How can life sciences companies support employees in maintaining the mission to improve — and save — lives when their own work and personal lives are so disrupted by the pandemic? Leaders of key industry organizations share strategies to care for and motivate their teams during a long and difficult period.
The three leaders described the importance of promoting awareness, connection and support.
For employees to take a personal interest in the mission, they need to take a personal interest in the beneficiaries of the mission. Refer to the mission frequently, and make it personal with stories about individual patients.
“Our mission is to deliver superior care that improves the quality of life every single day for every patient.”
– Anjana Harve
Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Fresenius Medical Care North America
Every meeting begins with a reminder of the mission at both Fresenius Medical Care North America and The Discovery Labs, according to Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Anjana Harve and Co-founder and Executive Managing Director Audrey Greenberg, respectively.
At Fresenius Medical Care, said Harve, “We start with questions. ‘How does this impact our patient?’ ‘What does this mean for the front-line employees who are caring for our patients?’ ‘What can we do to improve that so we can ultimately improve the care of patients?’ And our CEO kicks off every town hall with a letter from a patient. It reminds us why we are here.”
Routinely, not in COVID times, new employees visit company facilities, Harve said. They spend hours or an entire day at a clinic, or a manufacturing or distribution site. It’s a way to experience what otherwise is far removed from the job. In this way, for example, a supply chain professional learns first-hand that what impacts the supply chain impacts a patient’s access to necessities for care.
“Our mission is assuring the affordability and accessibility of cell and gene therapy for patients.”
– Audrey Greenberg
Co-founder and Executive Managing Director
The Discovery Labs
Patient-centricity, said Greenberg, is brought to mind constantly when the mission is incorporated into team-building and other activities. Make mission awareness part of the conversation with a prospective employee. Weave it throughout onboarding and into operations, execution, strategy and day-to-day work, as well as in annual planning.
“Our receptionist understands that you don’t know what someone’s going through and to have respect and positivity for everyone around, said Greenberg. “Our accounts payable people understand that if a bill or an invoice isn’t paid in a timely and accurate manner, that can mean a life-saving therapy doesn’t get to a patient. Understanding how each individual contributes to the greater whole is very important.”
Similarly, encouraging a collaborative spirit among the entire staff builds a mission-focused team. The message from leadership should be for employees to remind themselves that they’re not siloed in the job but rather working together to achieve the mission. At Kite Pharma, a Gilead Company, said Executive Director, Program and Portfolio Management Jonathan Tayco, procurement and logistics professionals are connected by the mission to front-line workers including physicians.
“Our primary mission is getting cell therapy to patients to cure cancer.”
– Jonathan Tayco
Executive Director, Program and
Kite Pharma, a Gilead Company
The key is communicating that the importance of each job lies in the connection with others in their jobs to provide products, therapy and other services to patients. “You can get bogged down on a certain deliverable,” said Tayco, “but once in a while you have to step back and remind yourself and your colleagues that it all goes back to the patient.”
Activities such as Kite’s Stay Connected Forums create bonds as both new and current employees have Q&A sessions about how departments and teams operate, how others interact and how every aspect of their work is part of the drive to the mission.
Watching out for the well-being of staff, such as helping them be realistic about work-life balance, is a way to pay it forward in the mission. “For weeks after the lockdown started,” Tayco said, “I had to check around midnight to see who in my group was still online. Usually more than half still were. I’d ask them to log off.”
At that same time, Harve’s IT team responded quickly to provide the necessary tools and technology in the office and remotely. Properly equipping employees not only enables them to perform their jobs but also reminds them that you’re paying attention during a time of stress. Besides offering benefits from the organization itself, encouraging employees to watch out for each other multiplies the eyes and ears on the lookout for issues. As an example of a support network, Harve’s company has proposed adopting a clinic with notes and treats to uplift front-line workers’ spirits.
A culture of flexibility is critical to helping your people maintain both sides of life, home and professional. Make it clear you understand the constraints. “Promote family life,” said Greenberg, “and offer special amenities.” Take a personal approach to imparting a mission-driven culture with currently far-flung employees. “We’ve been doing virtual lunch-and-learns where people receive a gift card for a lunch delivery,” Greenberg said.
As one other way to support your staff in their work of supporting the mission, request reports of finding positives in their new environment. Share observations of more family time, less commuting and successes in patient outcomes.
National Managing Principal
Organizational and Operational Transformation
+1 609 937 3130