UCB Australia is the Australian affiliate of global biopharmaceutical company UCB which aspires to transform the lives of people with severe diseases and help them lead normal, everyday lives.
At UCB Australia the company Purpose is Creating Value for Patients. Everything starts with one simple question: How will this create value for people living with severe diseases – the focus area of the medicines UCB develops and brings to market.
This focus and connection with Patient Value is underpinning much of the success in employee engagement, retention and recruitment at UCB Australia.
In Australia UCB supports the lives of approximately 70,000 Australians with severe chronic inflammatory, neurological and dermatology conditions and it plans to expand its focus into rare diseases. UCB strives to create the right conditions for its employees, the communities in which it operates and the planet, its shareholders, to ultimately be able to deliver on its ambition for patients.
The Patient Value Strategy sets the tone of UCB Australia’s culture and working environment. There is a genuine connection to Patient Value, and it is a powerful motivator for the company’s employees. Every aspect of the business, how it operates, the day-to-day business discussions and decisions have the Patient Value question at the centre – a strong retention and recruitment proposition.
In Australia UCB provides medicines for epilepsy, inflammatory arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and psoriasis. It supports patient groups, the medical community with education, invests in local research and clinical trials and takes part in health policy discussions around issues relevant to access to medicines.
UCB being a member of Medicines Australia and Rare Voices Australia roundtable, contributing to the industry voice to encourage government policy and infrastructure to support bringing innovative medicines and medicines to treat rare diseases to patients.
UCB focuses on four areas in relation to contribution to society, critical to long-term success alongside financial performance:
• continuously innovate to bring differentiated medicines to patients
• provide patient access to medicines in a way that is viable for patients, UCB and society
• ensure employees’ safety, health and well-being
• protect the health of the planet by minimising its environmental footprint.
As a smaller pharmaceutical company compared to others in the sector, UCB can be more agile in decision making. UCB employees at all levels can bring new ideas forward and, providing the idea will create value to patients, many of these ideas go on to be realised.
UCB is recognised internally and externally as having a family culture where employees feel supported, have great trust in one another whilst still able to have robust discussions when needed without any discomfort. Feedback and direct communication are valued and the company is low on hierarchy. It is also a workplace where lifelong friendships are made.
The company’s strategic approach is underpinned by a focus on sustainability challenges it can positively impact based on its distinct expertise in health. There is a genuine concern for employees and patients as central, but also for understanding of the company’s role in society, diversity, equity and inclusion and the health of the planet. Employees are engaged in workstreams focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Health of the Planet.
The working environment, how people are developed and measured ensures the focus remains on delivering value for patients. Employees are encouraged to hold each other accountable to staying focused on creating Patient Value. Senior leaders undertake 360 feedback surveys to reveal how they demonstrate Patient Value strategy principles and competencies.
Recruitment, promotion and advancement is on merit and within the overall framework of the company’s equal opportunity policy and behaviour supporting the Patient Value strategy.
There is renewed emphasis on implementing development plans for staff that focus not only on study and career development, but also in all aspects of the individual, such as health and wellbeing. The company has introduced an integrated leadership curriculum that allows leaders to focus their leadership development into the flow of their work.
Several employees have taken up the offer of education assistance for academic study, allowing them to become qualified in areas such as an MBA, a Masters in Biostatistics, a Masters in Epidemiology and a Masters in Health Economics.
UCB’s flexible working policy allows staff to work from abroad in particular circumstances, supporting staff with different requirements to continue producing high quality work for the company. For example, once Australia’s borders reopened for international travel one colleague was able to work from India for six months for family reasons, and another was able to travel to and work from Columbia to be able to reconnect with family.
UCB has a U-Inspire peer-to-peer recognition program for high performing employees, to support working to the Patient Value Strategy. An objective is to attract and retain employees as well as to inspire, incentivise and reward the desired ways of working focusing on Patient Value.
An impressive feature of the Victorian based business is the extensive support provided to employees throughout the 2020 seven-month Victorian lockdown period to help them stay connected and supported. With the pandemic continuing in 2021, the company
observed a new phase as the extended lockdowns tested resilience. The UCB leadership included staff in workshops to identify ways to support staff in enhancing work life balance.
The company invested heavily in health and wellbeing programs in 2020, and in 2021 this was extended with additional health and wellbeing support including a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. ‘A Spring in Your Step’ initiative was taken up by two-thirds of the company during a peak COVID period, challenging people to increase their “steps”, meditate, take up yoga, and reduce time on electronic devices. Earphones were provided to all staff, and they were encouraged to take up walking meetings to get reduce excessive screen time.
COVID-safe measures have been in place since Victoria was first able to return to work in 2021 – with QR code check in, sanitising stations, room capacity limits and an office layout that allows for social distancing.
The offices are being renovated in 2022 to optimise space, and provide more motivating workspaces, with hospital grade air purifiers and updated technology – all with COVID-19 in mind. In line with public health advice, all employees have been asked to be double vaccinated before returning. With a more hybrid style of working in 2022, the focus is on employees feeling comfortable at work.
This company concern for health and safety can be seen in the feedback from UCB’s Health Safety & Wellbeing Survey in 2021 which found that 93.1% of Australian employees believe the company provides all necessary means to carry out their job in a healthy and safe way.
Employee retention is high and a reflection of the affinity with the company’s Purpose of Patient Value, the culture, career development opportunities and company investment in health and wellbeing.
Since the introduction of flexible working for all staff, UCB is implementing policies to help people manage the way they work in the hybrid world to ensure all staff are getting the best from themselves in the workplace. There is a well adhered to rule of meeting-free Fridays. Employees are encouraged to work from home for one to two days a week on tasks requiring individual focus and come into the office for collaborative work with their colleagues on activities that will deliver Patient Value.
Employee engagement in Australia from the global staff survey conducted in May 2020 was an impressive 81%. Whilst an engagement survey hasn’t been undertaken since the 2020 survey, the UCB Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey in 2021 found 86% of UCB employees say they are proud to work for the company, and 71% of staff recommend UCB as a great place to work.
In addition 100% of employees feel they have the skills they need to do their job well, 96.6% say their manager provides them with regular support and 86.2% say their job is important to UCB’s purpose and mission – an increase of 12% on the previous survey.
A personal development plan is offered to everyone, and 87% of people have such a plan.
UCB Australia has a strong track record in relation to employee retention with turnover of employees at 8.9% in 2020 and in 2021 this was even lower at 6.25%.
Around 56 per cent of its employees have worked with the company five years or longer.
The staff survey of 2020 clearly showed the connection the Australian employees have with the company purpose of creating Patient Value – with 100% reporting they can see the connection between the work they do and the Patient Value Strategy of the company.
And in 2021 the UCB Health, Safety & Wellbeing Survey found 86.2% of Australian employees say their job is important to UCB’s purpose and mission – an increase of 12% on the previous survey.