On the Road to Becoming Employer of Choice: Secrets Revealed by Jessica Simpson, HR Director at Amgen

February 19, 202011:27 am1171 views
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Employer of choice is an employer that offers a fantastic work culture and workplace environment that attracts and retains superior employees. The title of employer of choice also helps companies thrive and attract the best talents around. Jessica Simpson, HR Director at Amgen, said that the key to be an employer of choice is to focus on people while building a culture that fit team members. Through this candid interview, Simpson provides further insights on how to be an employer of choice and win the heart of talents.

During your career journey, how do you find the keys that can usher your company to be an employer of choice and how does each key ensure a company’s success in the next 5 or 10 years?  

In my 11 years at Amgen, I have discovered mission, aspiration and values are pivotal in building a culture that has led us to be the employer of choice we are today.

First, a purpose-led mission is crucial for companies and the staff who work there. While rewards and benefits are important, employees today are increasingly driven by the meaning and impact behind their work. 

Next, an aspiration to be the best human therapeutics company shapes a winning culture felt by employees across the organization. Employees today have more options than ever before, and they want to be part of the best. As we aspire to be the world’s best biotechnology company, our employees join us as we compete intensely to win. 

Companies looking to enjoy sustained success should also establish a foundational set of values that all employees embody on a day-to-day basis. Two critical elements of our social architecture are our Amgen Values and Leadership Attributes, which define the day-to-day behavioral expectations of every Amgen staff member around the world. Demonstrating these behaviors helps to drive job performance, career development and the execution of our Amgen Strategy. Given these important objectives, supporting and encouraging staff members and their managers to have more robust and frequent discussions around our Values and Leadership Attributes and how they directly drive job performance and career development help us better serve patients and progress against our aspiration to be the world’s best human therapeutics company.

See also: The Real Key to Successful Recruitment: Advice from Rebecca Skilbeck

Is there any question that HR or employer should ask themselves before creating a better environment for all company stakeholders? If yes, what are they? 

There are several guiding questions that I constantly ask myself and my team whenever planning company-wide initiatives.

The first question: “Is this initiative an inclusive one?”. I started asking myself this question soon after I joined Amgen, where I witnessed how every job and every employee were equally valued by the company. HR professionals should, if they have not done so already, ask themselves this question to mitigate the impact of conscious and unconscious bias across a variety of talent initiatives such as hiring, lateral and promotion recommendations, and talent management.

The next two questions: “Why are we doing this in the first place?” and “Are our people equipped with the right combination of skills and knowledge for their role?”. I believe that a company’s internal initiatives should ladder back to the company’s purpose and mission and be valued by the individual. Ensuring that HR initiatives are purpose-led and that the company has the right skills and talent to fulfil that purpose will create a significant impact on all stakeholders of the company.  

What initiative should HR take for the above questions? 

To ensure that our policies are welcoming and inclusive, my team and I regularly tap on our employee resources group, Women Empowered to be Exceptional (WE2), which is a network for all employees irrespective of gender, age or race. We work together to plan and organize employee engagement and career development initiatives that aim to foster innovation, strengthen our workforce and support our ability to serve patients.

Investing in our people is another top priority. We have designed talent development programs including technical and leadership training programs, career development tools and initiatives to support all employees, especially those starting out in their careers opportunities to learn from senior leaders, network and receive mentorship.

Our Individual Development Plan (IDP) is one such initiative to support career development of our staff. We work closely with the employee and their managers to develop a personalized roadmap aligned to their career goals and interests. This includes various job rotations across different functions, training courses, and mentorship with senior staff members. For example, our ‘FUEL Your Potential’ program prepares employees for broader leadership roles within Amgen.

Amgen staff
As we see younger and older generations are coming to work side-by-side, what are possible “new” challenges that HR would face in cultivating a great place to work for the multi-generational workplace? And how do we overcome them? 

Millennials are poised to make up the majority of the workforce by 2025 and HR professionals must consider what millennials value and are deeply motivated by, which can include opportunities to learn new skills, work-life balance, having a sense of belonging and frequent feedback.

At the same time, HR professionals will have to navigate an increasingly diverse and multi-generational workforce, from incoming Gen Z staff to longer tenure employees who may be towards the latter part of their career journey. Each generation would come with a different set of values and expectations, around key items of special types of benefits, career and growth aspirations, financial and job security and skill-building.

Our role in HR is to ensure the company’s business objectives align with the evolving needs of our employeesWe should continually challenge ourselves to think about the individual value proposition as much as possible to resonate with a wide range of employees, allowing them to bring the best of themselves to work each day.

A way to tackle this newfound diversity is to provide offerings that appeal to each individual staff member, whether it is time off or a commitment to the community. We need to approach our staff with some flexibility to align with what is meaningful to them at various stages in their life and constantly re-evaluate how we can do that through continuous feedback from employees. 

How does your current company perceive workplace equality? What is its significance in order to become an employer of choice? 

We see workplace equality as our collective responsibility in creating a welcoming, inclusive and conducive workplace culture where people feel they belong. With the firm belief that an environment of inclusion fosters innovation and drives our ability to serve patients, we are focused on creating a culture of belonging across the site and increasing the percentage of women in areas that are currently under-represented. 

To empower and equip our staff, we have conducted various diversity and inclusion training such as having courageous conversations and other leadership training to help support how we manage conflicts across the various demographic groups. This is important for creating and sustaining change and to foster a more creative, inclusive, respectful and productive workforce and workplace. 

Our efforts to build workplace equality are not just felt by our people but are being recognized externally as well. We are proud to receive the Great Place to Work® certification recently. The 2019 survey focused on diversity and inclusion as key factors in making the organization a great place to work.  

When an organization is able to achieve the “employer of choice” status, how can HR cultivate the tangible benefit of it?

Being an employer of choice is an important affirmation that we are able to attract, develop and retain the best talent available. Our programs, which help our employees grow professionally and equip them with the right skill sets, have helped put us ahead in the war for talent in our industry. Combined with our diverse workforce, the benefits that we are seeing are increased innovation, creativity and faster problem-solving, as our employees are exposed to multiple perspectives and worldviews. Ultimately, our patients benefit as we can now bring more lifesaving medicines to them.

Read also: Perks vs. Culture – What It Takes to Retain and Attract Talents


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About Jessica Simpson: 

Jessica Simpson serves as Director, Human Resources at Amgen Singapore Manufacturing, leading the HR function at the site and driving Human Resources strategies and solutions to make ASM a Great Place to Work.  Since she joined the ASM site in February 2019, she has provided HR leadership in all aspects of business and people strategy to provide a differentiated employee experience to drive the organization to exceed expectations.

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