Building Culture From the Ground Up at Organon

October 12, 2021 Sarah Mulcahy

people working in a science lab smiling

The word organon has ancient Greek roots – it means “an instrument for acquiring knowledge.” It became the name of a Netherlands-based women’s health company in the early twentieth century, which later became part of Merck and MSD in a 2009 merger.

Then in June of this year Organon spun off from Merck, becoming a global healthcare company with a goal of creating a better, healthier every day for every woman. Organon operates in more than 140 markets, offering medicines and other products addressing reproductive health, heart disease, dermatology, allergies, asthma, and more.

Last week at Workhuman® Spotlight, Organon CHRO Aaron Falcione spoke about the formation of the new company and how his team is working to improve employee experience through culture. Here, I’ll share some more insights from his conversation with Workhuman® CHRO Steve Pemberton.

“We like to think of ourselves as a 9,000-person, $6.5 billion startup,” said Falcione. “From the moment CEO Kevin Ali was appointed, we spent a lot of time talking about the importance of culture. The recognition throughout those conversations from the very earliest days was that if we had all the right products, all of the right strategies, the right kind of organizational structure, and we didn’t get the culture right, we would fail.”

A culture built with intention

Culture is built from a foundation of core values, and those are what Falcione and the team at Organon wanted to be very intentional about from the beginning. “We recognized early on that if our systems and processes are not aligned with our values, the systems and processes will win every time.”

Ultimately, the team chose these core values: authenticity and transparency, accountability and integrity, being collaborative, entrepreneurial, passion, and diversity and inclusion.

One area where those values are brought to life throughout the organization is through Organon’s Inspire recognition platform, powered by Workhuman. On the platform, Organon employees can send peers and colleagues messages of thanks along with points that can be redeemed for rewards and gift cards. “Examples of behavioral standards are used in the award guide to help people decide which category to recognize,” explained Falcione. “So we’ve really mapped all the work we did in that first phase of our culture to our current systems. And the response from that has been extraordinary – really, really positive.”

Insights from employee recognition

The team uses data from their Workhuman recognition platform to keep a pulse on the culture. For example, they discovered that the award category currently with the most nominations is collaboration. “We feel really good that we’ve got momentum behind that particular value.”

Employee recognition comes almost as second nature at Organon, where a majority of employees came from Merck – another Workhuman customer. “Early on, we recognized two things. One: The culture that we set and the values we espouse had to be consistent with what their experience has been at Merck, which is a very purpose-driven organization. And the second piece was a recognition that we would index as a company on connection – making sure people felt connected to the people they were working with, versus the products that they were working with.”

Another way the Organon team is thinking differently about employee experience is by focusing on appreciation and feedback continuously throughout the year. “If we can have a constant flow of recognizing performance and contribution, you then reduce the stress on these annual or semiannual processes … And when we do that, you unlock enormous potential. The work we’ve done with Workhuman is so foundational to our thinking, and we believe is actually key to us unlocking a new, a re-imagined way of managing the performance of this company.”

Values in action

Each moment in the employee lifecycle is an opportunity to embody Organon’s core values – even when an employee chooses to leave the organization. “We treat that as a moment that really matters, that is handled with dignity and respect. Our goal, ultimately, would be to extend our relationship with those people once they leave. And we have an active alumni network and people who are strong advocates for Organon, while they’re here and even in the post-employment period.”

Falcione shared that when Organon launched on the New York Stock Exchange and became an independent company, it was referred to as Her Day. It was “the culmination of the effort of literally thousands of people … And on that day, we also recognized every one of our 9,000 founders around the world through the Inspire Program. It was an amazing experience for all of us, and to back that up with this recognition award really made it come full circle for so many people who worked tirelessly to make this happen.”

About the Author

Sarah Mulcahy

Sarah is senior content marketing manager at Workhuman. When not writing and reading about all things culture, leadership, recognition, and appreciation, she enjoys iced coffee, running, and spending time with her daughters, Mabel and Eva.

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