"We want our people to feel they benefit from the company’s success – which is directly based on their hard work – as it motivates them further," says Chris Lee, APAC President, Medtronic.

Medtronic Asia Pacific was recently crowned as Employee Experience Champion of the Year at the Employee Experience Awards 2021, Singapore.

The company took home three gold awards (Best Capability Development Programme for the HR team, Best Crisis Management and Leadership, and Best Diversity and Inclusion Strategy) and two bronze awards (Best Employer Branding and Best Global Talent Exchange Programme).

In this interview, Chris Lee, President, Medtronic Asia Pacific, shares with us how prioritising employees' wellbeing every step of the way brought about this huge win. From ensuring they have room and tools to grow and develop, to recognising and rewarding their contributions, to listening which earned them a two-digit increase in Singapore's Employee Engagement Survey 2021.

Q Congratulations on bagging this award! What is your award-winning employee experience strategy that led to this win?

Our strategy is actually a very simple one: it’s to put employees first in everything we do. I know every company claims that. We focus on real actions and go beyond what most companies usually do. More importantly, we offer it before an employee asks.

Every day, we expect our employees to go above and beyond in caring for our patients, physicians, and customers. So, we must first go above and beyond in caring for them.

That means ensuring they have the resources and tools they need to learn new skills, grow in their careers, and enjoy the work they do.

It also means recognising and rewarding good work. For example, I have a deal with my teams, which started even before the pandemic: every two consecutive quarters that we meet our growth and revenue targets, employees leave work one hour earlier on Fridays. Many of our teams now end around noon – getting closer to our four-day work week goal.

We want our people to feel they benefit from the company’s success – which is directly based on their hard work – as it motivates them further.

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Medtronic team celebrating Chinese New Year in January 2020

Q How did you and your team conceptualise and adapt this strategy to suit evolving workforce needs in the past year?

This strategy did not change with the challenges of the pandemic; in fact, we prioritised it more.

I’ve found that in times of uncertainty, the reaction is often to pull back: play it safe, save money, and do the minimum.

Our teams did the opposite. They showed our partners – and each other – just how far Medtronic is willing to go to deliver on our mission.

For example, we created the 'We are Stronger Together' campaign to keep our employees engaged and supported across three pillars: mind, body, and spirit.

Our weekly wellness challenges and food delivery credits ensured our employees stayed active and healthy; our business trainings allowed employees who had been working in hospitals to upskill and 'go virtual; our family reunion programme supported foreign employees working overseas away from their families; and our special bonus incentive recognised everyone’s efforts – despite the hit to our business.

Q What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Similar to most other companies, we faced many challenges posed by the pandemic: shifting to work-from-home, learning new tools and technologies, and adapting our business to deal with uncertainty and decreased demand.

But by focusing on our employees, giving them the tools and resources they need – whether it be for upskilling, or mental health challenges, or simple surprises – our teams are now stronger and more united.

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Tea break for the Medtronic team to enjoy together

Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in your organization, in terms of ROI? Any achievements you’d like to show off?

We received a +14-point increase in employee engagement and +12-point increase for inclusion, according to our latest employee engagement survey in Singapore, which took place at the peak of the pandemic. These double-digit increases are unusual; historically we rise by only a few points each survey.

Beyond that, we were able to return to business growth after a year of substantial decline in revenue and profit. Much of this is due to the motivation of our employees to learn and adapt to new ways of working.

The personal notes of appreciation and gratitude I’ve received from our employees are recognition that we are doing the right thing.

With this support of the company behind them, our employees were able to support our patients, physicians, and communities.

Q What is the most exciting and valuable thing about being part of (and winning at!) the debut Employee Experience Awards?

I am very pleased that our efforts are being recognised. As an employee, I’ve always known that Medtronic is a great company that looks after our people, and now more people outside our industry know it too.

It was our first attempt to join the Employee Experience Awards 2021 and we achieved five awards, which show us that we are doing something right. That said, there is a lot we learned from the other winners, and we will look to continue to improve.

Q Looking ahead, what else do you have planned as you continue to enhance the overall employee experience?

For our people, we will continue to enhance our employee experience from the time they join Medtronic. We are doing a lot to strengthen our onboarding across the region, consolidate our training and education offerings for all employees, and recognise teams’ efforts in new and impactful ways.

We will also continue to attract and retain the best talent, who will in turn make a difference in the lives of many patients in the years to come.

Q Do share tips to inspire your peers who are working on their EX strategies and would love to participate in the awards next year.

It sounds simple, but I always make sure to listen to my employees.

We have many channels through which APAC employees can tell me how they feel – often anonymously. I always put in the time and effort to read their feedback, and then address it by sharing my perspective or by notifying the right team.

We don’t always do things perfectly, but open and transparent communication at least helps employees know that we are trying. And that we are there to support them in the good (and especially bad) times.

Q Lastly, to end on a fun note – if you could describe the employee experience at your organization in one sentence, what would that be?

When you offer an exceptional experience to your employees, the best thing is that you don’t have to worry about retention. Their family members actually do, but for a different reason. Many of our employees said that their parents or kids have told them “don’t try to leave this company, you should work there till you retire. There’s no better place than Medtronic”. I think that’s the highest level of recognition we can get.

Image / Provided

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!

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