Unleash the power of our people
Unleashing the power of our people is central to fulfilling our purpose of reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. We are creating an organization where people can fully apply their talent and energy at work, and where culture is a source of long-term competitive advantage.
We are transforming our culture to ensure every employee feels inspired by our purpose, is curious about new ideas, and benefits from an unbossed environment in which leaders set clear objectives, remove obstacles and empower people to attain their goals. Our progress over the past several years helped us build resilience in the face of COVID-19. The pandemic also accelerated our transformation by connecting associates even more strongly to our purpose, creating new demands for learning, and demonstrating the benefits of empowered working.
Inspiring purpose – sustaining performance
A strong purpose inspires our people to make their maximum contribution to Novartis and to society. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance and urgency of the Novartis purpose into sharp focus, and gave employees a clear sense of the impact of their work in improving and extending people’s lives. The score for engagement in our quarterly employee survey reached an all-time high of 80 (out of 100) in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to 74 a year earlier. This was 7 points higher than the industry benchmark, and was also ahead of the benchmark for the top 20% of global companies.
Our primary concern in responding to COVID-19 was the safety of patients and employees. Preparations began as soon as the first signals emerged, and in March Novartis associates shifted to working from home whenever possible. We provided additional childcare support and paid leave for employees in critical roles who needed to be on site in laboratories or production facilities. We also stepped up an initiative to help employees and their families maintain health and well-being, and continued to roll out mindfulness and mental health support programs. To provide reassurance in uncertain times, we committed to no COVID-19-related job losses and did not furlough our people.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance and urgency of the Novartis purpose into sharp focus, and gave employees a clear sense of the impact of their work in improving and extending people’s lives
The pandemic accelerated our ambition to explore new working models. In July, we announced a global policy that gives office-based associates more flexibility in how, when and where they work, supported by a USD 28 million investment in work-from-home initiatives.
In 2021, we will begin full rollout of a new approach to performance management, following a successful pilot in 2020 that involved 16 000 employees, 96% of whom were positive about the change. The new approach involves being rated as teams instead of as individuals, receiving regular feedback from colleagues in addition to managers, and receiving more coaching to improve performance. In 2021, we introduced a simpler set of behaviors to help measure performance. These focus on the individual’s contribution to creating an inspired, curious and unbossed culture, as well as recognizing personal integrity.
Another important change to performance management was the rollout of Spark, an online platform that enables people to recognize outstanding be havior by colleagues. This was used by 71% of employees in 2020.
Where possible, Novartis provides benefits to all full- and part-time employees. These vary from country to country but usually include comprehensive health, well-being and retirement benefits, and generous vacation policies. In 2020, more than 2 700 employees took advantage of the company’s new parental leave guideline that offers at least 14 weeks’ paid leave to all new parents employed by Novartis, regardless of gender, to support the well-being of their families after the birth or adoption of a child. The guideline, announced in 2019, covers all employees worldwide as of January 2021.
The Novartis Board of Directors in 2020 approved a global Employee Share Purchase Plan covering all permanently employed Novartis associates. We aim to launch the plan in country waves over the next five years. It will give associates the option to use a percentage of their base salary to purchase Novartis shares at a discount.
Fostering a culture of curiosity and learning
In 2020, we continued to build a culture that stimulates curiosity by providing even more learning opportunities, and by increasing the level of skills in strategic areas such as data and digital. This was the second year of our pledge to “go big on learning,” involving an investment of USD 100 million over five years in addition to the regular annual training budget of around USD 200 million. Our aspiration is for all associates to devote 100 hours a year to learning. The average was 45.7 hours in 2020, up from 35.8 hours in 2019.
The pandemic caused a significant shift in learning requirements, and we responded by expanding our offerings to meet the changing needs of employees and their families. Usage of LinkedIn Learning increased to 7 000 hours a week in May, from 1 000 hours in February, and more than 8 600 people from outside Novartis took part in the first-ever Coursera friends and family program. Novartis also donated USD 1 million to the Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization providing free online education to millions of students worldwide.
With so many people working from home, more than 14 000 employees visited a portal providing support for remote working. Employees completed more than 175 000 courses from Coursera and LinkedIn Learning covering skills such as data science, artificial intelligence and leadership resilience. In many of these areas, we were ahead of industry benchmarks. We also launched online master’s degrees in data science, provided by Coursera in conjunction with the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois in the US. Novartis was the first company in the world to offer these courses free to employees.
An ongoing campaign called #wearecurious helped encourage learning, with more than 21 000 employees taking part in 215 webinars and other events during Curiosity Month in September. These totaled 60 000 hours of learning in topics such as innovation, digital skills, and access to medicines.
With so many people working from home, more than 14 000 employees visited a portal providing support for remote working
In the OurVoice survey, employees gave a score of 75 to opportunities for learning and growth, compared to 69 in 2019. The latest score was 5 points above the industry benchmark. We also conducted a separate study on the impact of learning on employee retention. The preliminary results indicated a significant correlation between voluntary learning and retention, and we aim to further study this topic in the future.
