How to be an employer of choice

Lisa Price, head of HR ANZ at Boehringer Ingelheim, explains company's winning approach

How to be an employer of choice

What does it take to be a top employer?

Boehringer Ingelheim has a pretty good idea, having been recognized globally by the Top Employers Institute for three years in a row.

In Australia and New Zealand, the company has been recognised for its standout practices in people strategy, leadership, organisational change, and the work environment.

“The owners are family members with an approach to be the custodians of the business to hand on to the next generation,” said Lisa Price, head of human resources ANZ at the pharmaceutical company.

“From a business perspective this means we take a long-range view, and while remaining commercially orientated, the investment is there for the long-term. The decisions about our people and business are considered for their long-term benefits rather than rushed for short-term gain.”

Focused on careers, flexible work

In addition, the Australia and New Zealand branches prioritise career breaks, education support, and flexible working, according to Price.

The career breaks enable people to take extended time away from work, from six months up to a year. The policy was originally developed in response to a desire from team members to travel, she said.

“What we’ve found is that there are a range of reasons that our people use this offering – from returning to study full-time, to care for family members, or to completely recharge and refresh. As we source contractors to cover for a career break, the upside is that we can build our bench of potential longer-term joiners.”

As for education support, that enables employees to take up part-time tertiary study “to build their capabilities and realise their career plans,” said Price. “It’s a scheme where up to 75% of fees are reimbursed and includes additional study leave.”

Fidelity Investments recently announced that it will pay for employees' undergraduate degrees in a new benefit that will help attract and retain employees amid a heated war for talent.

The flexible working at Boehringer covers working from home/working on site, alongside a range of start and finish times, and part-time job share options.

“This approach enables our people to better manage their work-life commitments,” she said.

Training and onboarding

Boehringer Ingelheim also take training and onboarding very seriously and has a comprehensive program set-up. They believe this enhances the employee experience and builds a successful culture.

“Formal onboarding is a three-month program, structured to build knowledge and working relationships over time,” Price said. “All our people have customised performance and development plans, with regular check-ins on progress. Supervisors are there to guide, coach and provide feedback.”

Ultimately, the plan is owned by the individual, she said.

“An effective onboarding process should take a total of 15 hours across 90 days for a new hire’s manager,” says one expert speaking to HRD.

Boehringer mostly promotes from within, giving employees a clear career path. This encourages employees to remain loyal, as well as building trust, she said.

“In terms of training, our ‘classroom’ offerings are based on building humanistic skills such as influencing, stakeholder management and collaboration,” Price said. “The main source of growth for our people comes through their everyday work – pioneering new and creative ways to fulfil the needs of customers. This is where they extend themselves and break new ground. These examples are then showcased as stories of inspiration and recognised at a company level.”

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