Creative programming: Our “secret sauce” is our culture, and of course wellness plays a large role in this. We aim to create programs that make people excited to come to work at Genmab and make them feel like they are valued, respected and part of this bigger purpose.
The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Cozic, EVP & Chief People Officer.
Chris joined Genmab in 2017 and became the Executive Vice President & Chief People Officer effective March 1, 2022. Chris has extensive experience as a global human resource executive in strategic leadership, organization design, human resource management, policy development, employee relations, organizational development and a heavy concentration in all aspects of corporate growth and expansion. Prior to joining Genmab, Chris held leadership roles in the biopharma and telecommunications industries. He received his bachelor’s degree in English and Communications from Quinnipiac University and also attained Senior and Global Professional Human Resource (SPHR and GPHR) certifications.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.
I’ve been working in human resources in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector for a long time and really it has been the last 5 years at Genmab that have crystalized how I view my role and what it means to build a community that supports growth and responds to colleagues’ need in a way that empowers them to make the company stronger.
From the moment I met our CEO and co-founder Jan van de Winkel, I knew it was going to be a different kind of work experience. His energy and passion for the science and the patients we serve allows for a culture that is wholly centered around our core purpose — to transform the lives of people with cancer. And what was clear was that same energy was extended to everyone at Genmab.
When I joined this company, we were a few hundred people, and our New Jersey office had just under ten employees. Today, we number over 1,200 across four countries. The biggest challenge has been creating an environment that can support our growth while allowing us to maintain that very unique and special culture. And I think we’ve done that by being uniquely flexible and what I would call unstructured for a biotechnology company. We want people to feel empowered to take an idea and run with it, to collaborate with people who may not naturally be in their department but who can bring forward a new perspective or dimension to a challenge.
We strive to empower very smart and talented people to be smart and talented together within a mission-based framework of delivering new treatments for cancer, that really is the kind of company we want to be.
Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?
Wellness really needs to be about looking at the entirety of a person. If we start with that definition, Genmab has taken a lens that sort of mirrors our approach to the way we aim to treat cancer.
The thing we’ve come to understand about cancer in recent decades is that part of the reason it’s so challenging to treat is that everyone’s cancer is different and that means treatments need to be varied and tailored. Our core business is about using immunology and cutting-edge science to make it possible to make cancer care more tailored and specific.
We approach employee wellness with the same perspective. All of our employees are unique, and their needs are different. A single parent in New Jersey, a recent graduate in Denmark and a 20-year industry veteran in the Netherlands are going to have different needs and stresses, so our philosophy is to try to create wellness programs that offer different types of opportunities and support.
For instance, we pay 100% of the premium for medical coverage in the U.S. for both employees and their families. This means we don’t require employee contribution; no one pays extra for this coverage — we want to give folks an equal playing field. Similarly, during the pandemic, we heard employees were burned out from the constant Zoom fatigue and adjustments to the virtual environment. To address this feedback, Genmab instituted company shutdown days, closing the company one day a month, giving employees a three-day weekend! We also established “no meeting Fridays” and a flexible work hour policy, which enables employees to work 20% of their hours outside of core working hours.
We have seen the direct results of these programs in our employee satisfaction results. Our recent employee experience survey showed 93% of employees said they were proud to work at Genmab. We continue to seed this personalized approach to wellness and adapt our policies to reflect our workforce’s ever-changing needs.
Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?
I don’t think a company can have any long-term success if they aren’t fostering a culture where people feel listened to, rewarded and valued. And I think the last two years of living with and adapting to a global pandemic have obviously put a real spotlight on what employee wellness means to an organization.
We already had a flexible work culture when COVID-19 hit, and it made the transition to working from home much more seamless for some than others. But we also knew that we were in the midst of a uniquely stressful and strange situation, and we needed to acknowledge that everyone was doing their best given the circumstances. And they absolutely were because we never missed a beat in terms of our momentum as a company or our profitability. We wanted to make sure that our people saw the results of that hard work under extraordinary circumstances, so we temporarily suspended a pure “pay for performance” model and gave everyone the largest bonus and merit increase possible at their level.
Our biggest guiding principle is that we are transparent and responsive, and we make sure our colleagues feel like they’re empowered professionals. We have had flexible work schedules and locations since long before COVID-19 because we trust our people to get the work done in a way that works for them and for us.
And when we do that, Genmab succeeds, because a healthy, motivated workforce is going to drive our success as an organization. You simply can’t afford not to do it.
Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?
Our people really are a worthy investment. We see it paid back by more productive employees and talent that stays with the company and helps us grow as an organization in this competitive landscape. There are no shortage of places competing for talent, especially in biotech, so the combination of a great, supportive environment and a connection to a shared purpose really are what drive people to stay and contribute to Genmab.
With the Great Resignation and War for Talent, it is more important now than ever to focus on retention strategies and demonstrate to colleagues that our organization has their best interest in mind. Wellness programs are an important piece of that puzzle, and they can take many forms — some may not actually cost much to implement. And even those that do — like our medical coverage promise — are the kind of efforts that really engender the feeling that our company cares about and invests in its people so that they feel motivated to give back.
It’s also important to be responsive and not rest on our laurels as an organization. What’s unique and valued today may be standard in a few years, or perhaps there are well-intentioned programs that just aren’t working — it’s important to listen to colleagues, look at the impact of the programs and adjust any areas that need it.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
As I mentioned, we’ve grown remarkably in the last three years, and in 2022 we will increase our workforce by 48%, so we are actively recruiting! We have made highlighting our dynamic culture and wellness programs a big component of our talent engagement strategy. We know that there are a lot of opportunities for talent — and we want people who are going to be a strong fit with our mission and approach.
