Bayer’s 3 keys to driving a culture of commercial success

Bayer ANZ’s head of human resources, Isadore Payne, says that shifts in culture demonstrate a real mindset change across the business

The launch of a three-pronged strategic program to help build the right mindset, skill set and culture needed for the future has played a critical role in the growth and success of Bayer locally, according to its ANZ head of human resources, Isadore Payne.

This program (called “Ambition 2015”) was launched three years ago, and focused on three stretch goals: becoming an employer of choice, being a recognised innovation leader and growing the company to $1 billion plus in sales.

This was supported through the creation of five communities (which focus on people, innovation, branding, customer and business excellence) to help employees in the creation and enablement of a forward-thinking and innovative culture, said Payne.

“It’s a bottom up approach and it’s highly engaging, and we’re seeing great results,” he said.

“We have moved the dial and have an average of 90 per cent engagement across our local business (as measured by the Towers Watson global engagement survey).

“But for me this is not the most critical measure of success. Even more important is the culture – this demonstrates a real mindset change in thinking differently,” he said.

Under Ambition 2015, more than 100 change initiatives have been introduced. One specific initiative to attract and retain staff is “Me Days”, which sees five extra days of leave provided if an employee’s leave balance is under 20 days.

“This has met with very high engagement from staff, but the added benefit has been in one year, the cost of excessive annual leave liability (greater than 20 days) has reduced by 31 per cent – a saving of $586,000.

“These are tangible results. We are being recognised by our global subsidiary and network of countries as leading the pack in cultural transformation,” according to Payne, who said creating the informal organisation to drive innovation is aligned with what John Kotter is now teaching at Harvard Business School in Kotter’s “accelerate principle”.

“We need a culture of innovation and a different approach to leadership as we transform our company”

Bayer recently became the world’s second-largest over-the-counter pharmacy company following an $18 billion takeover of Merck & Co.’s consumer care business. Bayer Australia was the first country globally to integrate the Merck business.

Bayer’s vision is to become a pure life science company, and Payne said it is increasing its over-the-counter presence, focusing on its future pharma pipeline and looking to grow faster than its competition in crop science.

“We believe successful companies need to be agile and adept to change, so we are focused on building an innovative culture,” he said.

“Bayer as a whole is transforming. As we carve out our material science business, we are becoming a true life sciences company and this brings significant change for our business.

“We need a culture of innovation and a different approach to leadership as we transform our company,” according to Payne, who said HR internally is focused on building leadership capability and investing in innovative leadership approaches to develop leadership capability.

“I see myself as helping our executive team to become clear on the longer-term goals: clarity of strategy and designing the appropriate culture,” he said.

“We actively encourage our leaders to seek continuous feedback through numerous tools and methodologies.

“In addition, I see my role as coaching and connecting leaders with external mentors as required. Having an aligned executive team is particularly important in a global matrix organisation.”

For the full story with Payne on how Bayer has become one of the fastest-growing pharmaceutical companies globally and in Australia, see the current issue of Inside HR magazine. Image source: Hayden Brotchie