As a science and technology company, we are always searching for new solutions as we work to constantly develop and evolve further. Motivated, curious employees are crucial to our success, which is why we actively engage them in our efforts to advance our company. In this context, honest feedback from every individual helps us pinpoint the areas where we can and must do better.
Our approach to employee engagement
We seek to understand the needs of the people who work for us and therefore regularly conduct employee surveys, both Group-wide and within select countries, individual business sectors or specific projects. These surveys help to facilitate communication between managers and employees and also show us areas where we can improve. Moreover, such surveys are paramount to our company culture, which values dialogue and employee input.
In 2019, we rolled out a new Social and Labor Standards Policy that further bolsters the foundation for fair and open interactions with our employees.
How we engage our employees
The Engagement and Inclusion unit within our HR organization is responsible for employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, and also develops and manages our employee surveys.
We include local employee representatives in our company's decision-making processes, doing so regularly and extensively. Within Germany, 14 of our subsidiaries have employee representation, while 26 of our subsidiaries across eight other European nations have employee representative bodies (Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland). Collective agreements apply to 66% of all employees of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Local works councils as well as a Group works council represent our employees, discussing topics such as compensation, working hours and organizational realignments. The Senior Executives Committee advocates for the interests of our top leaders, while the Euroforum represents our employees at the European level. Focusing on the economic situation, employment rates and significant changes within our Group, this body covers all EU countries as well as Switzerland and Norway, although not all countries have their own delegate.
Our commitment: Group-wide Social and Labor Standards Policy
We are dedicated to upholding the appropriate and fair labor and social standards that are stipulated in our Human Rights Charter, which complements our own Code of Conduct with a set of global human rights principles. These include the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which cover freedom of association and collective bargaining, forced labor, child labor, anti-discrimination, equal opportunity, equal pay, working hours, occupational health and safety, and the prevention of abuse and harassment. In 2019, in consultation with renowned external human rights experts, we used a benchmark analysis as the basis for drafting and implementing a Group-wide guideline governing adherence to ILO labor standards. This new Social and Labor Standards Policy puts into practice the social and labor requirements of our Human Rights Charter and our Code of Conduct, emphasizing fair and respectful interactions. In addition, it makes clear that we do not tolerate any form of discrimination, physical or verbal harassment, or intolerance in the workplace. We conduct internal audits to ensure that our local subsidiaries comply with these principles.
Understanding our employees
To better gauge our performance both within our company and relative to our competitors, we conduct Group-wide employee surveys every year. In this way, we ensure a regular exchange between our employees, managers and leaders. The 2019 employee engagement survey revealed that 74% of our employees feel engaged at work. In 2019, we fundamentally changed the survey methodology, which means this year's results cannot be compared with those of previous years. Approximately 47,000 employees (88%) took part.
In addition, we moved forward with our Science Network project in 2019. Due to the broad positioning of our company, we do not have a central research and development organization that unites expertise across our businesses. However, our Science Network is advancing the formation of a science community within our company in a bid to drive internal collaboration and accelerate the exchange of innovative ideas. One component of this initiative is the Continuous Performance Dialogues, which engage 1,300 employees and their supervisors in a discourse to align performance and potential appraisals with research and development needs.
Encouraging and rewarding ideas
Our company has a long tradition of rewarding ideas. In 1853, we were the first industrial company in the world to contractually stipulate bonuses for successful employee suggestions for improvement, and approximately 60 years ago we laid out bylaws stipulating principles and rules for our ideation efforts. Our idea management program seeks to inspire our employees to think creatively and encourage them to contribute to the continuous improvement of our procedures and processes. We reward all ideas that are successfully implemented by offering employees a bonus based on how much the suggestion enhances our processes or cuts down our costs.
In 2019, our employees submitted approximately 1,570 suggestions for improvement via our Germany-wide ideation program. These ideas are expected to yield around € 2.4 million in cost savings in the first year. As a reward for their proposals, our employees received around € 370,000 in bonuses.
Besides these incentives, we annually present awards in recognition of outstanding ideas, teamwork and projects. In 2019, the Executive Board presented four teams consisting in total of 37 employees with awards in the categories of Performance, People, and Technology, along with a special CEO Award. Projects were submitted Group-wide by 111 teams from various countries, Group functions and business sectors.
Keeping employees informed and encouraging dialogue
We keep our employees up to date and encourage exchange through a number of formats tailored to specific target groups. Examples include our international intranet EVA or our international employee magazine “pro”, which is published in seven languages and is available in a digital format as well as an app. Since the end of 2018, the magazine has also been featuring podcasts on important company topics. “pro” has a readership covering more than 90% of our approximately 57,000 employees worldwide in their local language. Several subsidiaries also publish local editions, for example in Germany, Korea, Mexico, and Russia. Newsletters issued by individual business sectors also help keep employees informed.
EVA is our global intranet for all countries and business sectors. Ranking as one of the most important internal communication media – second only to e-mail – it receives approximately 2 million hits per month. A software permits the automatic translation of news into 22 languages and thus facilitates comprehension worldwide.