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Nenad Anđelković, HR Business Partner & Talent Attraction Manager - Europe East, Novo Nordisk

Operations Based On Nordic Cultural Values

The HR principles at Novo Nordisk are inextricably linked to its business principles and can be said to have been derived from the company’s system of value and its culture

This primarily relates to respect and trust towards our people, a focus on their personal performance and development, as well as providing the opportunity for them to realise their potential. And those things, as we are discovering, are what we are recognised for on the global market, so in the area of HR, we are truly trying to nurture them.

Your company operates globally and has more than 40,000 employees in 75 countries. Are the parameters of HR adapted to the conditions, working methods and business customs in each of these countries, or is it unified at the level of the company, which is headquartered in Denmark – one of the planet’s most socially responsible countries?

– With this question, we are addressing one important dilemma: where to draw the dividing line between the culture of local environments in which the company operates and the company’s internal culture. Novo Nordisk takes the issue of company culture extremely seriously, defining it explicitly through the “Novo Nordisk Way” and striving to ensure it is not merely a dead letter on paper.

This seriousness in approach is reflected, among other things, in the existence of a special internal audit that carries out regular controls and takes care to ensure that all key elements of the Novo Nordisk culture and value system really come to life in literally every Novo Nordisk office around the world.

Even more, interestingly, these auditors are senior executives with great international experience in the company, who have been or remain responsible for all our operations in the countries or regions where we are present. Believe me when I say that they really know how to examine and evaluate the climate and culture in local organisations. Whichever Novo Nordisk office you visit around the world, you will quickly feel the key characteristics of our corporate culture.

You mentioned Denmark. And, indeed, in the Novo Nordisk culture, there are plenty of elements of Danish culture, including, among others, the pronounced social responsibility that you also mentioned. Another important characteristic of that culture is modesty and treating others with respect – regardless of whether they are patients, doctors, business partners, representatives of state institutions, employees, competitors etc.

This respect also leads to the relationship towards diversity as something desirable that we want to encourage. And that also applies to the diversity that the local cultures of countries bring with them, changing the company and additionally enriching it with new perspectives.

When do you mention the ‘Novo Nordisk Way’, is the focus of attention on the success of the company or the person working there?

– I think it would be quite short-sighted if we observed those two elements separately. These are mutually interconnected and closely intertwined elements, connected by cause and effect, and Novo Nordisk treats them in that way. Careful nurturing of people working in the company yields multiple returns through their additional engagement and is also reflected in their desire to stay with the company and contribute more to its results than is sought of them, i.e. to invest so-called discretionary effort.

That additional effort cannot be obtained from people in any other way – not through precise work contracts, nor detailed job descriptions, salary, bonuses, penalties etc. This is an emotion-based relationship that functions according to the principle of reciprocity – if I see that you care about me and that my gains are important to you, then I will exert further efforts for things to be better for and for you to be even more successful. And so on, cyclically…

It is clear that various profiles of experts and professions are employed or linked to a large company. However, how do you determine personal contributions to the development of the company in the Serbian branch; what is the merit of that personal contribution?

– At Novo Nordisk, an individualised approach to every person is cultivated. This is also reflected through our performance management system, which implies the definition of individually tailored objectives that we are each expected to achieve. 

Nenad Andjelkovic

Of course, all of these objectives are linked in scale to the objectives of the team in which an employee works, and then also with the objectives of the local organisation, and then the company globally.

Thanks to this system of clearly linked objectives, a colleague who works, for example, in the field of clinical trials in Serbia can easily identify and gauge their own direct contribution to the global success of the company is introducing new therapies that will improve the lives of millions of patients worldwide. Particular attention is also paid to the way in which these individual goals are achieved, i.e. to determine whether that way is in accordance with Novo Nordisk’s business ethics and other values.

Novo Nordisk is an innovative pharmaceutical company whose success starts primarily from the applying of the latest scientific discoveries. This scientific approach can be felt in every aspect of the company, and therefore also in the human resources management field

Where is the boundary between patient care and care for the success of the company itself, which ultimately has its own interests and understanding of its business?

– The backbone of Novo Nordisk’s operations is the principle that we call ‘Triple Bottom Line – doing business in a financially, environmentally and socially responsible way’. And it places the patient at the very centre of our business. Simply stated, it basically represents an orientation towards a long-term perspective and sustainable business, and that’s not feasible unless our primary concern is the welfare of the patient. Novo Nordisk’s almost a century of experience confirms that achieving long-term and sustainable global success is inextricably linked to placing patients’ needs, interests and safety as the top priority.

Novo Nordisk has proven this on many occasions in various countries, including ours, where during the course of the war, in 1999, significant efforts were exerted and resources utilised to provide patients with essential, life-dependent therapy under the conditions of bombardment and sanctions. When you show true concern for people and the state in such a way, without always making a profit the top priority, trust is created that also has a long-term effect on the success of operations.

Thousands of Novo Nordisk employees volunteer every year and the company is part of various social activities. How do you motivate people to practically donate their free time to society?

– As one Serbian proverb says, it’s not difficult to drive a frog to water. Again, behind this stands the company’s internal culture. Most of our people are genuinely interested and motivated to help others, regardless of whether they are patients, clients, colleagues or anyone else needing help. Almost everyone who works at Novo Nordisk in Serbia has that characteristic – I know that because I participate actively in their selection and development.

It perhaps sounds unusual to you, but our people independently initiate and organise various activities aimed at helping the local community and vulnerable groups, in which the company needs only to support these initiatives. However, to be frank, each of us has great personal benefit from these initiatives – for example, helping and interacting with orphans is an emotionally very intense experience that quickly provides you with insight into what is really important in life and restores some sense of gratitude and humbleness.

Is there a “unique recipe” that one can follow in creating a team within the framework of an organisation or in building the kind of team spirit that is an important part of a company’s success?

– Novo Nordisk is an innovative pharmaceutical company whose success starts primarily from the applying of the latest scientific discoveries. This scientific approach can be felt in every aspect of the company, and therefore also in the human resources management field. As I am part of that story, if I had to provide some “recipe” I would probably lean heavily on the application of scientific discoveries in the field of human motivation, personality, social psychology etc.

However, due to many mutually interacting variables, this is not that simple, and the right approach often varies from case to case. However, I am convinced of one thing: the combination of hiring people who are compatible with the company’s value system and developing leaders who can guide them in accordance with those values subsequently leads to a strong team spirit within the organisation. And from the aforementioned, it is clear that the value system, or culture, is again at the base of everything.

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