How do you make sure that a set of values or business principles are more than nice words on a slick poster? In Novo Nordisk experienced employees called facilitators have been visiting Novo Nordisk units around the world since 1997, helping employees and managers translate values into action.
"Walk the talk – really"
We have a long tradition of values-based business methods. Today, these values are expressed in the Novo Nordisk Essentials – ten statements that guide the way we work with customers, co-workers, patients and society in general. A facilitator’s job is to evaluate how well a given unit lives up to these statements – and to make sure that any problems in this area are solved.
According to Corporate Vice President Mogens Thorsager Jensen, who heads up the company’s facilitator team, no other major corporation seems to have such a systematic way of ensuring that it practices what it preaches.
“In that respect when it comes to concrete history and experience, we seem to be unique in the galaxy,” he says with a smile. “But other companies are getting interested – and are asking us to share the concept so they can follow our lead.”
At its heart, a facilitation is a series of confidential, one-on-one interviews with employees and managers in a particular unit. Interviewees do not need to prepare for this interview - all they need to do is provide honest answers about the successes and challenges of their workplace. Names of individual employees never appear in a facilitation report. If a facilitator sees a general trend or issue that needs to be addressed, he or she will mention it in a facilitation report. More importantly, the facilitator will agree with the unit manager on ways to fix the problem and follow up to make sure action is taken within an agreed deadline.
It makes a difference
By all accounts, employees appreciate this emphasis on values.
“In general, we see a lot of enthusiasm about facilitations,” says Mogens Thorsager Jensen. “Many have told us that it made a difference to be able to put a problem into words and then do something about it. I’m absolutely certain that the things we do help raise the level of employee satisfaction and engagement across the organisation. This is what we consistently get as feedback from the units that we visit.”
Facilitations have been a fact of Novo Nordisk life since 1997 – a year after they were founded. Today, Novo Nordisk has 10 full-time and 13 part-time facilitators who conduct 60-65 facilitations a year worldwide. Facilitation interviews are supplemented by a variety of written documentation as well as statements from external stakeholders.
Most departments, areas or affiliates will be facilitated every 3-5 years, but strategically important units or areas that are expanding will generally be facilitated more often.
A copy of each facilitation report goes to the manager of the unit that has been facilitated; he or she will then share the contents with the other employees in the unit.