Skilled, Engaged Employees Are the Key to Success
By Eileen Feretic
What do you do when you have to hire 350 highly skilled employees in a short period of time in order to fulfill an agreement that will bring billions of dollars into the company? That was the situation facing Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a Tarrytown, N.Y.-based biopharmaceutical firm that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicine for serious illnesses.
In 2007, with 600 employees, the company entered into an agreement with Sanofi, a global integrated health care company, to develop new drug candidates. The deal would bring in $1.5 billion in research funding, but Regeneron had to quickly find and hire 350 R&D scientists—a difficult feat as top scientists are rare and often stay with the same company to complete long-term projects.
To achieve its goal, the company worked with Kenexa, an IBM Co. The recruiting and talent management firm began to study Regeneron's culture by meeting with managers, executives and staff.
"Our success is based in part on having the right culture," says Ross Grossman, vice president of human resources. "So we look for people who will thrive in our culture and are passionate about their work."
Regeneron and Kenexa created a value statement that encapsulates this culture. The "Regeneron 5" states:
- Science drives our business, and passion drives our science.
- We are a select team.
- You will be challenged every day.
- That's the way we've always done it is the wrong answer.
- We won't let bureaucracy block good ideas.
The company began using this branding statement in its recruitment campaigns and basically told job seekers not to apply unless they could live up to those standards, Grossman says. It also used Kenexa's Brass Ring applicant tracking system during the hiring process.
As a result of its efforts, Regeneron was able to hire 350 highly skilled scientists before the deadline with Sanofi.
The company continued to grow and hired more than 1,000 additional employees in subsequent years. It also plans to hire several hundred people this year.
"Many of our jobs require very rare skills and are hard to fill," Grossman explains. "So we did research to determine where we were likely to find the right people."
Based on the research, Regeneron began using a variety of media—mostly online—to reach potential job candidates. These include LinkedIn, Facebook, CNN.com and various scientific Websites. "We measure how many people click on our ads and what the cost per click is," he adds, "so we can determine the success of our efforts."
Regeneron also surveys existing employees to determine what inspires them and keeps them engaged. "We survey employees and meet with them face to face to see how they are doing," Grossman says. "We are very 'high touch' with staff.
"We also make efforts to show employees that we care about them. We have parties to celebrate both our individual and group successes. And we do small things like placing Wii stations around the company so employees can take breaks and relax."
Regeneron's turnover is only 6 to 9 percent, according to Grossman, who says the industry average ranges from 16 to 22 percent. Clearly, the company is doing something right.