Bote, a veteran in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 25 years, emphasised that Viatris is a “work in progress that still reflects some of the legacy groups’ systems.’’ The company remains anchored on its standing as an employer, being a part of Forbes‘ list of best employers in 2021, Fortune’s Change the World list (fifth out of 53 companies), and Newsweek’s America’s Most Responsible Companies 2022.
The vision for the newly formed organisation reflects what the name Viatris communicates according to its chief executive officer, Michael Goettler: “the strength of our companies’ combined heritage and our shared goal to provide the highest-quality medicines to the most patients possible.”
COS Asia: What HR opportunities were present when you combined the legacy organisations Mylan and Upjohn to form Viatris?
Bote: Our combined workforce of more than 38,000 globally, with a strong background, talents, and a diverse portfolio, presents an opportunity to further our offerings and purpose.
From an HR perspective, it is the opportunity to collaborate with new colleagues, learn something new, and create a new kind of healthcare company that would empower people to live healthier at every stage of life.
It was like having a founder mentality. At times, I feel we are a startup, but the resources and revenues of a Fortune 500 company put us in the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in Malaysia.
In 2021, we made progress on IQVIA, which shows we are heading in the right direction by moving from the 11th position to the 8th. (IQVIA is a healthcare-focused global analytics platform enabling transformed business and patient outcomes.)
COS Asia: The pandemic has revealed the readiness, or the lack thereof, of a country’s healthcare system. How does Viatris demonstrate its presence in this aspect?
Bote: This unprecedented pandemic has tremendous strain on our healthcare system. To respond to the concerns on medication supply, Viatris ensures a steady inventory of medicines starting from manufacturing.
Access to healthcare and medicine remains important, especially when people were on lockdown at the height of the pandemic. Viatris worked with some of our key customers for the medicine delivery programme to ensure that patients can continue their treatment at home.
People turn to social media for information on diseases, mental health, or pain. Hence, we collaborated with the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA), and the Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA) to bring health-related information online with Facebook Live discussions. We also have our patient information website called My Health My Life containing information on non-communicable diseases.
Also, one of our first responses was a video message to boost the morale of frontline health practitioners, thanking and supporting them for their great work.
The Viatris way: performance, engagement, and inclusiveness
Bote shared the ways he manages an office culture that is uniquely Viatris, including taking care of its employees — its most immediate internal market.
COS Asia: How did you reconcile the former and the current company cultures? Were there overlaps, or have things entirely changed for Viatris?
Bote: Right from the beginning, we reached out and listened to our people on the culture that we want. We started from a good place, where colleagues share passion and purpose to genuinely care for the patients and customers we serve. And our mission and combined product portfolio amplify this.
To support and inspire colleagues, we are forging The Viatris Way – a collective effort to build a performance-driven, highly engaging, and inclusive culture through all aspects of the employee experience. Regular Town Halls, employee resource groups, continuous dialogue and skip-level meetings, virtual team building, and Team Day. We always consider Diversity and Inclusiveness.
We also rolled out Share-It-Out to strengthen the culture of openness and collaboration. We recognised and rewarded colleagues who demonstrated positive behaviours. I am happy that the programme was very well received.
As we bring our mission and The Viatris Way to life, our culture positions Viatris as more than just a place to work. It is a place to make a difference in the world.
I like to point out that we were recognised by Forbes on its 2021 World’s Best Employers list and Fortune magazines’ 2021 list of top 10 companies that changed the world.
COS Asia: Let’s talk about mental health, a much-emphasised workplace issue nowadays. How does Viatris engage its internal market, primarily the employees, in addressing this?
Bote: Mental health issues call for organisations to put their employees’ welfare at the centre stage. We see how the pandemic affects our employees and their work-life balance. We know many of our colleagues juggle work and life, whether they are caring for ageing parents or providing childcare. So, we offer flexible work arrangements and work-from-home equipment to support work-life balance.
Volunteers from our office run Navigate, a support system that provides a safe space for colleagues to ask questions and share their feelings without judgement. Navigate also shares relevant information regarding Covid that will help employees to sift through their questions and doubts. It also connects colleagues to professional counselling if needed.
We also designated a Focus Day, where for half a day in a week, no meetings are scheduled unless it’s business-critical. This enables employees to take a break from meetings and to catch up with other work. This has increased productivity and improved our planning while maintaining the balance between work and everyday life.
During this time, we also ensure that colleagues are cared for through the “Care Packages” we send to their homes. It consists of vitamins, sanitisers, masks, and exercise equipment for their physical activity and health.
Simple as it may seem, our people managers and those from the leadership team usually begin our meetings with gestures of kindness, such as asking staff how they are doing and how they can help them.
Aligning personal and company goals
New routines, processes, and human resource dynamics always spring from mergers. Such organisational change requires leadership and culture. This holds true for Viatris, which was formed by the union of Pfizer’s Upjohn and Mylan in November 2020.
Bote shares his morale booster in the organisation and what inspires him the most. He also showed us the Viatris’ new office which boasts modern sustainable features and a worker-friendly environment.
COS Asia: As a seasoned industry leader, could you give us a tip on how to boost morale in the workplace, considering all the controllable and uncontrollable factors employees have seen during your organisation’s transitions and movements amidst the pandemic?
Bote: I would say that active listening plays an important role in keeping the morale at the workplace going strong. Employees want to be heard, and I believe that, as leaders, we can provide a safe space for them. All opinions are welcomed, and we make efforts to address them as well.
Everyone needs to belong and feel connected. Hence, we organised “Getting to Know You” sessions where colleagues share about themselves and connect across the organisation.
Personal contributions are valued and added to the Viatris mission.
When your purpose aligns with the company’s purpose, that is the most inspiring to me. All of these boost morale in the workplace and drive us towards our goals.
COS Asia: Can you give us the highlights of your new office? How would this move improve work culture?
Bote: I am very proud and excited about our new office. It is an open office with different kinds of seats, including adjustable-height desks! We do not have cubicles and individual offices, but we have bar chairs and stools.
The office is designed with an open space in mind and is ideal for collaboration and quick huddles to happen at any time.
Colleagues can also relax and bond in our well-designed healthy cosy café, complete with coffee machines and fruits.
There will also be a lot of greens in the office to keep the office air fresh.
Getting to know: Jeff Bote, Viatris Malaysia country manager