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How Boehringer Ingelheim launched a recognition programme across 7 countries



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David Serés, HR director for Southeast Asia and South Korea at Boehringer Ingelheim, builds a consolidated regional recognition programme, in a bid to not only promote a winning team spirit, but also reinforce desired employee behaviours.

For more than 130 years, research-driven German pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim, has created innovative medicines for humans and animals, yet remains family-owned despite its vast growth. Closer home, David Serés is the HR director for the regional operating unit which covers Southeast Asia and South Korea, bringing a total of seven countries under his remit.

In this case study, he talks about building a consolidated rewards and recognition programme, in a bid to not only promote a winning team spirit, but also reinforce desired employee behaviours. It also aims to showcase employees and teams as role models in how results are achieved and successful projects are conducted.

Providing reasoning behind this programme, David explains that with seven countries in the region, some had their own local recognition programmes while others did not have any, even under the same regional operating organisation.

“This triggered a need for us to create a programme that was able to bring together all the programmes in the region and unite them under one umbrella, to ensure that as one team, we had a consistent criterion for recognising performance and positive behaviours of employees regionally.”

Blending in the right chemicals

The solution was launched in the form of the SEASK (South East Asia and South Korea) Recognition programme in May 2016, introducing three award categories: Smile Award (spot award); Winning Star Award (country level award); and Winning Team Spirit Award (regional level award). It was designed to reach approximately 2,000 employees in seven countries, across all businesses and functions.

The HR team got the initiative out without any external consulting support, instead relying on external benchmark data, market research, and internal best practices. “Inputs from business leaders were also considered when designing the programme,” says David.

After the design phase, HR teams across the region rolled-out and communicated the programme, including the use of design materials and collaterals to drum up anticipation and awareness. On top of this, a webpage that focused solely on the programme was created on the intranet, which included fun video clips, encouraging messages from the top management and presentations on the programme itself.

The value accorded to the programme was driven home by the fact that it was launched on Boehringer Ingelheim’s Value Through Innovation Day –the most important global event in the company. David explains, “(The event) 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.”

Everyone’s a winner

When the regional recognition programme was first launched, the reaction from employees was very positive, David affirms. “Employees appreciated the fact that there will be recognition for small initiatives as well as bigger contributions in the organisation.”

Not only does the HR team report a reinforced and more visible recognition culture amongst employees, but business leaders confirm a positive impact of the programme when measured against achieving business objectives.

To boost engagement, inspirational videos were created to showcase projects by nominated teams for the regional award held in December 2016. Response has been enthusiastic so far for all the awards categories. “Around 15% of employees and close to 70 teams across the region have received awards so far,” David reveals.

On a parting note, the HR director shares some advice and learning: “It was a challenge to set a consistent criterion for the awards which would make them unique and relevant for all businesses and functions,” adding that the team also had to be mindful of keeping the nomination process easy for employees, managers and HR itself.

“We also had to ensure that our communication to all employees in the region was consistent and messages were impactful – irrespective of country, business or function,” says David, affirming the importance of transparent and consistent communication.

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