Changing Tomorrow: How to Create a Culture of Engagement
Next generation employees want more from their companies. We look at one company’s mission to become an Employer of Choice and their approach to creating an inspirational company culture that engages its workforce.
A growing number of forward-thinking - and financially successful - organizations realize that for 21st century companies, the key to raising levels of performance is to create a sense of meaning for their employees.1 They provide an environment where employees believe they are making a difference, not just clocking their time. To reach new heights in retention and engagement, world-class managers will focus on growing a talent brand that weaves together the critical elements of work itself, the desire for personal growth and development, the power of passion, and the intrinsic reward of serving society – a brand of which employees can be proud.2
Creating a sense of meaning
According to Ken Jones, CEO & President of fast-growing pharmaceutical company, Astellas Pharma EMEA, an invigorating sense of purpose that goes beyond business success is what matters: “Changing tomorrow is the ethos that drives everything that Astellas does, and is the measure by which we judge our success. When Astellas was formed back in 2005 with the merger of Yamanouchi and Fujisawa, we chose the name Astellas, which translates as “shining a light on tomorrow” and that encapsulates our vision, to bring future hope to patients. We’re committed to providing our employees with an opportunity to make their mark as they engage in meaningful work and we believe strongly that nurturing exceptional relationships with our employees delivers exceptional business results.”
It's about creating an environment where people really do matter and their contribution is recognized and rewarded, and it’s about creating a culture that allows people to be themselves, to be authentic and feel they are personally making a difference and utilizing their distinct talents".
In Astellas’ VISION 2015, their stated aim was to become an ‘Employer of Choice’, but what does that mean? “It's about creating an environment where people really do matter and their contribution is recognized and rewarded, and it’s about creating a culture that allows people to be themselves, to be authentic and feel they are personally making a difference and utilizing their distinct talents. It’s also about having clear values which are lived through thick and thin, as well as a concern for the wider environmental and societal impact of business activities”, states Jones.
With so much emphasis on its workforce, Astellas' measure of sustainable employee engagement is over 85%. But for many companies the situation isn't nearly so positive. Current levels of employee engagement in the market place are running at a mere 30%, according to a recent Gallup survey.3 The ability of companies to find, understand, and manage talent hinges upon having a powerful, recognized, differentiated and engaging employee experience. The companies that nail engagement can enjoy a surplus of competitive advantage in talent strategy and business results that is hard for others to replicate.
There are a number of key drivers that organizations can consider to help increase employee engagement, for example:
1. Clearly Communicate Core Values and Beliefs
Employees engage with employers when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect. Central to this is communicating a shared vision and working within a shared values system.
“Our core values are STAR: Success Driven, Team Oriented, Adaptable and Respectful. It’s vital to recruit employees whose values fit with our own. It’s not about consensus, it’s about shared purpose, shared objectives and employees need clarity to understand what the vision is and how their contribution assists the organization in achieving its goals. Ultimately, it’s about open, honest communication and respect. You can demand a lot from people when you treat them with respect. Part of that is accessibility to senior leadership, regularly meeting with your teams, providing clear direction on objectives and priorities. Taking care of your people is good business”, asserts Jones.
2. Have a broader purpose than making a profit
Would you rather work at a company focused solely on maximizing profits, or one with a deep commitment to adding real value to the world through its products, practices and services? Wouldn’t you find a greater sense of meaning by working for the latter, feel a greater sense of commitment and be less likely to look elsewhere?
Over the past three years, Astellas has donated over 9,000 employee hours volunteering during normal working hours across 19 countries. This is increasingly important to Gen Y, younger employees who want to give back and they expect their employers to support them in these initiatives".
Articulating and embracing a nobler purpose than mere profit can help organizations to attract, inspire and retain star employees, and ultimately make their companies more profitable. As John Mackey and Raj Sisodia put it in their book “Conscious Capitalism,” “Just as happiness is best experienced by not aiming for it directly, profits are best achieved by not making them the primary goal of the business. They are the outcome when companies do business with a higher sense of purpose.”
