Three Ways Novartis HR is Empowering Its Leaders

Hosted by: Novartis

Three Ways Novartis HR is Empowering its Leaders to Drive Effective Transformation

Managing effective and impactful transformation at all levels of an organization is no easy task. This is especially true for companies that have been used to operating in a specific way for so long, and are then faced with turning on a dime to match the demands of a VUCA world.

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a round table discussion with Christelle Ravez, Head of HR at Novartis Japan, and were joined by 25 other HR leaders, including Shunji-Hiratsuka, Human Resource Director at Triumpf, to discuss the crucial topic of driving organizational transformation.. This article shares some of the key points that were gathered during the discussion.

1. Be crystal clear in defining change

Be clear about the culture you are trying to transform and ensure it clearly connects with the WHY. There should be an understanding across the entire company of why change is necessary and what the consequence could be if change is not introduced. Human beings will naturally seek out comfort, and if there is no reason or consequence to change current behaviors, they will just keep doing things the way they always have. At Novartis, it was recognized that if they did not change core aspects of the company this could have a negative impact on the company’s future success. HR partnered with the leaders of the business to identify these core areas, with culture being one aspect highlighted as requiring change. Once these key aspects were identified, and effectively communicated to the workforce, it was time to act on the transformation process.

2. Don’t set timelines and do hold people accountable for their actions

Setting timelines, KPIs, or utilizing engagement surveys might all be great ways to track the progress or success of a desired transformation, however they are not effective tools for getting those who are opposed to change onboard. Once the desired change is defined and qualified, those who understand the reasons for the change and are motivated by it will not be an issue. Focus should be placed instead on those who have operated successfully previously, and are under no impression that they need to change their processes. It is the joint role of both HR leaders and the business to deliver these challenging messages effectively, regardless of how successful an individual may have previously performed.  HR are not the “guardians” of cultural transformation, nor should they be the only ones tasked with managing the change agenda established together with leadership.

Choosing to ignore an organizational change that is aligned with a company’s best interest is something that must not be tolerated. When the positive impact of a positive leader is measured it is not that significant in comparison to measuring the negative impact of an unengaged leader. The gap is huge, and it should be addressed swiftly for a transformational timeline to progress smoothly.

3. Aim for an “un-bossed” culture

From the start of the transformational journey, one thing was clear; leaders were doing all the talking and very little listening. If a business aimed to fix one thing, it was for leaders to talk less, and listen more. It has been said time and time again that the best leaders are extraordinarily good listeners.

Unleashing the power of people and creating an environment where individuals feel free to speak up and feel their voice will be heard is the goal. Mistakes should be accepted, and failure is not to be rejected but instead seen as a learning process. With over 300 people in leadership roles in Japan alone, it is no easy task to change this mindset, and businesses have invested a lot of time and effort in self-awareness training and offering e-learning tools to change their leader’s mindset; it is okay not to know everything.

Leadership teams need to understand the importance of being able to be open and admit when they are wrong or still have much to learn. This is one process to encourage more feedback and ideas from teams that can result in more empowerment and engagement at all levels of the organization. Start with the premise that people are autonomous and trustworthy and avoid the trap of having your organization becoming learning illiterate. This is a killer of culture and the role of HR should be to drive the mindset of learning and growing. It is okay to be wrong, to fail, and to learn.

In summary

These are only a few of the key highlights of the two-hour discussion that was filled with useful case studies, anecdotes and practical experiences of the 25 HR leaders in the room. The unanimous opinion is that cultural transformation is no easy journey. However, if you begin the journey by engaging with leaders, defining the change needed, labeling it, holding everyone in the organization accountable for it, and creating a culture in which learning and growing are rewarded, you might just get to where you want to go –  a little bit faster than anticipated.

Novartis ChapmanCG
ChapmanCG HR leaders networking session co-hosted by Novartis in Tokyo, Japan





















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