Unleash the power of our people

A great strength of Novartis is our people, whose energy and creativity are crucial to successfully implementing the company’s strategy. In 2018, we pursued two approaches to help unleash the power of our people: We embarked on a transformation of the Novartis culture to ensure people can be at their best, and we enhanced our strategy for attracting, developing and retaining talented individuals who will embody this new culture.

Transforming the Novartis culture

The company’s culture is central to stimulating innovation, driving performance and maintaining our reputation. Our goal is to ensure employees feel inspired, curious and unbossed. We are evolving to a culture where leaders set clear goals, serve their teams, and remove obstacles rather than controlling and micromanaging employees. Team members are empowered to take ownership of their work and are encouraged to collaborate across the organization to maximize their impact.

Four steps to transform our culture

Four steps to transform our culture (graphic )

The need for change was highlighted in a survey involving nearly 14 000 employees in May. The Organizational Culture Inventory® provided a deeper understanding of the company’s culture, and a baseline for measuring progress. The survey showed that employees overwhelmingly enjoy coming to work and are proud of the company, but it also revealed concerns about competitive behaviors and the desire for a more collaborative style of working.

The Novartis Board of Directors and Executive Committee reviewed assessments of the company’s culture and our plans for pursuing change.

We are taking four major steps to transform our culture. First, we are ensuring that employees understand our aspirations and are inspired to take action. For example, in January 2018 we created a group on our internal social network that brings together more than 120 000 members, with over 94 000 active users and almost 7.3 million messages shared. In May, we organized an online crowdsourcing event called generate.action to gather proposals for implementing culture change. About 27 000 employees participated, submitting 2 400 ideas and casting 158 000 votes on the best ways to unleash the power of our people. A pitch event was held in January 2019 to seek endorsement for the companywide rollout of the most popular proposals, including initiatives to support continuing education and adopt more family-friendly policies. In addition, the way we describe our Novartis Values and Behaviors – innovation, collaboration, courage, performance, integrity and quality – has been refined to encourage an inspired, curious and unbossed culture.

About 27 000 employees took part in generate.action, our online crowdsourcing event seeking ways to implement culture change

A second major step is helping employees apply the new culture in their daily activities. We have made clear to leaders our expectation that they should inspire and empower others, display curiosity and be self-aware. These expectations are reflected in a new 360-degree assessment that forms the foundation for leadership development in the company, and are embedded in our immersive development programs. For our top 350 leaders, we launched a year-long program to build the capabilities they need to transform the culture and meet the new expectations. This intensive leadership journey involves a significant investment of time to benefit from the webinars, simulations, social learning and personalized coaching support.

We also designed an online tool called Team Perspectives to help managers improve their leadership skills by receiving upward feedback from their teams. The company’s top 350 leaders received initial feedback during the Novartis Leadership Forum in September, and formed small networks to provide support as they change their approach. Team Perspectives will be expanded to include all 12 500 leaders in 2019.

The third step for transforming our culture is to ensure the company’s internal environment and processes encourage people to do their best work. For example, the process for reviewing employees’ performance has been improved with simpler, informal check-ins, putting more emphasis on conversation and reducing written documentation. In addition, we have introduced a companywide business performance factor, which is one element used to determine employees’ annual bonuses. This replaced 57 different performance factors based on individual groups or divisions, in a move designed to stimulate enterprise-wide thinking.1

1 This typically excludes sales associates, who have a different incentive system.

Finally, we are taking steps to help employees sustain their energy and impact, both at work and in every other aspect of their lives. An initiative called Energized for Life encourages more flexible working practices and greater well-being through a range of programs, such as health and disease awareness. This includes our partnership with a company that helps people maximize their personal impact. We also launched a program to support employees who are affected by cancer and cardiovascular and neurological diseases. It currently operates in Brazil, India, Italy, Switzerland and the US, and we plan to expand its reach in 2019.

We will measure progress in evolving our culture by repeating the Organizational Culture Inventory® on a regular basis, to track employees’ behavior and engagement as organizational changes take effect. In addition, the previous biennial Global Employee Survey will be replaced by instantly accessible tools to detect changing sentiment in real time – for instance by analyzing internal communications, and conducting simple and frequent surveys to measure and address employees’ motivations and degree of engagement.

Talent strategy

No. 2

Novartis ranking in the 2018 Thomson Reuters D&I Index, which evaluates companies based on 24 metrics across four categories: diversity, inclusion, people development and news controversies


Our approach to empowering our people is inspired by ideas explored in the book “UNBOSS” by Lars Kolind and Jacob Bøtter

Our success also depends on attracting, developing and retaining people who embody our desired culture. We have maintained our focus on promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I), and were ranked second out of more than 7 000 companies in the 2018 Thomson Reuters D&I Index, up from sixth in 2017. Demonstrating our focus on inclusion, in 2018 Novartis became the first major pharmaceutical company to support the United Nations’ workplace standards protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

An EPIC pledge

In 2018, Novartis pledged support for the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), which is committed to achieving equal pay between men and women for work of equal value

In September, Novartis also joined the United Nations Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), with a pledge to continue its global practice of conducting regular gender pay equity analyses and remediating where appropriate. To help prevent pay differences, we have pledged to avoid using historic salary data when making job offers and to ensure transparency by telling employees how their pay compares to internal and external benchmarks.

Novartis remains committed to achieving gender balance in management within five years

Novartis remains committed to achieving gender balance in management within five years. Currently, four of the 19 senior positions reporting to the CEO are held by women. Two of them are ECN members, up from zero in 2017. Women make up 42% of management2 – the same as in 2017. Of the top 350 leaders, 28% are women, a slight increase from 2017.

2 Defined by Global Job Family Architecture and Novartis Top Leaders

Our work in developing people was recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, a key measure of companies’ performance in the environmental, social and governance spheres. In 2018, Novartis maintained its strong position with an overall ranking of No. 4 in the world, and was recognized as industry leader in the field of human capital development. We are preparing plans to address areas where there is further scope for improvement, such as talent attraction and retention.

Another major component of our talent strategy in 2018 was the development of an Employer Value Proposition (EVP), which captures our appeal as a place to work and provides a framework for attracting talented people. Managers and recruiters can use a toolkit of EVP materials to target candidates with specific experience and career goals. We have also increased our social media presence on websites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor.


Percentage of our top 350 leaders who have at least one successor prepared to take over right away

In addition to external recruitment, Novartis has a strong track record of promoting home-grown talent. More than 50% of ECN members (including the CEO) and 15% of our top 350 leaders changed roles in the last 12 months, and 70% of these positions were filled through internal promotion. Our succession pipeline also remains strong, with 79% of the top 350 leaders having at least one successor ready to take over immediately.

A major focus for the company is to build our talent pipeline and capabilities in the digital arena

A major focus for the company is to build our talent pipeline and capabilities in the digital arena. During 2018, we launched interactive online education that covers many aspects of digital technology and is open to all employees, as well as a series of leadership simulations to help managers enhance their digital skills. To learn more, see the chapter “Go big on data and digital.