“The ethos of Changing Tomorrow centres on making a palpable difference in the world around us and being an instrument of change, be that in enhancing the lives of patients, creating an inspirational workplace or giving back to society through charitable works. An example of this is our Changing Tomorrow Day volunteering initiative, which gives Astellas employees the chance to spend time working on good causes that matter to them, helping local charities. Over the past three years, Astellas has donated over 9,000 employee hours volunteering during normal working hours across 19 countries. This is increasingly important to Gen Y, younger employees who want to give back and they expect their employers to support them in these initiatives”, according to Arjen Vermazen, Astellas’ Senior VP HR in the EMEA region.
3. Demonstrate to People the Tangible Impact of their Work
A growing body of research shows that end users—customers, clients, patients, and others who benefit from a company’s products and services—are surprisingly effective in motivating people to work harder, smarter, and more productively. By serving as tangible proof of the consequences and value of employees’ efforts, end users such as patients can be important allies for leaders in motivating and inspiring their workforces. After all, what could be more inspiring and elicit more commitment than meeting at first hand, the people who derive direct benefit from your daily contribution?
“We invite patients who have undergone transplant surgery to come in and share their story with our employees. One patient spoke very movingly about how before surgery she remembers smelling her child’s hair and wondering would that be the last time they'd be together. It’s a powerful medium to demonstrate to people the incredible work that we do and the results of their combined efforts and galvanizes their commitment in terms of what we are trying to achieve as a company”, says Jones.
4. Engaging managers offer clarity, appreciation, positive feedback and coaching
Each person has different needs and expectations regarding employee engagement. Managers should know that age, gender, tenure, and other variables all play a vital role in shaping a team member’s workplace experience. Managers should also know that every interaction with an employee has the potential to influence his or her engagement and inspire discretionary effort.4
“Being success-oriented means recognizing peoples’ successes and showing appreciation for their efforts. Our job as leaders is to enable the right behaviors, give people room for growth and provide 360 degree feedback so that they develop self-awareness and can have a more structured approach and better control over their own development within a supportive environment. If used properly, employees and managers will use this information to build a plan for competency development with specific learning resources. These plans and strategies enable employees to feel like active participants in their career growth and professional development. In return, this keeps the employee engaged since they know what steps they need to take and what skills they need to gain to advance in the organization”, clarifies Vermazen.
Ensure Development is part of the Company’s DNA
The most satisfied employees are those who believe their talent and skills are being well utilized by their employers. Companies that neglect aspects such as skills development, lateral moves and promotion opportunities run an increased risk of losing their best employees.5
“We provide a high level of development support for talented and capable employees who show commitment to continuous improvement in performance. We have implemented a global leadership development program to help prepare the next generation of senior managers who will take on global leadership roles in the future. We encourage employees to take charge of their career in terms of owning their own career development. We are firmly of the opinion that building a high-performance culture begins with empowering employees to take responsibility for their own career growth and we enable this process through development of career plans, mentoring and succession planning. 80% of senior appointments this year were from within the organization so it’s crucial that employees see scope to develop and rise through the organization”, according to Jones.
The litmus test for any organization’s HR strategy is its business performance and here Astellas’ star is in the ascendancy according to some, having been named 'Company of the Year' at the international SCRIP Awards in 2013. With strong sales and an 11 percent increase in global profits in FY 2013, Astellas is financially outperforming many other businesses in the biopharmaceutical sector. But it is in drug discovery and innovation where the company has really made its mark. In the period appraised by the SCRIP judges (June 2012 to May 2013), ten Astellas treatment therapies were granted approval by medical authorities worldwide and the company launched 12 new brands across 20 markets. Among these were new therapies in Oncology, Anti-Infectives and Urology. “This is a testament to the passion and commitment of our team. Passion runs high here”, concludes Jones - and we think he means it.
1, 2: Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce
3, 4 Gallup State of the American Workplace Report
5: Deloitte Talent 2020, Surveying the Talent Paradox from the employee perspective
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