Trust and values in pharma company culture

Darren Fergus, Managing Director, Sintetica Ltd shares his thoughts on the importance of trust and values in pharma company culture to ensure that employees want to stay.

When I was first asked to join the Board of Directors and lead Sintetica Limited in the UK and Ireland, I asked myself three questions:

  • What is the culture of the company?
  • How does it treat its staff?
  • Will it help move patient healthcare forward?

Having worked in healthcare for more than 20 years I wanted to make a difference – not just take another job.

Sintetica SA is a pharmaceutical company which has supplied its domestic market in Switzerland for almost 100 years, expanding into key global markets with sites in Germany, Austria, Ireland and now the UK. Sintetica Ltd is a subsidiary and my role was to set up, recruit and run the team here in the UK.

What swung my decision was the leadership style of the Corporate CEO of Sintetica SA, Augusto Mitidieri. When he was appointed, his goal was to transform Sintetica from a good place to work into a great place to work.

He recognised the need for smart, innovative people who were unafraid of speaking their mind and coming up with fresh ideas – a core component of his mission of ‘Leadership by innovation’.

According to Augusto, it is important that the researchers, clinicians, developers, administrators, production staff and sales and marketing teams truly believe in and are motivated by the same goal – innovative healthcare: “We are developing novel and better treatments for patients and physicians. Therefore the people chosen to work at these offices and across Europe have to be motivated by the same shared values of changing patients’ future outcomes.

“If they don’t believe they are making a difference, then they are simply selling and marketing products which could be anything from a tin of baked beans to a fancy car. Innovation in healthcare requires the right people, but also shared values. This is critical to our success as an organisation.”

I knew then that this was where I wanted to be. At Sintetica, trust, friendship, happiness and a shared goal come first. Being happy at work is incredibly important and everyone in an organisation should not miss an opportunity for a kind word.

Turning point

Sintetica has a management system with a flat hierarchy, where every single person from the agency worker to the full-time staff member knows that their work is valued and they, as individuals, are valued too.

To Augusto, the traditional management structure – top down – meant the responsibility lay with the managers and not the individual – who often had little input. He wanted to build teams where everyone knew the role they had to play and how that impacted on the business and the patient. How what they did every day really made a difference in healthcare.

For Sintetica this was the turning point when it came to recruitment and retention. When the people you work with feel they are part of something they will want to stay. The same ethos applies when recruiting. A competitive salary is important. But it won’t make people stay – there will always be someone who can pay more.

Being happy at work and with your work, feeling valued and having a good work/life balance are essential for retention and recruitment. Setting clear targets and personal goals are the way we empower people. They are responsible for their work and we do our best to provide people with an environment in which they can thrive – “not just survive the working day”.

Like Sintetica, many companies provide benefits like childcare or free gym membership. The difference is that Sintetica doesn’t see them as ‘benefits’, but part of what you should provide if you want your staff to be happy at home and at work, such as:

  • Working from home – provided your colleagues agree and you set out your goals.
  • Further education – Sintetica has a ‘never ending’ school where you can go for all of your life.
  • Electric bikes available for all staff – including for their own personal use at the weekend.
  • Three days off for sickness without question if they need to look after themselves or their children.
  • If parents choose not to use the company nursery provided in our headquarters, Sintetica will pay a percentage to one of their choice.

“If they don’t believe they are making a difference, then they are simply selling and marketing products which could be anything from a tin of baked beans to a fancy car”

When Augusto Mitidieri started work back in the 1980s as an engineer, the idea of a work/life balance did not exist. Thankfully that has changed. Sintetica SA has won many awards for being ‘A Great Place to Work’, but for Augusto the main prize is a happy and healthy workforce who value themselves and others and constantly strive to develop innovative medicines to support physicians and patients across the world.

Staff surveys at Sintetica SA show a 95% employee satisfaction rate. We hope this will continue way past our 100-years-old celebrations in 2021.

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This article was originally published in Pharmafield.