Engaging employees is tough in itself, but perhaps made even tougher when a company undergoes a shift in structure and ways of working. Carmen Chan, HR director, ONE J&J Southeast Asia recounts the steps Johnson & Johnson undertook to help its employees adapt to an entirely new business model.  

As more and more firms acknowledge that staff are the greatest asset and capital for a company, they are coming with more creative ways to proactively engage them.

Johnson & Johnson's engagement strategy

"At Johnson & Johnson, employee engagement means, firstly, a strong connection with company direction, strategy and business models, along with providing staff an opportunity to thrive both professionally and personally," said Carmen Chan, HR director, ONE J&J Southeast Asia (J&J).

She added that the firm engages employees mainly through its Credo values.

"We put the needs and well-being of the people we serve first and employees believe deeply in our Credo values as a means for business success. It is our compass in terms of decision making, the way to do business and the way we engage with our employees.

Every year, the firm conducts its Credo survey to take question its employees on important topics like business strategy, talent development, job satisfaction, innovation, collaboration and customer alignment, etc. Meaningful action plans are then created to work on employees’ feedback.

"We use employee engagement as a way to re-recruit our talents and it’s a great form of employee retention. One of our most engaging strategies is to involve employees in giving back to the community we live in. Employees are deeply connected with company purpose, how our products transform lives and their ability to be part of it."

Engaging employees, however, turned out to be an especially crucial task for J&J when the firm underwent a complete change in its business model, requiring a mindset shift for all of its staff.

The formation of ONE J&J

"Over one year ago, J&J combined its consumer, medical devices and pharmaceuticals businesses in Southeast Asia to form one of the most comprehensive healthcare companies operating in this region," Chan said.

This was done with a single-minded objective of making the greatest difference to the lives of the people in these emerging markets that have huge unmet healthcare and medical needs.

"The ONE J&J business model is a first in the history of Johnson & Johnson across the world. We are in a unique position to meet the evolving and unmet healthcare needs of consumers, patients, health care practitioners, governments and NGOs."

Chan recounted that in order for employees to adjust to the new business model, the company's management was focused on engaging its people to believe in this new structure.

"Over the last one year, we have focused on helping our people understand the value of this structure, not only for our customers, the patients that we serve, our government and NGO partners but also for our employees as we strongly believe in its potential for talent development," she said.

"Now, more than ever, we have been able to provide more diverse career paths – rather than growing in one sector or function, our employees have the opportunity to take on cross-franchise, cross-function and cross-channel roles."

Connecting with employees

For instance, Chan explained a product specialist in the pharmaceutical business can now make a career move to the firm's surgery business  (cross franchise) while a sales leader may expand his or her portfolio by taking on a focused territory of hospitals and conducting strategic consultation with hospital management beyond just products.

"Overall, we have enlarged our talent pool, our people have experienced enhanced learning agility and have taken on new and challenging assignments without having to relocate.

"This required a consistent communications approach by the regional and the country leadership teams through platforms such as town halls, small group meetings, feedback sessions and regular business updates leveraging our internal communications channels such as the intranet, newsletters, etc."

She added the journey in communicating with and engaging employees has been a major collaborative effort. This involved combining inputs from the company's global and regional business leaders and teams, with different functions across the board.

The firm has also introduced a new initiative called “Let’s Connect” to encourage employees to reach out and connect with one another. This initiative aims to aid employees in operating as one organisation, rather than representing different sectors.

"All employees were given carabiners, a life-saving tool used in activities such as mountaineering, as a symbolic representation of the programme," Chan said.

"At Johnson & Johnson, the change represented the start of a new journey and new peaks that we had to conquer. Hence, the carabiners have been used as a reminder for employees to show their appreciation towards other colleagues who have helped them in this journey and enabled them to scale new heights in terms of their development."

Measuring the effectiveness of engagement programmes

To give all employees an opportunity to share their feedback and thoughts around its commitments and initiatives, J&J analysed the scores of its Global Credo Survey.

The 2015 Credo Survey focused on three key categories – talent development, collaboration and innovation.

"In Southeast Asia, we achieved 98% participation rate for the survey with favourable and consistent scores across all three categories and in line or above enterprise scores over previous year," Chan revealed.

Survey respondents also commended the company for rewarding employees according to job performance, giving real opportunities to improve skills in the company and providing encouragement and support to operate in new ways.

In addition, "markets like Singapore and Vietnam registered double digit growth in scores across all three categories – a testament of employees embracing the new model and seeing the value it is bringing for our stakeholders and for their own development."

Chan revealed that creating opportunities for community involvement also aided the company in fostering teamwork among its employees.

"The month of July is volunteer month at Johnson & Johnson and our colleagues across SEA came together to contribute significantly towards supporting local charities and raising funds for our global/regional initiatives," she said.

She added 2516 employees from Southeast Asia volunteered in 46 activities this year, with a participation rate of 72%, up from 61% in 2014. 19 charities were supported in total by the company.

"ONE J&J Southeast Asia also actively supports Making Smiles, Changing Lives programme as part of our commitment to help transform the lives of those children and young adults born with a cleft lip and palate.

"We support Operation Smile, a worldwide children’s medical charity in this endeavor. In 2015, we’ve raised over 1500 smiles through fundraising events across APAC with Southeast Asia being a major contributor to the programme," she concluded.

 Image: Provided