Innovation, social responsibility, and loyal employees—these are most important traits of a workplace, according to an international survey of biotech and pharma employees.
The survey is conducted annually by Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
This year, two Nordic-based companies—Novozymes and Novo Nordisk—were rated among the world’s top five biotech/pharma employers. Novozymes was number two, after U.S.-based Regeneron. The company was praised for being an innovative leader. Novo Nordisk, at number five, stood out for social responsibility. Both companies scored well in the categories of having loyal employees and a work culture aligned with employee values.
Numbers from Novozymes support the loyalty and aligned culture: Just around than 5% of R&D employees leave voluntarily, so retention is high. President and CEO Peder Holk Nielsen says the work culture includes a strong commitment to research. “Our leadership appreciates the value of the science and technology,” he says, “so our whole culture is one of business development and innovation.”
The company is science driven, says Novozymes Senior Vice President and Head of Research & Technology Claus Crone Fuglsang, which creates a collegial atmosphere. “The way we interact is like the science environment at a university,” he says. “We value collaboration.”
Novozymes has been developing and growing since separating from Novo Nordisk in 2000 to become a standalone company, Fuglsang says. In the Nordic region, he says, the company is well known and attracts excellent employees. “We’re working to expand that culture across the globe,” he says, “not creating uniformity, but duplicating our recipe for motivated, happy employees.”
Fuglsang says the recipe includes creating products of value to clients that also have social benefits. Examples are enzymes that reduce toxic waste in the textile industry or convert biomass to biofuels. “Our reputation comes from changes we can make through our products,” he says. Transparency is another priority. “What you hear about our company has to be what you experience when you get in the door,” he says, “otherwise you lose trust.”
A triple bottom line
The basis of Novo Nordisk’s reputation as an excellent workplace is also its science, says Chief Science Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen. “Novo Nordisk was founded by a Nobel Prize winner, August Krogh,” he says. “We continue to focus on the science of innovative medicines.” The company invested years in developing its newest diabetes drugs, showing that perseverance is also fundamental to Novo Nordisk. This focus and persistence tells employees that their work has meaning, Thomsen says. “Every day, you know you are going to work to help patients with serious unmet medical needs,” he says, “whether its in diabetes, hemophilia, obesity, or another serious condition.”
The high marks for social responsibility that the company earned in the top employer survey reflect a dedication to the triple bottom line: Novo Nordisk measures performance in social and environmental as well as financial terms. With its Scandinavian roots, being a socially responsible citizen, for example in funding global efforts to prevent diabetes, is just part of the Novo Nordisk heritage, Thomsen says. And employees appreciate that.
The next survey in 2018 will show if Nordic companies (including Lundbeck in Valby, Denmark, which was number 20 in 2017) still make the list. Novozymes, Fuglsang says, will continue to cultivate a workplace in which employees feel respected for contributing to meaningful work. “Our values can’t be just words,” he says. “We have to actually live them. When everyone is engaged and believes in what they’re doing, it’s contagious.”