Good leaders are crucial to the success of not only our employees, but also our company. Because they provide our talent with the right framework to unleash their potential and generate new ideas, we place great importance on the continuing education and development of our managers. Within our company, many teams collaborate across sites and national borders, and therefore fostering global collaboration is a central theme in the professional training and growth of our leaders.
Our approach to good leadership
The People Strategy serves as a basis for our continuous efforts to attract, retain and develop our leaders and our talent. We place special focus on actively engaging and challenging our leaders to become “leaders of people”.
Our strategic competency model describes the core competencies that underpin the conduct of our employees at all levels of the hierarchy (see diagram).
In our day-to-day work, these core competencies play an important role in our success. The competency model provides the foundation for all our Human Resources programs and processes. Employees and supervisors discuss specific growth and development needs, as well as the progress made with development measures already introduced.
Our competency model is also applicable to our leaders. By setting an example, they play a key role in embedding the competencies across our organization. In addition, the model defines the leadership culture through which we intend to grow our business. Building on this framework, we defined six leadership behaviors that summarize the way we expect our leaders to act.
By participating in employee surveys, our employees can also assess various factors, such as leadership quality within the company.
How we facilitate good leadership
We expect our leaders to be attuned to the needs of their diverse teams and therefore provide them with support in the form of resources and data. At the same time, they can access transparent feedback through specially developed tools in order to find out about the impact of their behavior. We work with external providers to train our leaders on approaches to good leadership that are scientifically-based and well-established within the business world.
How we structure our human resources management
The Human Resources (HR) department is responsible for advising all business sectors and Group functions. It addresses the needs of our employees, organization and company culture. Across all our sites, HR employees work hand-in-hand with leaders from the various functions and business sectors to develop attractive compensation models and benefits, along with strategies to engage our people even more strongly and in accordance with Group-wide HR guidelines and requirements. Every two to three years, we carry out internal audits to check that the guidelines are being implemented. As we continue to integrate Versum Materials and Intermolecular, we review our HR policies and guidelines and make adjustments as necessary.
Our Vice Chair of the Executive Board and Deputy CEO is responsible for Group Human Resources. Our Chief HR Officer, in charge of the various HR activities, HR experts and HR business partners, reports directly to her. Our Merck Business Services unit oversees the operational tasks of human resources work, such as drafting contracts and payroll accounting. The Executive Board member and Chief Financial Officer is responsible for this unit.
Our six leadership behaviors describe good leadership in our Group. They are based on our corporate strategy, our competency model and our company values. To do this, we analyzed best practices from other companies and compared the leadership behaviors we defined with market standards. We regularly inform executives and employees through global campaigns about the Leadership behaviors. We also integrated these behaviors into all HR processes, such as training, recruitment, and feedback processes.
The pandemic is bringing about far-reaching changes to the world of work
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, our crisis management has revolved around how best to support our staff.
We developed Group-wide guidelines, taking into account the different pandemic histories and regulations from country to country. These guidelines regulate the physical presence of employees at the company workplace and working remotely. They contain generally applicable hygiene regulations, support employees to balance work, childcare and family obligations and protect employees with special personal health risks.
We offer our managers guidelines for team discussions in order to adapt internal team collaboration in light of the crisis situation and the changed working conditions. This is meant to create an inclusive atmosphere. In addition, we offer Group-wide training courses on “Virtual Leadership”, “Employee Welfare” and “Working remotely”. We also extended our telephone social counseling to all countries. We offer psychological counseling to our employees and their families in the event of mental stress.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, we recognized that the necessary adjustments to our way of working also offered opportunities – for the future development of our working model. As part of our crisis management efforts, we formed the working group “Future Ways of Working” in 2020, which aims to make use of the experience gained during the crisis and it is developing principles for our future cooperation, even after the pandemic. The focus is on:
- Flexible working models: We want to expand our existing flexible working models throughout the Group. Depending on the area of activity and in agreement with their supervisors, employees should be able to use a hybrid working model. This means they can divide their work time in a balanced way between their workplace and other locations, such as home. In addition, we want to offer our staff an alternative to full-time employment with part-time or job-sharing models. Furthermore, we are creating location-independent roles with defined job requirements so that we can recruit talent in all parts of the world.
- New technologies: We continue to invest in new technologies. For example, by increasing the use of artificial intelligence, we are enabling our employees to develop and build new skills that will be critical in the future.
- Management training: We will continue to train our managers so that they acquire the necessary skills. This is the only way they can responsibly lead their employees in challenging times.
Management and talent programs for leaders
To enhance the skills of our people managers, we offer three different programs:
- The Managerial Foundation Program imparts the basics of leadership, such as communication techniques, leadership styles, conflict management, motivation, and emotional intelligence.
- The Advanced Management Program covers topics such as change management, self-reflection and resilience.
- Our Global Leadership program focuses on the competencies needed to ensure successful international collaboration.
In 2020, the Managerial Foundation and Advanced Management programs took place worldwide. We conducted the Global Leadership program in China, Germany and the United States.
For 21 years, we have been partnering with top international universities to offer the Merck University program. Over a period of one year, senior leaders complete learning modules on management techniques and strategic business development, with 522 senior leaders having participated to date.
Another initiative we have been offering our up-and-coming leaders since the 1990s is our International Management Program, where participants work on an interdisciplinary project over a period of eight months. They present the results of their efforts to the Executive Board. In 2020, 25 of our employees took part in such a project.
In addition to these various programs, we partner with universities across the globe to enable our employees to obtain qualifications such as an Executive MBA.
Our Expert Foundation Program teaches participants the fundamentals of their role as experts in interdisciplinary project groups.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been offering a majority of programs virtually since spring 2020.
Tapping potential in growth markets
In 2020, 17 participants successfully completed “Afrika kommt!”, a one-year program offered by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). The program trains experts and leaders from Africa. In supporting this initiative, we are helping to build a pool of regional partners to encourage economic cooperation between Germany and Africa. 23 former scholarship recipients are now working for us in various specialist and leadership positions, some of them in African countries and others in Darmstadt. We have selected 11 new candidates for the ninth intake of “Afrika kommt!”. They will start their new positions within the Group in June 2021.
Leveraging the opportunities of digitalization
In the human resources area, we use new technologies that support our employees and managers with as many processes as possible.
In 2020, we introduced an updated version of “HR4You”, our self-service human resources platform. Thanks to the upgrade and improved user guidance, our employees can administer and manage numerous HR-related processes themselves around the clock. Our managers can view and independently edit the data of their teams. The new system relieves the burden on both our managers and the HR department, giving them more time to advise employees on strategic decisions.
A complementary function of “HR4You” is the chatbot “Ad@m”. Managers can ask questions about selected processes and get answers from the chatbot. The chatbot is designed to be a self-learning system – the more questions it receives, the better it gets over time.
Our managers also use an innovative software application to analyze personnel-related data. This analyzes not only employee master data, but also information on employee compensation, performance and skills, as well as strategic succession and personnel planning. The software uses Big Data technology. It links the various data and identifies certain trends at an early stage. The systems adhere to all applicable data privacy rules.
Since 2017, we have been conducting research with the TU Darmstadt on a humanoid intelligent robot. We want to find out how employees and managers respond to intelligent robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. Furthermore, we are examining in which areas an application would be conceivable. Our aim is to prepare our workforce for the introduction of AI within their working environment. The studies also serve to help make new technologies tangible, thereby paving the way for early acceptance.