In its 127-year history, Merck has been responsible for some pioneering work in research and biopharmaceuticals, including discovering vitamin B1 and creating the first measles vaccine. Constantly looking towards the future, the company knows the only way to stay ahead of the game is to hire the most talented people.
Florian Wies’ role as IT service and project manager makes him pivotal in the process of attracting and retaining the brightest and best. He is tasked with making internal processes more user-friendly and efficient, creating an unrivalled employee experience in the process.
Here, he takes us through the company’s transformative journey and the benefits enjoyed by employees across the board.
CMO.com: What are the key challenges Merck faces as a company?
Wies: We have three different business divisions. Our healthcare division concentrates on delivering and developing new and innovative indications, from cancer indications to treating infertility. Our life science division provides researchers and scientists with research material and anything that can help them to make their research or biotech production safer, simpler, and faster. Then our performance materials business produces specialty chemicals that can be used for different applications–for example, OLED materials used for lighting.
In healthcare, there are obviously regulatory challenges. There is a lot of documentation required, and developing a new drug can be a really long and cost-consuming process. In life science, we have a really wide spectrum of products; I think we’ve launched around 300,000 new products in this business sector alone, which brings its own challenges. And in performance materials, we face a lot of competitors, especially in emerging markets.
CMO.com: How are you tackling these challenges?
Wies: Well, historically speaking, since we’re in a regulated market, we need a lot of documentation for basically everything we do. This documentation is still paper-based most of the time, and this is actually quite time-consuming. It can often keep our employees from doing tasks that are really adding value and bringing something that’s driving our company’s success. It’s hard to just get your job done when you have to invest a lot of time into administrative efforts.
That’s something we want to change, and one way that we can easily improve that experience is by changing from paper-based processes to something more digitised. I think the main driver for the digital transformation is the employee experience because the employees have to deal with the processes we have in the company every day.
With the digitisation of our processes, we can really make their day-to-day life easier and take some weight off their shoulders.
CMO.com: Do you think attitudes toward employee experience are changing?
Wies: In the past when we implemented an IT solution, we looked at it purely from the perspective of what we needed it to do and didn’t spend a lot of time questioning how user-friendly it would be for our employees to interact with. Now we’re starting to look at it from a different perspective, so if we implement a tool, we also want it to be intuitive and easy to use.
CMO.com: How are you improving Merck’s employee experience?
Wies: We are on a good path, we’re moving toward a seamless experience because most of the tools and applications we use are already available on mobile devices. You don’t need to be office-based or in a specific location to actually do your job. You can essentially just do it wherever you want and on any device.
That’s important for us because we have a lot of different office facilities with employees across the globe. It’s essential for us that everyone can work from anywhere they want and be able to connect to all of their colleagues worldwide.
CMO.com: How do these developments help out your new hires?
Wies: We have this initiative that we call “From Now to WOW,” and this means, of course, that we want to wow the new hires right from the beginning by sending out our employment contracts in a digital way.
WOW also stands for “well on-boarded workforce,” so by sending out these employment contracts to be signed digitally, we want to give the new hires the feeling that they are truly starting at a leading science and technology company and create an emotional bond right from the beginning.
CMO.com: Has that created significant efficiencies for the company?
Wies: Before we moved to digital contracts, the time from sending out the document until we got it back was around two weeks. With the new processes, we can send out the document on the day they are awarded the job, and they can potentially send it back the same day.
In Germany, we are onboarding more or less 1,500 new employees every year, so you can imagine how much of a difference that makes.
CMO.com: Do you think that creates a good impression with new employees?
Wies: I think so because especially in our industries—pharmaceutical, life science, and performance materials—there are not that many companies using electronic signatures yet.
It’s a good impression on our new hires because they will feel that they’re working in a truly leading company, and it’s also giving a signal to our partners that we really are the truly innovative company that we’re always saying we are.
I think electronic signatures are quite simply the digital future. I saw some research that predicted that in three to five years, everybody in the business environment will be using electronic signatures on a daily basis.