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The human perspective

Boehringer’s HR lead Andreas Neumann on the company’s strategic changes and the role of company culture

Boehringer Ingelheim Andreas NeumanhLast year Boehringer Ingelheim took some big strategic decisions that it hopes will keep it on course to maintain its competitiveness and sustainable business development.

Chief among these moves were the German company's exit from the generics business, via a $2.6bn deal with specialty firm Hikma, and its forthcoming asset swap with Sanofi. The latter deal will see Boehringer hand its consumer health interests to Sanofi in return for the French pharma firm's animal health arm Merial. Contracts for this are due to be signed by 30 June, with Boehringer's management expecting the deal to be finalised by the end of this year.

Internal changes are also in the offing from July, when Boehringer's R&D operations, led by Dr Michel Pairet, will be renamed the 'Innovation Unit' and tasked with all stages of development up to clinical proof-of-concept. Meanwhile, a 'Prescription Medicines Business Unit' led by Allan Hillgrove will take on responsibility for the subsequent 'highly market-oriented development' of products.

Overseeing these strategic manoeuvres will be Hubertus von Baumbach, who takes over as chairman of the board of managing directors from Prof Andreas Barner on 1 July. But leading the charge from an HR perspective will be Andreas Neumann.

Neumann was appointed to his present role, where he has responsibility for the corporate human resources board division, last September, having joined the German pharmaceutical company in 2011 and managed its corporate legal division, ahead of assuming charge of its human resources corporate division in early 2015.

PME joined him recently in Ingelheim, Germany to look at how the personnel implications of such changes are managed, as well as the role of company culture, when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.

The winds of change
Neumann noted that the changes at Boehringer, and particularly its deal with Sanofi, will be “transformational” for his company, but he said that, for him, it was part of a wider context of change. “When I look at Boehringer, I think about transformation times three,” which he says encompasses firstly rapid changes in the company's external environment and secondly the way Boehringer is transforming itself.

When I look at Boehringer, I think about transformation times three

“The third one is HR - at Boehringer that is also in transformation, in many respects. And when I think about that transformation, I think about the following. How are we going to serve the company best? How can we make sure, from a strategic point of view, that we do a good job supporting the mid- to long-term goals of the company, from a people perspective. That's what is really important, and we have started to embark on a journey where we are trying to link the business discussions with the people discussions in our company.”

Andreas says he prefers to see these changes as “opportunities, rather than challenges”. But looking at how a transaction such as the yet-to-be-completed asset swap with Sanofi is managed, from a people perspective, he notes that such transactions are a big deal for an organisation.

“This is where leadership and open communication kicks in, being transparent about the entire process from the early stages, to the signing at the closing of the agreement, to the integration piece. The sooner you get clarity, the sooner you get answers, and the sooner you can shed some light, and I think then people are going to be more convinced about the business rationale of that transaction.”

This is easier when it comes to Boehringer's internal changes within its business units. “Because this is more of an internal change in our company, I am convinced people understand the rationale for the creation of those business units, the innovation unit and the prescription medicine unit, because it's going to make our company better prepared for the future.”

Culture and talent
Turning to the role of company culture, and Boehringer's own culture specifically, Neumann sees it as one of the fundamental ways for a firm to retain talented individuals.

“In my mind, there are a number of reasons why people leave an organisation or decide not to join an organisation. One is they don't like the culture. Second, they don't like their respective leader. Third is they don't see the opportunity for personal growth, or fourth, there is just a better opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity coming up.

“From an HR standpoint, you can never argue against the latter because this is out of your control. But you can deal with the other three factors. This is where Boehringer has a key strength because there is a very, very strong culture, which is built on our BI values of respect, trust, empathy and passion that go back almost to the founder of this company.”

Moving forward to 21st century challenges and the Boehringer of today will soon have four generations working within its Ingelheim headquarters, all with their different needs and motivations.

 “You have to have what I would call a customised employee experience,” Neumann says, “given the fact that there are different generations under your roof, and the needs of those people are going to be very different going forward.”

Article by
Dominic Tyer

is PMGroup's editorial director

3rd June 2016

From: Sales



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