When it comes to company culture, Takeda had a good 2015. Last year, the company was named among Chicago’s 100 Top Workplaces by the Chicago Tribune; Working Mother Magazine included them on its 100 Best Companies list based on the company’s family-friendly benefits and programs; Chicagoland adoption agency, The Cradle, awarded the company with a Silver Cradle Award for strong employee benefits that help make adoption a viable option for families; and the company’s own Takeda Cares Day, an initiative to raise money for local nonprofit organizations in health, science education and community vitality, had its highest level employee participation in its five-year history.
Every company is always open to new ideas on how they can improve their own company culture, so PM360 spoke with Laurene Giagnorio, SVP, Head of Human Resources and Administration at Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. Giagnorio is responsible for ensuring the right talent is in place, challenged, and rewarded to drive high engagement and company performance. She offered insights into Takeda’s award-winning programs, where they get their ideas for new employee programs and benefits, and advice regarding how other companies can achieve similar success.
PM360: What makes for a positive work environment or good company culture and what aspects are important for that?
Laurene Giagnorio: That actually is a nice question to start with because at Takeda, that’s an easy answer. It’s our core values and principles that make for a strong company culture. Everything we do centers around patients and building trust with employees, patients and society. Our reputation is very important, and of course, we’re a business. So we’re interested in delivering superior business performance.
But getting back to our core values—we call them “Takeda-ism,” and it is a very basic approach to a value-based company where we pledge to act with integrity. The core values include honesty, perseverance and fairness, and all of those things are really ingrained in how we do business at Takeda. And it’s been that way since the beginning of time at Takeda, which is 235 years ago.
We also really focus on listening to employees to understand what’s important to them. We find that doing that really engages them and helps them feel connected—and through that, they do their best work.
I’ve heard other companies mention similar core values. But I’m wondering, how does a company go beyond mentioning these similar buzzwords and actually achieve a culture that implements those principals?
You’re right, because you can put a lot of nice things on paper that don’t necessarily come true day to day. You have to be dedicated to it and focus on it. When I started with Takeda and we started talking about our corporate culture and values, we had an interesting dialogue with the office in Japan. As we talked through these values, we wrote them down so that we could have shared culture and shared meaning. But they said they had never done that before because it was just so much of who they are.
They said that their culture was really in the air that they breathed, and it seemed very strange for them to write them down. The first step for us was actually putting words around them so everyone could really understand what Takeda was about and what it means to be part of this company. We focus on that quite a bit. We integrate our values into our communications. They are foundational for our community service programs. They are foundational for our people, policies, and how we make decisions, and how essentially we treat people day-to-day.
So say a new employee starts at the company. How are they introduced to these values?
It is actually a big part of our day one orientation for new employees in which they hear about the history of Takeda, the history of the values, how we have integrated them throughout all of the locations for Takeda worldwide, and how they come to life every day at Takeda—regardless of what location you’re working in.
And does this start even before they’re hired? Does part of the interview process and/or search for new employees involve finding people that can meet these values?
It definitely is part of the way we source candidates. We have these values integrated into our behavior statements and those behavior statements are foundational to our interview process. This results in every person who’s talking to potential candidates doing the same thing and having that as a checkpoint to see how people would make decisions. It’s another assessment before anybody joins.
Generally, a good company culture translates to a positive work environment. It also tends to make you more attractive to potential employees. But I was curious as to whether there are other advantages that people don’t typically associate with developing a strong work environment?
While we’re interested in people being happy to work here, what we look for is people who are engaged and who are feeling a partnership with the company. Our company culture means we get a lot of feedback and input from employees about the programs we’re going to have and how we’re going to put together the programs and the policies that guide us day-to-day.
In terms of soliciting employee feedback, what do you learn from employees? Are you more interested in measuring how current programs are working or what’s missing that employees would want?
We do a few different surveys. We do a global survey, which has the questions you would expect. It talks about people’s view on their pay and benefits, the work environment, the leadership and the direction of the company. We also do local surveys at different sites. We do these surveys to get the feedback that I mentioned earlier to be sure that we understand what’s important to Takeda’s employees.
It’s funny because every year that we do the survey, pay and benefits is always high on the list, and our last survey was no different. But one thing that I can highlight as particularly interesting is the value people put on flexibility. That’s one example of where we have really tried to tailor our programs around delivering what employees are most interested in, basically what matters most to them.
Did you discover anything else surprising that changed or affected what benefits or programs you offered to your employees?
One example that really hits home: We were looking at some survey results and we were surprised at how high work/life balance, and particularly schedule flexibility, ranked with our employees. So we took a closer look at one of our most popular programs: Summer hours, which you’re probably familiar with as a lot of companies, particularly in the cooler climates, have Friday afternoons off. You have four nine-hour days and Friday is a half day, and people loved that so much that we expanded summer hours all year round.
It was the feedback we got from employees and how much they valued that and it that made such a big difference. The only thing our employees may have liked more than that change is when we changed our dress code policy to basically just say, “Manage it yourself and dress for your day.” Employees can wear jeans on any given day depending on what was scheduled for them, which I think is exceptional among U.S. pharmaceutical companies.
Do you have any other examples of programs that employees seem particularly pleased with?
What stands out to me is the fact that Takeda’s ranking in Working Mothers 100 Best Companies improved last year from 57 to 37. I think our renewed focus on diversity and inclusion played a big part in it, but I also think it was a result of some of the unique benefits we offer to working parents.
We offer paid time off, adoption assistance, fertility assistance, but we also have some unique ways to support new moms. For example, we offer reimbursement for any cost associated with storing or shipping breastmilk during business travel.
Do you have anything new planned for 2016?
We’re looking to expand on our effort around diversity and inclusion. We had a big push in creating our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and we currently have four in place for women, working parents, veterans and the LGBTQ community. Takeda’s ERGs are employee led, with each group having access to a dedicated executive sponsor. And we recently announced that we’re forming two new groups: One for African-American employees and one for Latino employees.
Besides employee feedback, what else do you do to generate new ideas for programs that would benefit your employees?
We do a little bit of everything. We participate in a survey to benchmark our health and welfare plans to be sure that we are where we are placed, which is competitive plus, and that we’re maintaining that so we keep an eye on what’s happening there. We also have the benefit of getting new ideas from people who come from other companies or just from people who are out and about either at conferences or meetings at other corporate offices. We’ve actually gotten a lot of great insight and sparks of inspiration from that.
Do you have any recent examples of that?
One of our employees went to a meeting in a different office building nearby. The office had a genius bar in their lobby, similar to what you would find in an Apple Store, because they found it was more convenient for employees to stop by that help desk area as they were moving through the campus. The employee mentioned it to me and suggested how it might also work at Takeda. As a result, this is an idea we are now considering.
One last question: I don’t expect you to be able to solve all of a company’s problems, but if another company is looking to implement a better company culture, what tips or suggestions would you offer?
Oh gosh, that’s a big question. I can’t speak for other companies but if I had any advice for them I would say, “Listen to the people who work for you because that’s where you’re going to really find out what matters most.”