That’s why in our recruitment strategy, we’re very clear about the opportunities here, the way that we support people — and what’s expected from them, because at the end of the day, we’re all here because we want to find and deliver better treatments for cancer.
We do make it a point though to share glimpses into our culture. For example, we recently asked colleagues on LinkedIn how they spent their time on the company shutdown day. Everyone was so excited to share their stories about time spent with family, going on nature hikes or diving into a new book. Through the real and authentic voice of our people, prospective talent is also able to see firsthand how Genmab fosters wellness.
We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.
We continue to find innovative programs that center on the needs of our colleagues and nurture our culture, these include a combination of programs that are global as well as local in nature to suit everyone’s needs. For example:
- Mental Wellness: Company-wide monthly shut-down days, and “no meeting Fridays,” which allow everyone at Genmab the opportunity to recharge and prioritize mental health.
- Financial Wellness: In addition to our benefits package, each employee gets company shares/restricted stock units and grants.
- Physical Wellness: Provide all US based colleagues with a $500 reimbursement per year to belong to a gym of their choice. NJ-based colleagues also have access to a free onsite gym as well as virtual instructor-led fitness classes.
As I mentioned, our focus is to listen to the voices of our colleagues and understand their distinct needs. One way to do this is with GenClubs, our site-based groups run by employees for employees, promote networking and foster the Genmab culture of inclusiveness and passion for innovation. There are many site-specific programs that are conducted in partnership with the employee resource groups, including:
- Social Wellness: Created spaces for employees to connect on a collaborative and social basis. For example, Genclub and our Corporate Social Responsibility team conducted a “Steps Challenge,” an initiative for all colleagues to participate in a healthy, friendly competition where their steps determined the donation amount for their chosen charity in each country. Another example is the “Running Club” where avid runners meet at each site and go on a group run around a local trail.
- Emotional Wellness: This really is a culmination of all of the above. We think that our ability to be responsive is core to meeting the emotional needs of colleagues and make sure they feel supported. For some, that can be that time to recharge, for others it’s the security that comes from the great benefits we offer. For many, it’s our connection to a bigger and greatly rewarding mission.
Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?
Every employee, workplace and industry is going to be different. There are the basic, obvious things, but to really stand out, you simply have to listen and respond effectively to what your community wants and needs to feel more connected and empowered in their role.
Companies should look at an employees’ holistic health to provide a bigger picture of how they can improve their experience.
We’ve noticed that company shut-down days increase productivity, as we all return to work refreshed and rejuvenated. Our CEO video messages for colleagues have also led to a greater sense of connectivity to the business, and many colleagues have expressed that our leadership’s transparency makes them proud to work for Genmab.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
At Genmab, we encourage every leader to discuss with their team what “Working Well” means to them. We’ve seen this come to life a few ways at Genmab.
We also heard from our colleagues that they seek more opportunities for professional development, another big part of wellness. In response, we created programs and policies that foster their growth, and in April, we announced about 140 promotions which is around 10 percent of all our colleagues. We are also taking this one step further and implementing a robust “talent marketplace” platform that will curate learning content specifically tailored to our colleague’s interests and also provide additional programs and mentorship opportunities. This success is a testament to our colleagues and how the “Work Well” culture supports their growth.
Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?
That’s exactly right — meaningful change can’t happen overnight, but it must start somewhere. First, ask yourself, “What does wellness look like to you?” If you’re a manager, ask your direct report the same question. Cultivate the meaning of wellness in your organization and begin to create programs that resonate with your workforce’s distinct needs.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Personalize wellness: As I’ve alluded to, there is no one size fits all approach to wellness. Companies need to institute programs right for their workforce and ensure employees have access to the information to personalize it and utilize those best for their needs. For example, in the coming months, we will launch an app designed to make work-life more sustainable by giving colleagues a way to share concerns or seek answers, or simply be aware of wellness opportunities, like coaching, counseling and more.
- Think global, act local: Global companies should institute wellness programs that can be tailored to the unique needs of each region or community. At Genmab, we have offices in Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United States. DE&I initiatives, for instance, might look different in the U.S. than in Japan. It doesn’t make them less important, but it does mean you need a team that can work within the context of each geography. As I have explained, we have wellness programs like “No Meeting Fridays” and company shut-down days that are universal across our offices, and then there are localized programs that allow us to meet employees’ distinct needs on a local basis.
- Rise in different workplace models: Similar to the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness, we’re seeing an increased focus on that in workplace models. At Genmab, we have instituted a flexible work policy that allows us to do 20% of work outside of normal working hours.
- Creative programming: Our “secret sauce” is our culture, and of course wellness plays a large role in this. We aim to create programs that make people excited to come to work at Genmab and make them feel like they are valued, respected and part of this bigger purpose.
- Expanded benefits: At Genmab, we encourage everyone to bring their whole selves to work, and this means everything from financial literacy to mental health and beyond. The recent news about the formula shortage in the U.S. is a good example — we’ve been responsive and flexible enough to start an initiative, so our colleagues have access to formula if they need it. A month ago, that wasn’t on the horizon, but now it matters, and we responded to ensure employees impacted are supported.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
I’m optimistic about the approach companies like ours are taking to holistic health. We’re seeing more and more benefits to reflect today’s day and age and it’s exciting to see how we’re embedding the employee voice as a primary facet of workplace wellness. And we’re seeing the benefit as a company too, in that we’re able to attract the right people and be selective because we know our job — developing new cancer treatments — takes a certain kind of person and a level of commitment that is fairly high. By having great wellness programs, we are able to build a stronger team.
I hope in coming years we see even more companies develop their wellness programs based on employee input, and I am excited by the idea of even more employees coming forward and advocating for what wellness looks like to them.
In today’s ever-changing environment, we’re only at the tip of the iceberg of what the future of workplace wellness looks like.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.