As a science and technology company, we are always looking for new solutions and working to evolve. Engaged, curious employees are key to our ability to innovate, and therefore also to our success. We need a corporate culture that broadens the knowledge base of our employees, one that creates exciting opportunities and motivates them to take a proactive role in shaping our company processes. Candid feedback from our employees helps show us where we have room for further improvement.
We strive to create a work environment that empowers our employees to think outside the box and seek new solutions, opening the door to creative ideas and the discovery of new market opportunities. To bolster employee engagement, we have set clear goals and defined the steps necessary to accomplishing them.
Rewarding innovative ideas
We seek to inspire our employees to think creatively. At our Darmstadt site, all workers are encouraged to submit suggestions for improvements within the company. We reward any ideas that are successfully implemented by offering employees a bonus based on how much the suggestion improves our processes or cuts down our costs.
In addition to rewarding good suggestions, we also regularly hold a Group-wide innovation competition called Innospire that allows employees to submit ideas for new business models. In contrast to our conventional idea management process, Innospire specifies the topic on which employee proposals should focus. Furthermore, we annually present the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Awards in recognition of outstanding ideas, teamwork and projects.
Innovating with young scientists
Our Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Biopharma Innovation Cup is targeted to recent graduates from around the world in an effort to spark the interest of young talent in our company, while also offering a forum for new ideas. We select 30 participants from a pool of applicants spanning the globe. During a one-week summer camp, they learn first-hand how research and development works in the pharmaceutical industry, collaborating with retired Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany employees to create new, innovative concepts. The team with the best concept receives a prize of € 20,000.
Making room for ideas
Over the last several years, our company has undergone a major evolution and grown through acquisitions. We are transforming our site in Darmstadt into a global headquarters that will bolster our ability to innovate, enabling us to respond flexibly to growth while also reflecting our corporate identity. To this end, we launched our strategic ONE Global Headquarters initiative in 2013.
The heart of our redesigned global headquarters is our new Innovation Center, scheduled for completion in 2017. In 2015, we opened a modular Innovation Center to give our employees room to explore their creativity by joining interdisciplinary teams and collaborating on pioneering projects.
Keeping employees informed and encouraging discourse
We keep our employees up to date and encourage discourse through a number of formats tailored to specific target groups. Take, for instance, our international collaboration platform EVA and our international employee magazine “pro”. This magazine is published in seven languages and is available in a digital format as well as via an app. Through “pro”, we reach more than 90% of our approximately 50,000 employees worldwide in their local language. Several subsidiaries also publish local editions of “pro”, for example in Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, and Russia. In addition to these formats, a variety of newsletters are also published by our businesses. Moreover, we publish articles on EVA and host various events to raise employee awareness of corporate responsibility issues.
Understanding our workforce
We seek to understand the needs of the people who work for us and therefore regularly conduct employee surveys. Engagement and Inclusion, a unit within our HR organization, creates and oversees these questionnaires. The results show us ways we can improve. After each survey, we plan improvements that are managed by the relevant units.
At the beginning of 2016, we revised our approach to employee surveys and had implemented the changes by the end of the year. To give us a better sense of the situation within the company as a whole and to better benchmark against our competitors, we will be conducting all future surveys across the entire Group.
We regularly include employee representatives in our decision-making processes. Within Germany, 14 of our subsidiaries have employee representation. Local works councils as well as an overall Group works council represent the interests of our workforce, discussing topics such as compensation, working hours, and organizational realignment. The Senior Executives Committee represents the interests of senior management, while the Euroforum represents our employees at the European level, focusing on the economic situation, employment rates and significant changes within our company.
Rewarding employee ideas
In 2016, our employees used our idea management program to submit approximately 2,300 suggestions for improvement, with 3,200 having been submitted in 2015. These ideas led to savings of approximately € 3.4 million in 2016 and approximately € 1.7 million in 2015. In recognition of their contributions, our employees received bonuses totaling € 0.7 million in each year.
In the 2015-2016 period, we reached out to our employees through our Innospire innovation program and asked them for proposals on new materials, systems and business models across 12 categories. This resulted in the submission of 680 proposals, more than twice as many as in 2014. Eight suggestions were transformed into actual business plans, four of which are currently being implemented.
The team that won the 2016 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Biopharma Innovation Cup proposed an innovative approach to controlling the transmission of schistosomiasis. Overall, more than 900 scientists from across 53 countries competed for this renowned honor.
Presented every year, the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Awards recognize outstanding employee ideas. In 2016, prizes were presented in the categories of Innovation, Change, Customer Focus, and Employee Development. In total, 55 teams and individuals competed for the awards. The project “Fertility technologies” won in the Innovation category.
Turning ideas into innovations
In 2015, the first group of project teams took up residence in our modular Innovation Center in Darmstadt, which is serving as a prototype for the future Innovation Center. Within the facility's walls, ten internal project teams are currently developing their ideas. We have also invited numerous external startups to take advantage of the center as part of the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Accelerator program, an initiative that supports fledgling enterprises. The startup teams move into the Innovation Center for three months at a time and receive financial assistance, training and access to our experts worldwide. The resulting exchange of ideas and best practices benefits not only the startups, but also our own teams.
The Innovation Center regularly conducts events, workshops, seminars, and webinars. Through these channels, we introduce our employees to new innovation methods such as design thinking. There is already a great deal of interest in this initiative. We also hope to accelerate the exchange of innovative ideas within the company and build a Group-wide network of innovation ambassadors. Furthermore, we plan to expand the scope of our Accelerator program, with a focus on locations with a thriving or burgeoning start-up culture. The first offshoot of this program took root in 2015 in Nairobi (Kenya).
Testing new forms of collaboration
In 2015, we launched our new collaboration platform EVA, which encompasses our global intranet for all subsidiaries and business sectors and furthermore consolidates numerous collaboration applications in one central location. According to an employee survey, EVA ranks as one of the most important internal communication media – second only to e-mail – receiving approximately 1.3 million hits from across 64 countries per month.
Globally harmonized employee engagement survey
Between December 2013 and June 2015, we conducted an Organizational Health Index (OHI) survey in all business units and Group functions, using the results to identify strategic focus topics and devise initiatives. In 2016 we continued our efforts to embed these topics more deeply into the organization. In November 2016, we conducted a global employee survey in 23 languages. Approximately 42,500 employees (83%) took part. A measure of employee engagement, our company-wide score was 60%, a level comparable to other companies in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. As of early 2017, we will be working with the results across the company.
Sparking young interest in science
Launched in 2016, the SPARK Global Volunteer Program offers our Life Science employees an opportunity to make a difference in the community by igniting a passion for science in the next generation.
Through our efforts to promote scientific education and research, we hope to have a positive impact on the local community. Beyond school programs, we are also supporting causes such as the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering in San Diego, CA (USA) and the Royal Society of Chemistry in Bangalore (India).
In the vicinity of our global headquarters in Darmstadt, we support a wide array of educational initiatives such as “Jugend forscht”, a state-level science competition for students that we host every year.