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iOptimas Award -i Global Outlook A People Strategy That Spans the Globe

May 29, 2003
Related Topics: Global Outlook, Featured Article, HR & Business Administration
You’re Novo Nordisk, a Danish company that does life-savingwork--thetreatment of diabetes, which the World Health Organization estimates will affect300 million people worldwide by 2025. You are a pioneer in corporate socialresponsibility, rating company performance not just in bottom-line terms butalso in its social and environmental impact and achievements. You already have18,000 employees in 68 countries. So there’s no need to worry about yourability to attract and retain employees, right?

    Actually, there is, says Peter Møller, Novo Nordisk’s vice president,business and organization. "Novo Nordisk is only world famous in Denmark. Wehave to make an extra effort to be able to attract the best employees."

    Novo Nordisk also has ambitious growth plans--to double the number ofemployees between 2000 and 2010. And, Møller says, "we are a small companycompared to our competitors, so outside Denmark, we have to be better to attractpeople."

    Attracting and retaining the best people is one part of the company’sfive-pronged "People Strategy," which also targets customer relations,development of people, equal opportunities, and the creation of a winningculture. Novo Nordisk identified the five focus areas several years ago, usingan analysis of how the company would develop, Møller says. "We identified thefive focus areas, and determined they would be relevant for all units in thecompany, regardless of function or geography."

    The People Strategy, along with an annual strategic-planning process and theguiding principles of Novo Nordisk’s "Way of Management," directs all ofthe company’s human resources strategies, whether they’re being executed inIndia, Denmark, or the United States.

    "Our challenge is to develop a global mind-set and at the same time hold onto our values and culture," Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Rebien Sørensen writes inan introduction to a guide to the People Strategy. Because a unified humanresources strategy is key to helping Novo Nordisk succeed in the worldmarketplace, the company is the 2003 Optimas winner for Global Outlook.

    When Møller and his colleague Lars Almblom Jørgensen, Novo Nordisk’sexecutive vice president and chief of staffs, came to New York in March toaccept the Optimas Award, Møller still seemed a little abashed at the fact thatthe company had won. "In all fairness," Møller had said a few monthsearlier, during the research process for the Optimas Awards, "the five focusareas we’ve identified as relevant for all the business units are not rocketscience." But, he added, they’re developed and pursued differently at NovoNordisk, with top-to-bottom attention and follow-through.

    Novo Nordisk arms each of the business units with a guide for making thePeople Strategy work. It spells out the five focus areas. It explains that year’starget for each focus point, such as what percentage of employees expect to meetwith a diabetes patient and talk to him about the illness and its impact, whichis a cornerstone of the company’s customer-relations focus. It shows how NovoNordisk employees achieved goals in the focus areas. It also provides a "toolbox"for how the unit can meet its targets.

    HR employees set the targets, and a draft goes up to the Novo Nordiskmanagement committee. When the targets are approved, they’re integrated intothe company’s balanced scorecard. Performance toward the targets of the PeopleStrategy is factored into top management’s compensation.

    The emphasis on those targets appears to be effective. In 2002, 80 percent ofNovo Nordisk’s employees had a conversation with a person who has diabetes.Nirmal Kumar Jain, a regulatory affairs executive in India, said his meetingwith a diabetes patient "made me feel that I should start contributing bywhatever means possible."

Workforce, June 2003, p. 76 -- Subscribe Now!

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