How vision and clarity made a three-time 'Best Employer'

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Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), a global biopharmaceutical company, has been operating in Canada for more than 80 years. For the past three, it has been accredited by Aon Hewitt as a ‘Best Employer’.

Aon Hewitt reports that companies with an engagement score of 76% or higher (what they call ‘Best Employers’) significantly outperform the average company on revenue growth, operating margin and total shareholder return. However, only a quarter of organisations across Australia and New Zealand engage more than 66% of their people.

According to Anthony Mancini, the company’s managing director, BMS is on a mission to discover, develop and deliver medicines that help patients to overcome serious illnesses – none of which is possible without engaging the nation’s best talent.

“We conduct an annual internal survey that gives us a great sense of how we’re doing internally,” Mancini told HRM. “It also tells us how we’re doing in relation to BMS’ overseas operations. The Aon Hewitt accreditation provides us with a credible piece of data that we could use to complement our internal survey, and gives us a benchmark against other companies.”

Aon Hewitt recognised BMS for three particular employer attributes: recruitment and induction, employee engagement and motivation, and organisation culture.

Recruitment and induction

“As soon as someone joins we ensure that we communicate the company’s vision to them,” Mancini said.

“One of things that stands out at BMS is that there’s real clarity about benefits, assessments and what’s expected of employees. We strive to give staff a clear understanding of what we’re trying to achieve, and what our medicines are doing.”

Employee engagement and motivation

“High levels of motivation really come down to a strong sense of purpose which engages our employees,” Mancini told HRM. “It starts with a strong division that was created by different people in different functions across different levels of the organisation.”

He added that this vision for the company’s patients is “incorporated into everything we do”.

Incorporating the vision so deeply is achieved by strong communication at BMS.

“We spend a lot of time and energy making sure employees understand our business strategy and what we’re trying to achieve,” Mancini said. “We regularly get together to discuss how we’re progressing.”

Another way that the company does this is to share real life patient stories with our employees, including inviting patients to address our meetings about their health and treatment experiences.

“This helps employees understand the dynamics and realities of these diseases and the potential role of our medicines,” Mancini said.

The company also has healthcare professionals visit the workplace for similar reasons.

“Because we do that so regularly, it really helps to crystallise that sense of purpose,” Mancini explained. “No matter where they sit in the organisation, they understand what we’re doing and they’re engaged by that. Every employee is excited to be making such a big difference.”

He added that this drives higher levels of discretionary effort.

“When employees see the difference they’re making, it drives them to go above and beyond,” he said. “As a result we’ve become the fastest growing pharmaceutical company in Australia – which is something we’re all proud of.”

Company culture

“We promote a culture of transparency and openness,” Mancini told HRM. “Everyone knows where the leadership team is spending their time. All employees also have an understanding of the company’s strategy and vision, and is able to track that.”

A couple of years ago, BMS was launching six new products, resulting in the onboarding of 100 new employees, only to have to divest one of its divisions.

“This was a global decision that we had to manage,” Mancini said. “We made sure that our senior leaders treated everyone with dignity and respect. We believe that this differentiates us and impacts our brand both internally and externally.

“In fact, we managed the situation in such a positive way that employee engagement actually increased following the divestment, which is extremely unusual. It just goes to show if you treat people in the right way and with respect, it will positively impact your business.”

He added that BMS prides itself on being a caring and generous organisation in terms of health and wellbeing benefits.

“We have high expectations of our team, so we make sure they’re looked after,” he said. “They can purchase leave and opt to work flexibly. We create an environment that facilitates being able to deliver against the vision.”

BMS does this by providing perks such as health assessments, massages and health and nutrition seminars. A huge 80% of the workforce participates in the global corporate challenge.

“Taking care of people is really important to our culture,” Mancini asserted. 

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