Bristol-Myers Squibb’s 3 keys to becoming a best employer

People practices need to underpin engagement at every level, according to Sara Giesen, human resources director, Bristol-Myers Squibb Australia

There are three key factors which have assisted biopharmaceutical Bristol-Myers Squibb in sustaining high levels of employee engagement and in being recognised as a best employer, according to the company’s HR leader.

“We reinforce our mission, strategy and our shared common sense of purpose to deliver better outcomes for patients, which links to both individual values and each employee’s role in the business,” said Sara Giesen, human resources director, Bristol-Myers Squibb Australia.

The second factor is a focus on employees while managing change, with regular communications, transparency, tools, support structures as well as ensuring the leadership team is available and accessible.

Giesen said the third key is to ensure the company’s approach to people management underpins engagement, through investing in a range of practices, from talent acquisition, development, succession and coaching, to attractive remuneration and benefits as well as recognition and meaningful work.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was recently accredited by Aon Hewitt as a best employer for the second consecutive year, was the fastest growing pharmaceutical company in Australia in the year to May 2014.

“As our teams grew and changed, we also worked hard to sustain the strength of our culture while delivering exceptional performance”

In 2013, it successfully launched six new medicines in diverse and complex therapeutic areas, and Giesen said the launch of any medicine is a complex process that involves several critical steps over many years.

“In addition to the regulatory and reimbursement steps required to commercialise each new medicine, we faced an organisational challenge to ensure a focus on launch preparation and execution while maintaining high levels of effort and support for existing medicines,” she said.

“As our teams grew and changed through recruitment, promotions and lateral career moves, we also worked hard to sustain the strength of our culture while delivering exceptional performance.”

Giesen said employee engagement levels have remained consistently high for the second consecutive year, including a positive shift in the engagement levels across the board.

“Notwithstanding the workload intensity and business changes, we retained key talent and continue to grow and develop our talented individuals within our relatively flat structure,” she said.

Bring in the right people to build a better business
Bristol-Myers Squibb has comprehensive selection and assessment processes in place to ensure that it attracts the best people and identifies and nurtures key talent. These include:

  1. Recruitment – the majority of vacancies are advertised within the business with clear application criteria
  2. Assessment – robust processes are in place to ensure that candidates are assessed on their cognitive, behavioural and practical capabilities
  3. Succession planning – the annual workforce planning process identifies the skills and capabilities required by the business for future growth
  4. Leadership buy-in – the leadership team has regular ‘talent’ meetings to review critical roles within the organisation.

The organisation also makes a significant investment in the ongoing development of its people through initiatives such as internal leadership training, career development training and job rotations both locally and internationally. These initiatives not only build engagement but increase employees’ understanding of the business.

Source: Aon Hewitt

For the full interview with Giesen on keys to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s commercial and HR success see the next issue of Inside HR magazine.