Building on trust keeps Abbott at the top

BEING recognised as one of Ireland’s best workplaces for the eighth year in a row is a rare achievement, and an honour that Abbott Ireland does not take lightly. Margaret Morrissey, Country HR Director, credits the company’s commitment to progressive work practices as central to its continued success in this area.

“We focus on three key areas — building trust, helping people to succeed and instilling a common sense of purpose,” she says. “Cultivating trust is an integral element of our business. Open, honest and frequent communication is essential, and this in turn allows us to build a great workplace.”

Providing an environment conducive to allowing employees realise their full potential, allied to a substantial investment in learning and development programmes, has enabled the Abbott workforce to grow and succeed at every level in the organisation, she believes. “We also seek to instil a common sense of purpose amongst our workforce, demonstrating to employees how their contributions make a real difference in the lives of patients, customers and all our stakeholders.”

Abbott is a broad-based health care company engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products in 130 countries. The total workforce is over 90,000. The company also won a category at the European Employee Volunteering Awards 2011, earlier this year. Competing with 136 companies across 22 participating countries, Abbott won the ‘Newcomer’ category for its employee volunteering efforts in respect of the company’s innovative science education programmes — Family Science and Operation Discovery. Over 180 Abbott employees have volunteered in the past 18 months through these bespoke science education programmes aimed at stimulating children’s interest in science at both primary and post primary levels.

Abbott volunteers have shared their scientific expertise and reached more than 1,500 students at 18 schools across Ireland. 80% of students who participated in the programmes said that they would enjoy studying science after completion of the programme, an increase from 41% of students prior to the event. A similar percentage of parents who took part stated that they were likely to discuss careers in science and engineering with their children after participating in the programme, compared to 37% of respondents prior to the programme.

“As a healthcare company, the products that we build have a direct impact on peoples’ lives,” says Margaret Morrissey. “Our employees understand that very clearly, and as a company we invest substantial amounts of time in reinforcing that message with the result that there is a real sense of purpose about what we do irrespective of the job within the organisation.” At the Irish Institute of Training and Development National Training Awards 2011, which acknowledges performance and outstanding achievements in organisational learning and development, Abbott was honoured for its ‘best in class’ approach.

“Talented and engaged employees are Abbott’s greatest asset, so we endeavour to provide them with the tools, resources and education required to build new skills and maximise their performance. As a company, we are conscious of not just paying lip service to the development of our employees,” she adds. “What is very important for us is that we try to find employees who will be culturally well aligned with our organisation, who have drive and ambition and are innovative and creative. From the first day they arrive we commit to providing ongoing development opportunities through tools and resources to help them achieve their objectives. We are always on the lookout for the high potential, high performing employees.”

At the company’s AGM in Illinois last week, Abbott presented an upbeat asscessment of its prospects for 2011 despite significant challenges affecting the industry. The diversity of Abbott’s portfolio has enabled the company to deliver consistent solid performance and a cash dividend for 88 years and, in 2011, increased its quarterly dividend for the 39th consecutive year. In 2010, Abbott completed three significant actions to expand its footprint in the world’s fastest-growing markets: the acquisition of Solvay Pharmaceuticals, adding nearly $3 billion in revenue and expanding the company footprint in key emerging markets across Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America; announced a licensing agreement with Zydus Cadila to commercialise a portfolio of more than 24 branded generic pharmaceuticals in 15 emerging markets, with an option for more than 40 additional products; and acquired Piramal Healthcare Solutions and its portfolio of more than 350 branded generic pharmaceuticals in India — a move that now makes Abbott the No. 1 pharmaceutical company in India. In 2010, Abbott also invested more than €2.48 billion in key research areas, including cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, hepatitis, Alzheimer’s disease and vaccines.

Up to 20 new molecular entities and indications will enter Phase 2 or 3 development by the end of 2011. In 2010, Abbott was recognised as a top employer in numerous countries around the world and was also named by Barron’s Magazine as amongst the World’s Most Respected Companies for the sixth consecutive year in 2011. Abbott was also named Company of the Year and Management Team of the Year by Scrip, the pharmaceutical and biotech news organisation.

“Abbott is a very high performing corporate organisation that has weathered the storms of the recent economic downturn probably better than most of our peer companies,” says Margaret Morrissey. “Much of that has to do with our strategy as an organisation and our diversification of products. As someone who has worked in a number of companies before coming to Abbott, I can attest to our attention to the details and costs at every level and maximising the effect of investment. At a local level, I would be optimistic for Abbott Ireland out into the future,” she says. “Undoubtedly, we face challenges, just like other companies. Ninety per cent of our activity in Ireland in around manufacturing, and so the cost of labour and materials are areas we are hugely focused on.”

The adaptability and flexibility of the workforce has played a key role in the company’s continuing role in Ireland, she believes. “We have seen the results of this kind of employee focus in terms of the overall productivity, and on this basis there is no reason why we shouldn’t remain competitive out into the future.”

Name: Margaret Morrissey

Occupation: HR Director, Abbott Ireland

Background: Abbott Ireland is a health care company employing 4,000 people in the manufacture of a medical devices, and pharmaceutical, diagnostic and nutritional components. It has eight manufacturing facilities, in Clonmel, Cork, Cootehill, Donegal, Longford and Sligo, as well as commercial operations in Dublin and Westport. Abbott has been in Ireland since 1946.


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