we were the first to add patient education and proper fitting to our services to be sure that our devices truly meet the needs of patient. Our main focus at our Innovation Center is to support the physical therapy practitioner. Every year we hold master training sessions for practitioners, conduct online courses, and speak to packed rooms at regional and national events.”

Peter: “As Director of Training, what are you particularly excited about?”

Geraldine: Right now we are focused on collaborating internally more effectively in service to our customers. We are known for innovation and quality and service and they are a source of competitive advantage. Through our training and development program, we have had a lot of success supporting and developing core competencies. We have instituted a whole arc of talent development from identification and recruitment to talent development and on-boarding. In our sales organization in particular, there has been lots of growth, and the profile is changing. With a long view in mind we ask ourselves “what does success look like in 2020?” “How do we develop our team for that future world?” It starts with understanding our business plan and core competencies and integrating our mission for customer focus. We recruit today for that future state. For example, in the past, our sales reps had strong technical expertise with less sales experience. We are now hiring more people with strong people-relating skills who now work with a expert team of educators to support the sales person, rather than expecting he sales person to do it all. Account executives have shifted their thinking from ‘this is my account,’ to ‘this is our account.’ That means a whole other set of skills which will help them collaborate, manage resources effectively, navigate and drive the business well. It truly moves sales reps from selling based on product features and benefits to conducting strategic business calls. They think about strategy consulting in a different way now…and that makes a huge difference for our customers. We are challenging old assumptions, since this is the way the business is going. But when you think about it, we started with innovation, and we are still going strong!”

Peter Bailey, Sr. Vice President, Organization Development: Peter is a senior
consultant in our Organization Development practice area at the Prouty Project. Peter
is a multi-faceted experiential designer and facilitator who has 25 years of experience
in the fields of high-technology, telecom, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and customer

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