With its motto “Value through Innovation”, see how Boehringer Ingelheim raises employee engagement through its value-added Recognition programme in a bid to create a genuine organisational culture. David Serés, human resources director for South East Asia and South Korea at Boehringer Ingelheim, speaks to Natasha Ganesan.

Research-driven pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, known for its innovative medicines for people and animals, and with a history of more than 130 years, considers the need to raise employee engagement as “important in their drive to become a high performance company” says David Serés, human resources director South East Asia & South Korea, Boehringer Ingelheim. “Employees are our main asset at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), and we are committed to creating a genuine recognition culture. This is important in our drive to become a high performance company,” he added.

Prescribing the pill for better employee engagement

In May 2016, the SEASK (South East Asia and South Korea) Recognition programme was launched. Three award categories were introduced - Smile Award, Winning Star Award, and Winning Team Spirit Award. From the commencement of the programme, close to 15% of employees and 70 teams across the region have clinched awards so far. Each award recognised employees for their various contributions:
  • Smile Award
This award aims to recognise small contributions at the individual or team level in the department or across functions which could be given by the employees to their peers, seniors or juniors across the region through a simple nomination process in the approval system. This gives employees an opportunity to express their appreciation at the right timing.
  • Winning Star Award
This local country level award rewards the implementation of company core values and behavior framework while contributing to financial growth, projects or setting best practices. Under a formal criteria, the winners are nominated and assessed by the respective country’s management team.
  • Winning Team Spirit Award
This regional level award honours encouraging team spirit and friendly competition amongst countries and functions in the region for setting best practices with formal criteria and selection of winners by voting from leaders in the region. This is an annual events, the highest category to recognize the best of the best.

“Our programme is designed not only to promote a winning team spirit, but also to reinforce desired behaviours and showcase employees and teams as role models through the results achieved and the successful projects conducted,” Serés shares.

Employees in BI enthusiastically welcomed the initiative, contributing to a one team mindset, helping the organisation achieve its goals for employee engagement. “Once the business priorities are set by the top management, all functions are included in the process and the priorities are transparently shared and linked to the countries and functions immediately. This motivates employees to proactively become part of the business,” says Serés.

Compounding the Recognition programme

Digger deeper, it was noted that the Recognition programme was designed to reach approximately 2,000 employees in seven countries in the region, across all businesses and functions. Among these countries, some had their own local recognition programmes while others did not have any, even though all were under the same regional operating organisation. This triggered a need for BI’s HR team to create a programme that was able to bring together all the different programmes in the region and unite them under one umbrella, to ensure that as one team, they had a consistent criterion for recognising performance, contributions and positive behaviours of employees across the region.

Commenting on the efforts made by the HR team, Serés outlines that the team referred to external benchmark data market research as well as internal practices within the organisation. They also consulted business leaders for inputs when designing the programme. Following the design phase, HR teams across the region rolled-out and communicated the programme, including the execution of design materials and collaterals to drum up anticipation and awareness.

Eventually, the Recognition programme was officially launched during Value Through Innovation (VTI) Day on May 2016. “This is the most important global event in our company and is set up in each country, with a focus on our people, culture and values. The setting was ideal for us to launch the programme,” says Serés.

Additionally, a web page focusing solely on the programme was also created on the company intranet, which included fun video clips, encouraging messages from the top management and presentations on the programme itself.

Diagnosing the complications and medicating them

Behind every successful programme, challenges are inevitable. “It was a big challenge to set a consistent criterion for the awards which would make them unique and relevant for all businesses and functions. We also had to ensure that our communication to all employees in the region is consistent and the messages were impactful – regardless of country, business or function,” says Serés.

As for the nomination process, the HR team had to ensure that it was smooth-running and easy for employees, managers, as well as for the HR team when managing the programme.

Overall, the regional Recognition programme marks as a key milestone for BI. Serés affirms: “When it was first launched during VTI Day, the reaction from employees was very positive. Our employees appreciated the fact that there will be recognition for small initiatives as well as bigger contributions in the organisation.”

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