Although Byron Clendenen joined Singulex Inc. in 2014, the move was twenty-five years in the making. It began when, early in his career, he met Bill Hammack, vice president of human resources at the medical imaging pioneer, Diasonics, Inc., who would go on to become his mentor.
Clendenen’s and Hammack’s professional paths split when Diasonics sold its MRI division, but they maintained their relationship over the next two decades. When Hammack, Singulex’s original vice president of human resources and now its executive advisor, approached Clendenen about joining Singulex, he quickly agreed to come on board. “What I have found in business is that the efficacy of the business model is important, but doing business is fundamentally about relationships,” he says. “It was a relationship that was twenty-five years in the making that brought me here.”
This relationship-focused approach has defined Clendenen’s work as vice president of human resources at Singulex. For example, when the company decided to relocate its clinical lab testing services from California to Texas in 2017, he knew that his team would have to leverage relationships with both current employees and outside partners to complete the transition.
Two Separate Businesses
Singulex Inc. comprises two separate businesses. Singulex is an immunodiagnostics company at the forefront of Single Molecule Counting technology, a novel immunoassay technology recognized for unprecedented ultra-sensitivity in the precision measurement of biomarkers. And then there’s Veridia Diagnostics, which is a clinical lab that services physicians across the country and provides exclusive access to Single Molecule Counting technology. The results of these tests enable physicians to diagnose conditions better and thereby transform patient care from reactive disease treatment to proactive health management.
Veridia Diagnostics represents one-third of Singulex’s workforce. Because many employees chose not to relocate with the lab, the human resources team, in partnership with Veridia’s management team, had to simultaneously build a new workforce in Texas while supporting outbound employees in California. “That was a herculean task of putting one foot on the accelerator with respect to hiring a workforce at the new location, and at the same time gently tapping the brakes with the existing workforce,” he says.
Relationships Come First
As always, Clendenen began by establishing relationships—this time, with the local players who would help to ensure the company’s success. Veridia executives and HR partnered with the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Solutions of the Texas Workforce Commission to source and interview qualified candidates. “It was a fruitful partnership all the way around,” he says.
With the guidance and support of its CEO and executive team, Singulex HR leveraged existing relationships among managers and employees to ensure Veridia’s retention of its veteran lab talent throughout all phases of the transition. The company emphasized transparency, which meant clearly communicating the terms for those employees who chose to relocate and for those who didn’t. For employees who chose to pursue other opportunities, Singulex provided outbound employee services, including job search training and job leads. “Our management team took all steps necessary to ensure that everything we communicated to our impacted employees bore fruit,” he says. “There weren’t any gotchas. There wasn’t any fine print.”
This was critical because much of the transition’s success hinged on maintaining veteran employees’ trust. These individuals would be crucial both in seeing Veridia through its relocation process and in preparing the new workforce to assume lab production responsibilities at the new location, Clendenen says. New hires traveled from Texas to California for multiweek trainings that were guided by their outbound colleagues. Initially, Clendenen wondered how outbound employees might respond to needing to train their replacements. Ultimately, however, “there was a great deal of camaraderie,” he says. “In the most challenging moments, our people rose to the occasion and really demonstrated their character as aligned with the business need.”
Building on Internal Advocacy
This year, Clendenen plans to build on Singulex’s history of internal advocacy by implementing a mentorship program that will advance professional development opportunities for employees across the country. He and his team are pursuing adoption of an online platform that will enable employees to meet with mentors remotely. “Because of the newly distributed nature of our workforce, this initiative will enable employees from one business to exchange ideas and be mentored by more experienced colleagues in our other business hundreds of miles away,” he says.
Another HR initiative will be the adoption of a platform for providing online learning opportunities that employees can attend on their own time and at their own pace. “It’s about ensuring that we have methods and processes that are consistent and that place a premium on shared experiences,” he says. “We find that shared experiences and a shared vocabulary leads to better focus and better team execution.”
The Transition is Complete
After more than a year of preparation, Singulex’s California lab closed its operations on a Saturday in January 2018, and the Texas lab began clinical testing just three days later. “It was literally lights off at one facility and lights on at another,” Clendenen says.
As Singulex evolves, Clendenen’s focus remains on supporting the business by supporting its employees. “This HR team is all about facilitating relationships—one employee at a time—so that our people can focus on what they’re really here to do, which is to do their very best work,” he says. “The business is never about HR; HR has to be about helping the business advance.” Cultivating and honoring relationships is what makes those advances possible.
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