The emphasis on learning is one element in a five-year transformation of our overall talent strategy. This was launched in 2020 to ensure a proactive reskilling of the workforce, using data and analytical tools to predict the capabilities we will need in the future, and ensuring we have the best people in roles that deliver the greatest value.
Creating unbossed leadership
Two years ago, Novartis began reimagining its approach to leadership by pursuing an unbossed approach in which self-aware leaders support their teams by setting clear goals, removing obstacles and empowering people to realize their full potential. The pandemic demonstrated the power of “unboss” as employees quickly pivoted to new priorities and new ways of working together.
For example, a team in Global Drug Development was flooded with requests to study Novartis compounds for efficacy against COVID-19 in so-called investigator-initiated trials (IITs). Taking the initiative, they streamlined processes and used digital technology to reduce the review time for IIT requests to 48 hours from a month.
In 2020, more than 5 000 senior leaders took part in a long-term development program called the Unbossed Leadership Experience (ULE) to enhance the capabilities they need to transform our culture. The ULE challenges leaders’ assumptions and encourages them to learn about their impact on others. This ensures they are equipped to lead in an ever-changing and increasingly complex environment. The quarterly Leadership Perspectives survey showed a significant increase in self-awareness among leaders who completed the ULE, resulting in higher levels of openness and trust, and greater team effectiveness. In 2020, we converted the ULE into a fully virtual program, and the goal is to make it available to 20 000 leaders by 2023.
More than 5 000 senior leaders took part in a long-term development program called the Unbossed Leadership Experience to enhance the capabilities they need to transform our culture
Ensuring a diverse and inclusive organization
Creating a diverse and inclusive environment is a fundamental part of our aspiration to be inspired, curious and unbossed. We embrace diverse perspectives and value inclusive behavior. Only by being themselves every day can people fully apply their talent and energy at work.
Novartis strives to adhere to the highest standards of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in our culture and values, as embodied in the company’s Code of Ethics. We believe this helps drive innovation, generates new ideas, and brings us closer to patients and other stakeholders.
In 2020, the importance of D&I was demonstrated by heightened awareness of racial disparity across many societies. To promote understanding and support our ongoing efforts toward meaningful change, we created opportunities for open dialogue on racial equity, and shared guidance and resources for additional learning. More than 4 800 people took part in an interactive global webcast to mark the African American Juneteenth celebration, followed by a Day of Reflection in September attended by 6 700 associates worldwide.
To make sure everyone feels heard, respected and valued as a member of our global community, we encourage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – voluntary networks linking employees who have shared backgrounds, interests, experiences and perspectives. There are now 60 such groups active across the company.
We made progress toward our United Nations Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) pledge to achieve gender balance in management and further improve pay equity and transparency processes by 2023. The percentage of women in overall management rose to 45% in 2020, from 44% a year earlier. Additionally, by February 2021 we will have introduced pay transparency in 16 countries, including the US and Switzerland, so employees can compare their salary to external benchmarks.
We also made progress in removing possible gender bias from our recruiting system by eliminating historical salary data when making job offers across 75% of global hiring, up from 40% in 2019. Novartis has a global median pay gap of –3.1%, and a global mean pay gap of +3.6%. While we acknowledge this percentage is influenced by worldwide workforce demographics, this is significantly ahead of the Bloomberg benchmarks of +19% median and +23% mean. Our parental leave and work-from-home initiatives are also expected to positively influence the gender pay gap by enabling employees to further balance their work and family commitments. Recognizing our progress, Novartis was again included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, a listing of companies that achieve the highest standards in measures of inclusion such as female empowerment and gender pay parity.
We made progress toward our United Nations Equal Pay International Coalition pledge to achieve gender balance in management and further improve pay equity and transparency processes by 2023
Novartis was the first major pharmaceutical company to support the United Nations’ LGBTI Standards of Conduct, which seek to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in the workplace. In June, more than 3 000 Novartis employees from 67 countries took part in Pride Month celebrating LGBTI inclusion, and we introduced sponsors to champion LGBTI awareness at senior levels.
Novartis prepares an inclusion index to measure our progress toward creating an inclusive environment that treats all employees with dignity and respect. The composite score was 74 in November 2020, up from 69 a year earlier.
Our achievements were also recognized externally. In the Refinitiv D&I Index, we were No. 1 in our industry and No. 9 overall out of more than 9 000 companies worldwide, marking the third consecutive year in the top 10. We maintained our strong position in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World), which compares the environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of leading companies, with a percentile score of 91 compared with 87 in 2019. We achieved a maximum score on DJSI’s labor practice indicators and human capital development criteria. In addition, Novartis achieved sectorleading performances on human capital from MSCI and Sustainalytics, two other third-party ESG rating agencies.